Home Repudiation of Socialism and Communism To Build a Castle

To Build a Castle

By Vladimir Bukovsky

Originally published: 1978


A major document in the literature of human rights, this now-legendary memoir, by one of the most prominent of the Soviet-era Russian dissidents, was a world-wide bestseller when first published in 1978.

At the age of 20, as punishment for his political protests, Vladimir Bukovsky was falsely declared insane and committed to a psychiatric hospital–standard practice for communism’s critics in 1963. But the quack doctors and brutal guards who kept him captive didn’t realize: Bukovsky wasn’t locked up with them. They were locked up with Bukovsky.

In this compelling, beautifully-crafted memoir, Bukovsky details with equal parts burning outrage and bitter humor the cruel theater of life for Soviet prisoners of conscience. But he also recounts how he found his inner truth and strength, and built a fortress around it–the imaginary castle of the title–in which he could remain safe from the daily assaults on his body and mind.

Bukovsky refused to break under the pressure of 12 years’ incarceration in a series of psychiatric hospitals, labor camps, and some of the Soviet Union’s worst prisons. More than that, though, he turned the tables on his captors and oppressors–the USSR under Brezhnev–with a series of rebellions, pranks, and persistent goading that ultimately led Soviet officials to trade him for a high-ranking Communist prisoner in the West, as a means of getting Vladimir Bukovsky out of the country at last.

In To Build a Castle, Bukovsky offers powerful firsthand testimony to the importance of personal integrity and perseverance under seemingly boundless, endless oppression and abuse. Over nearly forty years, Bukovsky’s story has inspired dissidents, prisoners, and those trapped by circumstance: Even in chains, you can be free.

Masterfully translated from the Russian by Michael Scammell.


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