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.
Praise for TO BUILD A CASTLE
"Sometimes ironic, sometimes detached, sometimes written in cold fury, but always compelling." —The New Yorker
"This is a landmark book and a human document that remains vital." —Sir Tom Stoppard, Oscar-winning screenwriter of Shakespeare in Love
"Vladimir Bukovsky has written an extraordinary account of his life in the Soviet Union.... Listen closely." —New York Times
"A huge story we must not forget. Even inside prison, a revolt of the mind is possible." —Masha Alyokhina, co-founder of the anti-Putinist punk rock group Pussy Riot, who read To Build a Castle while serving time as a political prisoner
"This book is important."
—Former US President Ronald Reagan
"If human bravery were a book, it would be To Build a Castle. Bukovsky's memoir serves as testimony to the horrors of totalitarianism, a reference manual of the Soviet gulag during the Brezhnev years, and an unforgettable tribute to the courage of dissidents like Bukovsky. Unfortunately, the book is a reminder we still very much need today, when Western moral equivalence would have us believe that such monsters no longer exist. They do, and 'To Build a Castle' is an essential guide to understanding them, and how to fight them." —Garry Kasparov, Chairman of the Human Rights Foundation