Natan Sharansky is world-renowned for his defiance of the Kremlin. Fear No Evil is the remarkable story of his nine years as a KGB prisoner, told with irresistible warmth, intelligence and humor by a man of exceptional courage.
A computer specialist, Sharansky became in the mid-seventies a spokesman for Moscow’s dissidents-the Jews, like himself, seeking to emigrate to Israel and the human rights advocates, such as Andrei Sakharov. First denied an exit visa in 1973, he was subsequently harassed by the KGB, prevented from joining his wife, Avital, when she left for Jerusalem in 1974 (one day after their marriage), and was eventually charged with treason and threatened with execution.
The narrative begins with his arrest on a Moscow street in March 1977 at the age of twenty-nine. Sharansky tells of his sixteen months under interrogation on a capital charge of treason as a team of KGB officers amassed more than fifty volumes of “evidence” to prove a charge that was fundamentally false-that he was an American spy. He writes with eloquence of his subsequent trial and his reaction to a sentence of thirteen years.
To survive and even flourish at the hands of the KGB is an ultimate achievement in courage, and that is what Sharansky did. The KGB did everything they could to break him, but his response was extraordinary and remained constant: They cannot humiliate me, he told himself-only I can humiliate me.
That was his guiding principle through the years in solitary confinement, in freezing punishment cells and during excruciating hunger strikes. In the meantime, Avital worked tirelessly for her husband’s cause, which became known and won support throughout the world. In the end, Sharansky relates his growing elation as he realizes his release is imminent, and the book closes when he finally meets Avital in a German airport and they fly together to Israel.
The story is grim, but Sharansky is not. His book is filled with humor and wit and superb portraits of his captors and fellow inmates. And it gives testimony not only to the evils of a police state but also to the indomitable and joyful spirit of a single person.
Fear No Evil is a tale of bravery, a love story, a struggle against tyranny. Its message is for everyone.
From the Publisher
“Temperamentally and intellectually, Natan Sharansky is a man very much like many of us-which makes this account of his arrest on political grounds, his trial, and ten years’ imprisonment in the Orwellian universe of the Soviet gulag particularly vivid and resonant. Since Fear No Evil was originally published in 1988, the Soviet government that imprisoned Sharansky has collapsed. Sharansky has become an important national leader in Israel-and serves as Israel’s diplomatic liaison to the former Soviet Union! New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Serge Schmemann reflects on those monumental events and on Sharansky’s extraordinary life in the decades since his arrest, in a new introduction to this edition. But the truths Sharansky learned in his jail cell and sets forth in this book have timeless importance so long as rulers anywhere on earth still suppress their own peoples. For anyone with an interest in human rights-and anyone with an appreciation for the resilience of the human spirit-he illuminates the weapons with which the powerless can humble the powerful: physical courage, an untiring sense of humor, a bountiful imagination, and the conviction that ‘Nothing they do can humiliate me. I alone can humiliate myself.’ “
“Every tour through the irrational labyrinth of the gulag the Soviet prison system turns up new horrors, new injustices, and new quirks concerning the human will to survive. Sharansky spent nine years in Soviet prisons and labor camps. The KGB, in punishment for his human-rights activism and his support for Soviet Jews’ demands to emigrate to Israel, used seemingly every means possible to destroy his spirit. He refused to cooperate with his captors and tormentors, who force-fed him through the mouth and rectum during prolonged hunger strikes. In his cell, he kept a photo of his wife who had fled to Israel, where he joined her upon his eventual release in 1986. Told with remarkable calm, even with harrowing humor, Sharansky’s gripping and deeply moving account of his prison years is a tribute to human resilience. His sheer courage and moral stature are matched only by his literary skill at conveying the nightmare he endured.”
“In 1977, Sharansky, a Jewish dissident, was arrested by the KGB on a charge of spying for the CIA. After 16 months of interrogation, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison, where he remained until 1986, when he was exchanged for a Soviet spy held by the United States. This is a riveting story, told directly and without self-pity, of the Soviet Union’s attempts to crush political opponents. Unlike many others, Sharansky retained a sense of self by refusing to acknowledge that physical domination implied moral superiority, an opposition symbolized by his refusal to give up his Psalm book. A compelling account of numbing privations, hunger strikes, and especially of courage, this book will have wide appeal. Scholars will also gain insight into the reformed, but essentially unchanged, post-Stalin KGB and penal bureaucracies.”
Roger Rosenblatt, long-time columnist for Time Magazine
“When Natan Sharansky was celebrated both for his imprisonment and for his eventual freedom, everyone’s unspoken question was: What is so special about this man? Fear No Evil answers that question. It is a brilliant account of courage in the prison state, but the truly great power of this book lies in Sharansky himself. He shows all the fascinating complexities of a hero of Russian fiction. But, of course, Sharansky is real. His story is real. It brings you to your knees.”
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