INSTITUTE OF FOOLS: Notes from the Serbsky by Victor Nekipelov

INSTITUTE OF FOOLS: Notes from the Serbsky

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A poet and dissident ha the Soviet Union, Nekipelov spent two months (which is one more than usual) ha the Professor V. P. Serbsky Institute of Forensic Psychiatry in Moscow, the diagnostic thresher through which criminal zeks and political prisoners alike pass, the former desperately wishing to be declared ""non-responsible"" (since hospital life is cushier than that of the camps) and the latter praying to avoid the diagnosis of ""sluggish schizophrenia""--i.e, political dissidence--which is likely to keep them drugged and hospitalized indefinitely. Nekipelov was adamantly uncooperative during interviews, but drugs in food can't be bested: his resolve began to waver. The drugs, indeed, come off as the most gruesome part of the terror. ""Aminazin was injected. Within twenty minutes, it would make the most stubborn troublemaker fall from his feet in an indomitable sleep. Afterwards, these poor bastards moved around the section like sleepy flies."" Nekipelov tells all this in ""notes"" that are remarkable for their genialness and humor--admirable traits. But a certain edge is lost thereby, too; recent books about Soviet psychiatric abuse by Leonid Pluysch and Vladimir Bukovsky cut a little more deeply, and hold greater drama. This is a stark subject, perhaps calling for stark shading. In the Appendix here, Nekipelov and his wife print a piece called ""Our Searches"" which more fittingly shows off their mocking approach to repression: ""Generally speaking, you will create suspicion if you have nothing at all in your house. There must be at least something lying on the desk. . . ."" In this, everydayness and the terror mix as they don't, strangely, in the crucible of Aminazin and the Serbsky.

Pub Date: March 6th, 1980
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux