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Twisted Spoon Press

PO Box 21 - Preslova 12, 150 00 Prague 5, Czech Republic

Book details:
Letters from Prison

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also by the author:
The Restoration of Order

  letters from prison

by Milan Šimečka

translated from the Czech and Slovak by Gerald Turner

foreword by Václav Havel
introduction by Jiřina Šiklová
afterword by Vilém Prečan

Next to Vaclav Havel, Milan Šimečka was the most important, and most widely translated, dissident opposing Czechoslovakia's communist regime. Many of his essays and articles appeared in leading American and British periodicals during the 1970s and 80s, and his book, The Restoration of Order (London: Verso, 1984), is considered a brilliant analysis of real socialism and the neo-Stalinist normalization policy instituted under Gustav Husak.

Simecka was imprisoned from 1981-82 under Paragraph 98 of the Criminal Code ("Subversion of the Republic"). His crime: smuggling his texts out of the country to be published abroad. The letters in this volume were written during his stay in prison. In them he was not allowed to mention politics, so he wrote about people, love, and human relations. The selection of letters presented here bear witness to his attitude to other people, to his imprisonment and the period in which he lived, as well as his personal philosophy. They contain philosophical reflections as well as practical advice to his sons and words of encouragement to his wife. Similar to Havel's Letters to Olga, Šimečka's Letters from Prison give us a glimpse into the difficult struggle undertaken by Czechoslovak dissidents in opposition to a Soviet-styled regime that was considered the most hard-line in Eastern Europe.


I know from my own experience how important writing letters can be for a prisoner. It is not simply contact with home and a moment to imagine being back among one's nearest and dearest, but – particularly in the case of intellectuals – it also tends to be an opportunity – in an extreme situation – to reflect on oneself, the world, human responsibility and values. Frequently it gives rise to texts with a particular intrinsic authenticity. This applies to the letters of my late friend Milan Simecka. I am therefore pleased that these letters are at last being published in English.

— Václav Havel

To claim that dissident writing is a proof of human strength in the face of adversity has become a cliché. Yet Letters from Prison, a selection of prison correspondence of the Czechoslovak writer Milan Simecka (1930- 1990), is just that. The moral decency and human warmth that emanate from the collection, compiled and translated by Gerald Turner, make it seem inconceivable that the letters were written behind cold prison walls.

Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs

Milan Simecka was one of the great figures in modern Czech and Slovak history ... a man of courage and of wisdom (and of great good humor) who contributed much to the fall of Communism in Czechoslovakia.

— H. Gordon Skilling

The book offers descriptions of routine activities ... rendered so poignantly that the author seems to transcend his prison walls.

Publishers Weekly

Milan Simecka's Letters from Prison is a moving example of the epistolary form at its finest.

The Prague Post

Milan Simecka's philosophical prison letters belong with the best of the genre.

— Gwendolyn Albert, Central Europe Review

Milan Smecka was a pathfinder of the Czech dissident movement ... Tolerance, [he] teaches, offers its own kind of freedom — a lesson for writers and nations alike.

Rain Taxi


ISBN 9788086264035
172 pp.
14.5 x 20.5 cm
softcover with flaps
14 B/W photographs
RRP: $12.95 • £8.50

release dates:
UK: January 2007
US: April 2002

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