The Art of Tetman Callis Lit & Crit,Politics & Law Going ungentle into that bad night

Going ungentle into that bad night

“For many years the Black Marias were steel-gray and had, so to speak, prison written all over them. But in the biggest cities after the war they had second thoughts and decided to paint them bright colors and to write on the outside, ‘Bread’ (the prisoners were the bread of construction), or ‘Meat’ (it would have been more accurate to write ‘bones’), or even, simply, ‘Drink Soviet Champagne!’ Inside, the Black Marias might consist of a simple armored body or shell, an empty enclosure. Or perhaps there were benches against the walls all the way around. This was in no sense a convenience, but the reverse: they would push in just as many prisoners as could be inserted standing up, but in this case they would be piled on top of each other like baggage, one bale on another. The Black Maria might also have a box in the rear—a narrow steel closet for one prisoner. Or it might be boxed throughout: single closets that locked like cells along the right- and left-hand walls, with a corridor in the middle for the turnkey. One was hardly likely to imagine that interior like a honeycomb when looking at that laughing maiden on the outside: ‘Drink Soviet Champagne!’ ” – Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago (trans. Whitney) (emphases in original)

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