Writers in Prison

Davies, Ioan
Publisher:  Between the Lines, Toronto, Canada
Year Published:  1990  
Pages:  274pp   ISBN:  ISBN 0-921284-42-X
Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX4510

An analysis of the work of imprisoned writers.

Abstract:  Ioan Davies, a professor of sociology and political thought at York University has analyzed the prison writings of several well-known prisoners such as the Russian novelist, Solzhenitsyn, the playwright Jean Genet, and Vaclav Havel, Czech dramatist, poet and essayist and now President of Czechoslovakia. Although Davies draws his sample from writers who were incarcerated for political or religious reasons, their stories or "fragmentary scratchings on the walls of a cell", form a folk-history of incarceration, exile and slavery.

In examining the themes that pervade prison literature, Davies develops a philosophy of incarceration which contains the distinctive stories of prisoners such as Black Americans or women. Their personalized accounts are shown to articulate the problems of the wider prison community. By underlining the difficulties in entering and understanding the context of the writer because of our cultural and social biases, Davies shows us the importance of doing so.

Using examples of prisoners in "riven situations", Davies points to the pervasiveness of military control, armed police surveillance and the political opposition to both in the world and reflects on the roots of this violence at the base of Western civilization. His work uses the vehicle of prison literature to impel us to find alternatives to prison and violence.

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