Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Help! I'm Bein' Repressed

One of my favorite Monty Python skits in the Holy Grail movie involved a scene here the King is conversing with two of his "subjects" who are working in a field and dispute Arthur's right to be king.

The scene ends with one of the peasants proclaiming:

"Help! Help! I'm being repressed! Now we're seeing it! The violence inherent in the system! Violence inherent in the system!"

Much funnier than the real thing. But if you care to read about oppression and repression, here are some good choices. Some of the fiction gets across the reality better than mere history.


The Stalin Epigram: A Novel by Robert Littell. An excellent new book by the author best known for his top-notch novels of spy intrigue. Littell tells the ordeal of the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam under Stalinist repression. Faithfully based on historical events. The photos are of Mandelstam after his first arrest in 1934 and his second arrest in 1938.

First published in 1941 Darkness at noon,by Koestler, Arthur, 1905-1983 portrays the imprisonment and physical and psychological torture suffered by an aging revolutionary in Stalin's purges.

Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman while ranging broadly across the Soviet Union during WW II also covers Stalinist repression and some of the distortions it caused in Soviet science.

The Case of Comrade Tulayev by Victor Serge. The NYRB Books says: "The best novel ever written about the Stalinist purges is also a classic tale of risk and adventure that stands beside Malraux's Man's Fate and Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls."


Political Repression in Modern America: FROM 1870 TO 1976 by Robert Justin Goldstein relates many less-known instances.

It Did Happen Here: Recollections of Political Repression in America by Bud Schultz and Ruth Schultz covers political repression in the US in the 1950's.

Your suggested readings?

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