A human being survives an inhuman system
A. F. Champernowne
on September 03, 2000 at 08:05:54:
A human being survives an inhuman system.
Reviewer: A. F. Champernowne from Seattle, WA USA
The book has two main threads: The geopolitics of the early years of the cold war
and the experiences of a man arbitrarily imprisoned in Poland. It is written with
striking honesty and intensity. The point of view is refreshingly different from the
dogmatic positions of either of the superpowers at the time.
Ironically, Hermann Field comes to be imprisoned because of his having aided communist refugees, among others, from Hitler's invasion of Eastern Europe. These refugees achieved positions of power after the war and are now to be purged by
Stalin, with the aid of Hermann's coerced testimony. But Hermann, out of principal
and loyalty to his friends, will not give false arrest and no prospect of a trial, the Polish authorities have no choice but that
Hermann should "disappear". This suits both sides since Hermann is regarded by the West as a fellow traveller, or even a communist spy who, like Philby, has rejoinded his masters in the Soviet Union.
Meanwhile Hermann languishes as a political prisoner and is forced to develop his
mental resources to fight boredom and preserve his sanity. This he does with an extrordinary upwelling of creativity which allows him to retain his identity and his Quaker principals. The book also records the experiences of Hermann's wife, Kate, who struggles to bring up his two sons while working to keep his plight in the public
eye. Throught his imprisonment, Kate had no definite evidence that Hermann was even still alive.
Hermann's eventual release, after nearly five years, is as much an accident of the cold war as was his arrest. Remarkably, at the end of it all, he retains his qualified admiration for the ideals of the communist revoultion.