Life Under Dictatorship

 Posted by on 21 July 2005 at 3:47 pm  Uncategorized
Jul 212005

I found these simple vignettes on life under the tyranny of Castro quite compelling. Here’s one, titled “In the park”:

There in the park the days all seemed the same. It was almost a boring routine. The same corner, the same policeman looking at everyone and once in a while searching those who passed by the place.

The two men arrived and sat down on the bench nearest the street. It was a good place to observe the comings and goings of the people. One of them took out a newspaper and read the headlines. The other lit a cigarette.

The man with the cigarette looked at the corner and saw that the policeman was coming towards them. He casually touched the man with the newspaper. The man who was reading closed the paper and waited. The policeman arrived and, without greeting them, said to them in an ironic tone of voice:

“What? Are you thinking about having a counterrevolutionary meeting in the park? How many did you invite?”

Neither of the men responded. Then the man in uniform let loose the threat:

“If you don’t leave here in two minutes I’ll arrest you and take you away.”

The man smoking threw away the cigarette and said to him:

“What reasons are there for arresting us?”

“There are reasons aplenty and you know it. You’re from the human rights group and are counterrevolutionaries. You don’t work, either. I’ve already told you: two minutes to leave from here.”

He looked at them with hatred and went away. The men got up from the bench and walked in the opposite direction from which the policeman had walked. The man with the newspaper told his friend:

“He told us we’re from the human rights group. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

“One day he’ll know,” his friend said to him, and lit another cigarette.

Up above, the sun kept tracking another routine day, similar perhaps to the rest of the days to come.

The brutal simplicity of style reminds me of Varlam Shalamov’s often heart-wrenching Kolyma Tales on life in the Soviet Gulag.

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