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Prison Diary VII. My Life in a Story

Diary VII. My Life in a Story / Angel Santiesteban

Posted on March 31, 2013

Recently I’ve been reading the book “Mandatory Happiness” by the

Romanian writer Norman Manea, as a child with his family to a

Ukrainian concentration camp, and the way the author masterfully

describes an everyday story under a totalitarian government has caught

my attention in a powerful way: the Romanian political arrest an

artist who collaborates with the opposition and subject her to

continuous torture sessions, a constant ritual day and night, in an

attempt to drive her mad. These old- KGB techniques are applied

under the advice of the entire socialist camp, including Cuba, of course.

In the first story of the book, captivating from the very beginning,

“The Interrogator,” an obscure character of the political polices —

superbly characterized — after brutally torturing his victim, says:

“Maybe we’ll let you go. Although we could also condemn you. Not

necessarily for political crimes. We’re looking for something else. We

still haven’t decided. I’ve been frank with you. Don’t kid yourself, I’m

not always honest (…) The to work, the to love, the

freedom of creation. Nice, no? It’s normal that artists, for all you are

and especially for all you are not, become rebels.

“In short, the artist is a precursor or a straggler.

Whatever you are, you’re a being outside the ordinary. You haven’t found

your place, your tranquility, your harmony. You’re not understood in

your profession, your family, the laws; you’ve chosen a completely

different form of vanity. Art, clearly, has as its starting point a

dislocation, an inadequacy, an uprooting. But fed…

(…) You have established, you have confirmed. That you’ll always be in

the opposition, I mean. Freedom (…) It is normal that you’re with all

the dispossessed (…) In the end, the books are filled up there.”

Norman Minea, like a prophet, wrote a part of my immediate reality, or

simply bore witness to the many times they suffered the persecutions,

the torture and the punishment in his country. The only thing I know of

socialism. And what always lines up, even though we are separated by

continents and time: the same way to silence dissonant voices.

I simply ask for an ode to Norman Menea.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats. La Lima Prison. March 2013

29 March 2013

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