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Behind Bars: Writings From Inside

May 2007

We confess to smuggling out the arresting details, strong convictions, and guilty pleasures of these writings from prison. Fatos Lubonja recalls his chilling “Second Sentence.” Fadhil al-Azzawi negotiates prison politics in “Cell Block Five.” Khadija Marouazi’s phobic captive rats out his innocent cellmate in “Biography of Ash,” while Tirdad Zolghadr cuts a deal with his new “Friends.” Jorge Garcia and Fidel Martinez’s defiant women prisoners sing “The Ballad of Ventas Prison.” Leena Lander’s political activist in “The Order” writes her last letter to the foster father she served, then betrayed. Mario Benedetti reveals the captive unconscious in “He Dreamed That He Was in Prison.” And in escapes from other forms of confinement, Guillermo Saavedra’s “Runaway Country” captures a nation fleeing political and economic chaos, while Cuban exile and mental patient Guillermo Rosales “checks out” of his euphemistic “Boarding Home.” We trust you’ll be a captive audience.

From ‘Second Sentence”
By Fatos Lubonja
Nevertheless this howling struck terror to the heart, especially in that bitter weather.
Translated from Albanian by John Hodgson
From “Cell Block Five”
By Fadhil al-Azzawi
It took me some long months to realize that I was incarcerated.
Translated from Arabic by William Maynard Hutchins
From “Biography of Ash”
By Khadija Marouazi
There, where my body seemed to lay a great distance from me, I put my hand on my leg, on my fingers, and I couldn’t tell they were mine.
Translated from Arabic by Alexander Elinson
By Tirdad Zolghadr
A warden takes me by the arm as I slip on my blindfold and step out of the cell.
Ballad of Ventas Prison
By Jorge Garcia & Fidel Martinez
Translated from Spanish by Anna Kushner
From “The Order”
By Leena Lander
I am writing to you from the Ruukkijoki prison barracks because the guard gave me paper and told me to write my last letter ever, home or to a lover.
Translated from Finnish by Jill Timbers
He Dreamed That He Was in Prison
By Mario Benedetti
That prisoner dreamed that he was in prison. Naturally, the dreams had details and patterns.
Translated from Spanish by Harry Morales
Runaway Country
By Guillermo Saavedra
Fire? / No: light.
Translated from Spanish by Katie King
Boarding Home
By Guillermo Rosales
“My angel . . . Were you ever a Communist?”
Translated from Spanish by Anna Kushner