OF PRISONS AND IDEAS by Milovan Djilas
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In this brief book, the Yugoslav revolutionary and philosopher Djilas (The New Class, etc.) deals with faith, despair, pain and joy with a rare authority and directness. He tries to define the importance of an idea and how it formed the core of his being and sustained him through 12 years of prison, four years of war, endless struggle and painful sacrifice. As a young man, he was thrown into jail by the royalists. Later, his criticisms of the system got him a heatless cell in the communist utopia he'd helped create. He talks of sacrificing wife, children, brothers and even human contact for the sake of a compelling ideal. Yet, time has made him less dogmatic and strangely flexible in that he understands that a perfect faith in an imperfect idea is perhaps the best we can do. He believes we should fight for man's freedom, and he is not easily discouraged by things that depress lesser men. Suffering has given him a sturdy wisdom and a heart as wide as a gate, one through which all mankind can pass. Whether he talks of tyrants like Tito and Stalin, or political life, or menial duties in prison--he is riveting. No one has better described the spiritual growth which occurs with the forced carrying of a slop pail day after day. Undefeated by torture and isolation, the author is also in touch with the wellsprings of contemporary confusion. He will not cater to readers who want uplift and pop psych. He is a hard man who forces his readers to see reality his way. A rare and powerful seer has come through the chastening fires of adversity; what he tell us is worth heeding.

Pub Date: Nov. 26th, 1986
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich