The extraordinary appalling beginning of this extraordinary book—I can’t conceive of any other way to make credible the attentat on Frick by the compassionate, sensitive, and intellectual young man, and the author succeeds in making it totally credible. No novelist of the period could have accomplished it, but Berkman was able to remember a style from the high Romantic period of Robert Schumann and E. T. A. Hoffman, onrushing impetuosity luridly lit by flashes of childhood and early adolescent traumas from the unconscious, leading to an explosive act. And writing it down was an overflow of strong feelings recollected in tranquility, as Wordsworth defined poetry. (Did he find the tranquility, from time to time, in jail?) It is a vivid poem of adolescent infatuation, seeking to repair the self and be a Man, as he says. It puts the act beyond moral approval or condemnation; it is so.
My guess is that such writing is, for its author, a catharsis of pity and fear, and he is afterwards in the world differently.
Prison literature is an old genre among human beings. And our century, and maybe especially the coming generation, is producing more and more examples. They write well, these pacifists, blacks, anarchists, free speakers, fighters for justice, whether in corporate liberal, fascist, or socialist countries. The regimes of the world evidently cannot put up with some beautiful human spirits.
In one important respect, I think there is a not...
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