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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FUNTASTIC. TOUCHING AND TERRIFING, 12 May 2014
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This review is from: My Fellow Prisoners (Paperback)
In this rare and authentic story's I got the most interesting view not only on one of the most terrifying place there is, the gulag's but also on Russian society from inside. Its also revile the humane side of the other, obviously Khodrokovsky have sympathy and compassion to his fellow prisoners, personally I was touched .
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars His first words since release, 1 May 2014
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Khodorkovsky has been very careful to be uncontroversial with this very readable memoir, but the underlying criticism of the regime in his country is clear. Will he be the man to reform the system? If he's sensible he'll stay in Switzerland. It will take more than our lifetimes, I fear, and he has already suffered enough
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5.0 out of 5 stars a modern contribution in an all too familiar Russian literary genre, worthy to be ranked among its predecessors, 29 July 2014
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Alexa (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: My Fellow Prisoners (Paperback)
I expected a book written by Russia's most famous modern day prisoner to contain many fascinating insights into Russia's legal system and its inhabitants, and this book certainly delivers on that account.

What I hadn't been prepared for was the sheer brilliance of the writing. The book consists of a sequence of vignettes of various characters the author has met during his extended tour of the Russian penal system. It is a classic case of circumstance determining structure: each of these vignettes was taken out of the penal colony by his visitors, and published in the Russian press whilst the author was still incarcerated. Since delay risks manuscript confiscation, then it makes sense to get over your message in as few words as possible; this results in exquisitely honed prose. The resemblance to the short stories - Kolyma Tales - of Varlam Shalamov is evident, and the similarity in form is probably not accidental.

What is also inspiring is the humanity of the descriptions, even when describing unsympathetic characters - the informer, the drunken official who constructs fake confessions etc. When the author refers to his own situation, it is to point out his advantages (as a high-profile inmate, he is not at risk of random brutality from the guards), or acknowledge kindnesses - such as the young murderer (we would probably call his crime manslaughter), who refuses to testify falsely against Khodorkovsky,instead pointing out from the witness box exactly which guard wrote his "testimony", and handing over to the bemused judge half the bribe he had been given ("I smoked the other pack. I've never had cigarettes like these before"), in full awareness of the retribution he can expect on his return to the penal colony.

Does Khodorkovsky have a political agenda? Almost certainly. His relations with President Putin are well known, and he is no naive innocent: as he admits in one story, he "chose to go to prison". So it is hardly that anecdotes are commented upon. But this in no way detracts from the merits of this book; it is not a political diatribe, but beautifully observed descriptive writing.

And the people he meets in his trip through the Zone are memorable indeed. I was particularly moved by the story of a young drug addict called Kolya. He robs people to support his habit - utter scum, right? Well... When caught (again), he has no objection to confessing to additional robberies that he has not actually committed (and so clear the cops' books) in exchange for a promise of lenient sentencing. That is, until he arrives in court, and find "his" victim is an obviously traumatised elderly woman; horrified, he refuses to plead guilty. He is beaten up, but remains adamant: he only robs people his own age. It's not that hopes not to be convicted (with his record, there is no chance the court will listen); he simply refuses to accuse himself of an act he finds despicable. So he protests: he disembowels himself, then throws his own intestines through the food hatch of the holding cell, at the startled guards! His actions leave him permanently disabled, but to him it was worth it - he could not have lived with himself otherwise. So, the thief is more honourable than the corrupt bureaucrat who casually steals pensions from the old...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars People, 11 Jun 2014
This review is from: My Fellow Prisoners (Paperback)
A fascinating insight into Mikhail Khodorkovsky's time in various Russian prisons. This little book tells the tales of various prisoners that he met - each tale written with charm, wit, warmth and intelligence. The book is only 80 pages long but is one of the most evocative pieces of writing that i've read in a long time. I guess he's taken his style from older Russian writing but he seems to have learned his craft.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A short but powerful book, 5 Aug 2014
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Well worth a couple of hours for anyone with an interest in Russia and the struggles of the incarcerated population there.
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My Fellow Prisoners
My Fellow Prisoners by Mikhail Khodorkovsky (Paperback - 10 April 2014)
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