Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Two writers in prison

"Briefly, he was appointed minister of culture, but Haile Selassie was deposed by Mengistu Hailemariam and, during the Red Terror in 1975, Tsegaye and the playwright Ayalneh Mulatu spent months together in a prison cell. Ayalneh, who remained friends with Tsegaye for the rest of his life, remembers a daily 11am roll call of men to be killed, and the day his own name came up. It was mispronounced, and Tsegaye seized on the mispronunciation to argue they had the wrong man, thus saving Ayalneh's life. They wrote poems and plays on the paper bags their food came in".
Tsegaye Gebre-Medhin
"If the dictatorship of General Suharto thought that 14 years' incarceration without trial would silence Pramoedya, they miscalculated badly. For it was during that time that this literary icon created the tetralogy of novels for which he is best known. Initially denied any writing materials, he composed This Earth of Mankind by repeating it over and over again to his fellow inmates. Child of All Nations, Footsteps and House of Broken Glass - the last two were written down following the relaxation of prison rules - completed the Buru quartet. 'Is it possible,' Pramoedya asked later, 'to take from a man his right to speak to himself?' "
Pramoedya Ananta Toer

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