Fiction as Therapy

This is our translation of an excerpt of Radu Mărculescu’s Suffering and Enlightenment in Soviet Captivity.

After dinner, while everybody was silently digesting their ratio of salted fish and bread, I asked for permission to speak. I proposed that those of us who were able to remember a good novel or a beautiful movie, or even a life story, should try to share it, in an attempt to chase away ugliness and ignore hunger. Even a concocted story, like the one told by our comrade that morning, had the power to reach our hearts. My proposal was readily accepted and I offered to be the first, for fear that it could all fizzle out. I chose The Uprising by Liviu Rebreanu. Five or six months ago I had presented it to my students, in a farewell lesson, before my leaving for the front. I started clumsily, in a faint voice. Very soon I got hoarse and I panicked: would I ever get to finish my story? I swallowed a bit of water and luckily my voice cleared. Little by little, as I felt the interest of my audience, I recovered self-confidence.

I closed my eyes and the railcar disappeared. I was in the classroom, in front of the eighth grade students: white walls, uncleaned blackboard and up on the wall His Majesty’s and Antonescu’s portraits. Here I was – the teacher I had once been. When the lesson ended, I awoke from my dream in the sound of applause. Reality was now more bearable. I looked around and saw kinder faces, showing sympathy. The experiment had been successful. For a few moments we had all managed to escape. I fell asleep feeling happy. I thought: God, man’s soul thirsts for fiction!

That night, nobody died.

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