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BY-NC-ND 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter 2021

Escape Words: From Solitary Confinement to Female Solidarity in Lena Constante’s Post-Communist Prison Memoirs

Szidonia Haragos


This article argues that the representative post-Communist autobiographical texts by Romanian writer Lena Constante, based on the author’s personal experience of twelve years of incarceration in Communist Romania’s notorious political prisons, trace a gradual transformation from solitary confinement to female solidarity. While the first of the two memoirs, The Silent Escape, invokes the power of the literary and creative imagination in surviving eight years of solitary confinement, the second part, The Impossible Escape, reveals the growing sense of community among the imprisoned women, their shared sense of suffering that was often induced by torture and frequently endured as a hardship marked by gender (for instance, the misery menstruating women undergo in the absence of the most basic sanitary equipment, with one of them barely surviving a haemorrhage). Recalling her memories years afterwards, Constante composes an autobiography that testifies to the difficulty of writing about the enormity of the atrocities she experienced. Often recording sheer rows of numbers on the page and struggling with silence because words seem to betray reality, her two-part memoir bears witness to a repressed collective past and thus offers a powerful countermemory and alternative history of Romanian totalitarianism.

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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