Slavomir Rawicz’s The Long Walk has replaced James Frey’s books as the best book of the year. Several people recommended it to me and it was simply awesome.
Rawicz tells the story of his arrest, interrogation, trial, and sentencing for espionage in Russia in 1939. Of course all of this is bogus as he’s merely Polish and has done nothing wrong, but he is stubborn and – rather than admit false guilt (and surely be executed), he hangs in there for a year of abuse and is sentenced to 25 years of hard labor in a Siberian prison camp.
This is where the real story begins. Rawicz describes – in horrifying detail – the deportation to the labor camp. Upon arrival, not surprisingly, the first task for the new prisoners – in the midst of a hideous Siberian winter – is to build their own shelter. This kind of stuff goes on for a while and about 100 pages in, Rawicz starts plotting his escape.
Rawicz and six of his fellow prisoners split one night. The second half of the book is the incredible story of their journey south from northern Siberia, across Russia, through Mongolia, across the Gobi Dessert, over the mountains of Tibet, and finally into India. My description couldn’t do justice to this journey – Rawicz’s description is excruciatingly magnificent.
The entire journey – most of it on foot – is over 4,000 miles from Moscow to India. If you are ever having a difficult day, feel like giving up hope, or merely view the things ahead of you as “a challenge”, pick up this book, open to any page, read 10 pages, and be humbled (and re-calibrated).
Spectacular. Thanks to all who suggested I read it.