In 1892, Alexander Berkman tried to assassinate Henry Clay Frick for his role in violently suppressing the Homestead Steel Strike. Berkman was unsuccessful. He spent the next fourteen years in prison, thirteen of them in Pennsylvania's notorious Western Penitentiary. Upon his release, he wrote what was to become a classic of prison literature, and a profound testament to human courage in the face of oppression.
This new edition of his account of his years behind bars is introduced and fully annotated by Jessica Moran and Barry Pateman, both former associate editors of the Emma Goldman Papers at the University of California, Berkeley. Their efforts make this the definitive version of Berkman’s tale of his transformation within prison, his growing sympathy for those he’d considered social parasites, and the intimate relationships he developed with them. This edition includes a full, never-before-published transcription of the diary Berkman kept while he wrote his memoir, conveying the difficulties he had reliving his experiences, as well as the anarchist milieu he returned to after his incarceration.
What People Are Saying
"Alexander Berkman’s book is vivid, candid, honest." —The New York Times
“No other book discusses so frankly the criminal ways of the closed prison society.” —Kenneth Rexroth
"More than anything, this story of survival and recovery, of reconnection and responsibility to one’s beliefs is a morality tale for us here and now. Prison experience changes who you are fundamentally and haunts you. I will always carry the prison around in my mind for the rest of my life. But I am encouraged that perhaps, even so, like Alexander Berkman, I will continue to find the strength, direction, and purpose of my Cause in my life both here and in whatever future free life I might have. This fills me with courage and peace. There’s not a lot of books out there that can do that for you."
—Marius Mason, Political Prisoner
About the Author
Alexander Berkman (1870–1936) was a leading writer and militant in the anarchist movement, author of the classic primer What is Anarchism?, and editor of Emma Goldman’s Mother Earth and his own newspaper, The Blast!
Jessica Moran is a member of the Kate Sharpley Library collective and is an archivist currently living and working in New Zealand.
Barry Pateman is an archivist with the Kate Sharpley Library collective and the editor of Chomsky on Anarchism.