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.