White nights: The story of a prisoner in Russia by Menachem Begin
The Times of London has called White Nights “nothing less than one of the greatest pieces of prison literature in the world.” It is the account of Prime Minister Begin’s incarceration in a series of Soviet prisons, and his eventual release and arrival in Israel to become the leader of his country.
The title refers, ironically, both to the endless daylight of the Siberian tundra and the constant floodlights of the prison interrogators as they attempted to force confessions from their captives. But while the horrors of prison life under the Soviet regime are made heartbreakingly clear, Begin’s dry sense of humor only throws his experience into sharper relief. His crime was belief in Zionism, and the time of testing he describes in this book vividly brings to life the formation of his own inner character and the sense of mission which he so evidently brings to his present awesome responsibilities.
Even those familiar with Begin’s rise to power may be quite unprepared for his great gifts as a writer. Written in cool, sparse prose, his book is a powerful, urgent, and profoundly moving document.