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To Build a Castle: Still Relevant Story of a Fighter for Freedom  


7 March 2017, 06:18

Let’s hear from some who know:

“Sometimes ironic, sometimes detached, sometimes written in cold fury, but always compelling.” —The New Yorker

“This is a landmark book and a human document that remains vital.” —Sir Tom Stoppard, Oscar-winning screenwriter of Shakespeare in Love

“Vladimir Bukovsky has written an extraordinary account of his life in the Soviet Union…. Listen closely.” —New York Times

“A huge story we must not forget. Even inside prison, a revolt of the mind is possible.” —Masha Alyokhina, co-founder of the anti-Putinist punk rock group Pussy Riot, who read To Build a Castle while serving time as a political prisoner

“This book is important.”
—Former US President Ronald Reagan

“If human bravery were a book, it would be To Build a Castle. Bukovsky’s memoir serves as testimony to the horrors of totalitarianism, a reference manual of the Soviet gulag during the Brezhnev years, and an unforgettable tribute to the courage of dissidents like Bukovsky. Unfortunately, the book is a reminder we still very much need today, when Western moral equivalence would have us believe that such monsters no longer exist. They do, and ‘To Build a Castle’ is an essential guide to understanding them, and how to fight them.” —Garry Kasparov, Chairman of the Human Rights Foundation

I have written thoughts on the book earlier, and will be posting my review up on Amazon shortly.


Let’s hear from the author himself, when speaking on this re-publication project:

The author has chosen to forego making any money on the e-book. His goal is to make his international bestseller available to the most readers for the lowest price, because of his story’s parallels and relevance to events in Russia today. As he puts it:

“Putin believes his mission is to restore the Soviet system as soon as possible. It leads him to repeat the same mistakes.”

Something that was emphasized in the book: Bukovsky grew up in the post-Stalin era, and he noticed that the post-Stalin USSR was still as repressive as when Uncle Joe was still around. What Putin et. al. are doing to Russia now might not be called Soviet or communist, but the repressive totalitarianism still exists.

Perhaps they prefer assassinating political enemies rather than sticking them into mental institutions (as happened with Bukovsky – he also got sent to regular prison) now, but while the specific tactics change, the strategy remains the same: control the masses.


Here’s my review:

5 stars

Amazing book — how an individual’s struggle has impact, even in a totalitarian society

Bukovsky details his life in the gulags and mental institutions he was circulated among in the Soviet Union in the 1960s & 1970s. The post-Stalin era Soviet Union was just as repressive of individual freedoms as when Stalin was in charge. Just as Nazi era narratives are important, this is very important for people to read to know what it was like to be an individual caught up in the machinery of the Soviet Union. When Bukovsky wrote, he had been exiled to England, and the USSR seemed as strong as ever – a little over a decade later, it fell, partly due to men like Bukovsky.

The book starts in disorientation, and there is much disorientation found throughout the narrative, but one is quickly drawn into the story. There is a thread of humor, reminding me of Crime & Punishment by Dostoevsky. The pyramid scheme of prisoner complaints to gum up Soviet bureaucracy was genuinely funny. The reality is fairly bleak, but Bukovsky retains his humanity and never gives up fighting.

The book retains relevance as totalitarian impulses still exist today, not only in Russia but throughout the world.

Key passage in the book:


Why should I do it?” asks each man in the crowd. “I can do nothing alone.”

And they are all lost.

“If I don’t do it, who will?” asks the man with his back to the wall.

And everyone is saved.

That is how a man begins building his castle.


Individual action can save the world. Go forth and build your castle.

Indeed — go build your castle. Don’t wait for someone else to act.

Buy the kindle version for 99 cents

Read the first chapter for free online

Vladimir Bukovsky’s official site

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