political prisoners

List of memoirs of political prisoners

A memoir is an autobiographical writing normally dealing with a particular subject from the author's life. The following is a list of writers who have described their experiences of being political prisoners. Those included in the list are individuals who were imprisoned for activities ranging from peaceful dissent to violent revolutionary activity. Some were citizens of the countries whose regimes imprisoned them and others were foreign nationals. What connects them is that they have written about their experience of having been imprisoned because of their political opposition or political identity.

Note, too, that the list omits many autobiographies which deal, only in part, with a period of political imprisonment; and includes some in which imprisonment forms a major part of the book.

  • Henri Alleg, author of The Question. 1958. New York: George Braziller. (theme: denunciation of torture in French colonial Algeria)
  • Alexander Berkman, author of Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist. 1999 (originally 1912). New York: New York Review of Books Classics. (theme: loss of youthful idealism) ISBN 094032234X
  • Francois Bizot, author of The Gate. 2003. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-375-41293-X (themes: criticism of the ignorance of Western decision-makers and intellectuals about Cambodia, complex character of Khmer Rouge leader Duch, bravery and betrayal)
  • Brendan Behan, author of Borstal Boy. 2000 (originally 1958). David R. Godine. (theme: resistance to British imperialism) Note that Borstal Boy is one of comparatively few memoirs written by a juvenile political prisoner.
  • Breyten Breytenbach, author of The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist. 1985. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux. ISBN 0-374-27935-7 (theme: subjectivities of imprisonment)
  • Nien Cheng, author of Life and Death in Shanghai. 1987. London: Grafton Books. ISBN 0-586-07115-6 (theme: denunciation of Maoism)
  • Kang Chol-Hwan, author of The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in a North Korean Gulag. (written with Pierre Rigoulet) 2000. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0465011020 (theme: description of life in North Korean labor camps)
  • Stuart Christie, author of Granny Made Me An Anarchist: General Franco, The Angry Brigade and Me. 2004. London: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-5918-1 (theme: denunciations of sectarian hatred in Scotland and of statist authoritarianism, including British imperialism, American imperialism, Francoism, Stalinism and Trotskyism)
  • Lena Constante. 1995. The Silent Escape: Three Thousand Days in Romanian Prisons. Trans: Franklin Philip. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0520082095 }(theme: denunciation of Ceaucescu's National Communism)
  • Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. 1963. The Alderson Story: My Life As a Political Prisoner. International Publishers. ISBN 0-7178-0002-4
  • Clare Hanrahan. 2005. Conscience & Consequence: A Prison Memoir. 2005. Asheville: Celtic WordCraft. ISBN 0-9758846-1-1 (theme: Chronicles the peaceful protest actions resulting in author's imprisonment, and provides inside view of Alderson Federal Prison for Women.)
  • Václav Havel, author of Letters to Olga. Samizdat publication, 1988 in English. Henry Holt & Company. ISBN 0-8050-0973-6 (theme: phenomenology of imprisonment)
  • Adolf Hitler, author of Mein Kampf. 1925.
  • Murat Kunaz, author of Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo, 2008.
  • Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela; Little Brown & Co; ISBN 0-316-54818-9 (paperback, 1995) (theme: overcoming apartheid in South Africa)
  • Haing S. Ngor, author of A Cambodian Odyssey. (written with Roger Warner) 1987. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. ISBN 0446389900 }(theme: denunciation of Khmer Rouge crimes)
  • Lee Soon Ok, author of Eyes of the Tailess Animals: Prison Memoirs of a North Korean Woman. 1999. ISBN 0-88264-335-5 (theme: denunciation of Juche)
  • Danylo Shumuk, author of Life Sentence: Memoirs of a Ukrainian Political Prisoner. 1984. Edmonton: University of Alberta. ISBN 0920862179
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, author of The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation. 1973. New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-013914-5 (theme: denunciation of Stalinism)
  • Jacobo Timmerman, author of Preso Sin Nombre, Celda Sin Numero/Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number. 1985. Buenos Aires: El Cid. (themes: denunciations of Argentine rightist authoritarianism and anti-semitism)
  • Leon Trotsky, author of My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography. 1970. New York: Pathfinder Press. ISBN 0873481437 }(themes: denunciation of Tsarism, revolutionary inspiration) Note the interesting descriptions of political prison and internal political exile in Siberia under Tsarism.
  • Loung Ung, author of First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers. 2000. New York: Perennial. ISBN 0-06-093138-8 (themes: denunciations of Khmer Rouge brutality and racism)
  • Mordechai Vanunu, author of Letters from Solitary, a book of letters from Vanunu to Rev. David B. Smith of Sydney, Australia. Vanunu is a political activist who exposed Israel's possession of nuclear weapons, was kidnapped by Mossad, tried in secret, and sentenced to eighteen years in prison. Available as PDFs: Light version - Full version with reproductions of each letter.
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