chapter  8
16 Pages

THE LEGACY OF DISSENT

ByG. M. Tamás

Dissent was an anomaly. Dissidents, as we shall see, led a life where satisfactions, successes, defeats, and frustrations were very different from those felt by the population at large. While our academic or other intellectual colleagues looked for preferment, authorial fame, international travels, second homes, and the like, our pride lay in our work appearing in smudgy, primitively stencilled little pamphlets called by the Russian word “samizdat,” and success was distributing a couple of hundred copies before the secret police arrived. “Why not fifty thousand copies?” a writer asked me in the early 1980s. “If you weren’t such an idiot to have put yourself on the black list, you could now have a real impact, even if you couldn’t perhaps flatter your adrenaline levels by cursing Andropov.” A secret police officer-unforgettably dressed in a University of Texas T-shirt-asked me once, “You consider yourself an intelligent man, I suppose. Then how do you explain that you are acting against your own interests?” How indeed.