Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Books on Tape

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Books on Tape

Article excerpt

"AGAINST ALL HOPE" An autobiography by Armando Valladares (18 hours, unabridged, Blackstone Audio Books, $66.95 purchase, $16.95 rental)

Nothing prepares listeners for this type of story, because most of us cannot conceive of cruelty at such an immense level. Nevertheless, the Cuban poet's account of his 22 years in Fidel Castro's jails and concentration camps as a political prisoner is filled with such detail that even those with a terminal case of denial must take notice.

The author was accused of no crimes other than speaking out against communism. This was in the late '50s, when Castro was still claiming that he had not headed a socialist revolution.

For talking when he should have been listening, Valladares was arrested and thrown into an island prison. With him were hundreds of other dissidents, many of whom had fought alongside Castro in his struggle to overthrow the Batista government.

Apparently, none of them had a clue that Castro would turn on them with the same savage vigor as other 20th-century names associated with great human mortality and defilement, such as Stalin and Hitler.

What is truly amazing is that Valladares would stick by his principles when a route out of his pain was offered to him. All he had to do was accept communist indoctrination. Talk about being heroic to a fault. He would still be imprisoned if not for the intercession of French President Francois Mitterrand.

As I listened, my emotions ranged from horror to pity and from revulsion to admiration. At times, I became depressed, and at others, my feelings became too complex to describe in a single word or phrase. The story is an experience that makes you believe some people accept the role of tormentor very easily.

Grover Gardner reads the narrative in a straight-forward manner, allowing Valladares' words to create the drama. …

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