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Riot Days Hardcover – 14 Sep 2017
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In oppressive political systems, some of the most effective weapons are sarcasm and dark humour. It is exactly these weapons that are employed by Masha Alyokhina in the brilliantly written Riot Days. Once you begin reading, you are completely disarmed, unable to put it down until the last page (Marina Abramovic)
Reading: RIOT DAYS, by #PussyRiot member MariaAlyokhina. A women's prison memoir like no other! One tough cookie! (@MargaretAtwood)
A future cult classic (Vogue)
Riot Days could so easily have been a straightforward, from-the-horse's-mouth confessional account of one of the most publicised political protests of recent years. Alyokhina takes on a far greater challenge: creating a text that is not just a reflection on a piece of art, but becomes one itself, and one that, in many places, lives up to her own criteria of protest: that it must be "desperate, sudden, and joyous" (Rachel Hewitt Guardian)
The literary equivalent of guerrilla street art (Marc Bennetts The Times)
Urgent and bold (Anna Aslanyan Financial Times)
[An] energetic and enjoyable prison diary ... A search for meaningful protest in an age in which presidents often appear to be playful performance artists (Peter Pomerantsev Spectator)
Alyokhina's eye for surreal detail gives Riot Days a welcome dose of dark humor ... Through the chinks in the abusive system, Alyokhina glimpses human beings (The New York Times Book Review)
Strong, brave, honest, touching, bitter and sad (Vladimir Sorokin, master of contemporary Russian literature)
One of the most brilliant and inspiring things I've read in years. Couldn't put it down. This book is freedom (Chris Kraus, author of 'I Love Dick')
From the Inside Flap
People who believe in freedom and democracy think it will exist forever.
That is a mistake. What happened in Russia - what happened to me - could happen anywhere.
When I was jailed for political protest, I learned that prison doesn't just teach you to follow the rules. It teaches you to think that you can never break them.
It's inevitable that the prison gates will open at some point. But this doesn't mean that you leave the 'prisoner' category and go straight into the category of 'the free'.
Freedom does not exist unless you fight for it every day.
This is the story about how I made a choice.
We are all Pussy Riot.
And actions break fear.
'To Back Down an Inch is to Give Up a Mile'.
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Impressionistic, angry, absolutely committed and unrepentant, not without a black sense of humour, Alyokhina confronts modern Russia head-on and refuses to step down: 'Freedom doesn't exist unless you fight for it every day.'
An important proponent of where art, feminism and activism coalesce.
Of course, Maria was not the only member of the collective to be arrested and charged, and then imprisoned, but the girls were broken up so they did not serve sentences at the same place. Prosecuted for religious hatred we all know that this was not really the case, it was more for their political outspokenness. In this country and many others, they may have got a fine and been bound over to keep the peace, after all with their costumes and not very good performances they are hardly dangerous, just likely to be complained about because of their singing.
In Russia however, things are slightly different. To be honest looking at the country you can see that certain things never changed even when the Czarist regime was overthrown, and so we see a penal system that hasn’t really altered that much over the centuries. Although as such there aren’t really political arrests in Russia, well not officially we can see this is not the case in reality, especially when talking out about Putin and the way the country is run.
We thus have a quite naïve group of young ladies finding themselves in deep waters. At times, this reads like a piece of absurdism as we read of the trial, and some of the experiences in prison. However, we also see the realities of being locked up as a political as well as a normal prisoner in these current times.
As Maria goes on fighting the system from inside so we see the trouble that she causes, and also the effects that she can positively at times gain for herself and others. Hardly high literature, and written in a rather frenetic style this does have a certain freedom and energy in the writing. What makes this so gripping is not only the style, but also the way that we see that really putting someone like Maria in prison is rather like shooting yourself in the foot.
Standing up for your rights, overcoming adversity and authoritarian leaders are the rights we take for granted, and this book reminds us of how important our human rights are.
I was kindly provided with a review copy of this by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes.
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