I read this book as a child and fell in love with the whole concept of (a) adventure memoirs (b) international relations and (c) cultural clashes. Way too young to be reading it at the time, I missed a lot of the main points of the book. For instance, I didn’t know what a gulag was. Which kinda limits what one can get from this memoir.
Because the story is of seven men who escape from a Siberian prison camp and walk to India over the course of a year. Along the way they meet others who travel alongside awhile, including a teenaged girl who escaped from a work camp, and is one of four walkers who dies along the route. The group is attempting to get outside Soviet influenced areas to a place where they will not be returned to a prison. The things they deal with, coupled with the internal relationships within the group, made the book powerful.
But now, rereading it because a (rather mediocre) film was made of the book, I find that the whole memoir is shrouded in controversy. It seems very likely that the person who is telling the story, Rawicz, the de facto leader of the group, actually took someone else’s story as his own.
That doesn’t change the fact that this is a great read, or that it actually happened – but how does one classify a memoir, told in the first person, ghost written by a journalist working with the storyteller, if the storyteller is actually telling someone else’s story?
I dunno – I just know this is a great read.