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In-Person Event

The Zekameron: Behind Bars in Belarus


Friday, October 6, 2023

1:00 pm


Friday, October 6, 2023

2:00 pm

Portobello Library

Portobello Book Festival discusses Maxim Znak’s ground-breaking satirical novel, The Zekameron, smuggled out of a prison in Belarus. Winner of the 2023 English PEN award for translation.

Before prison, author of The Zekameron Maxim Znak worked as a lawyer for the Belarusian political opposition, until he was detained in the run-up to the 2020 presidential elections (when serving president Lukashenko was re-elected for a sixth term, despite blatant electoral fraud). Today, you will find Znak in Vitsba Detention Centre No 3, serving out his ten year prison sentence. 

The Zekameron, like Boccaccio’s canonical text, takes the form of 100 stories in confinement— however, Znak’s book is closer to Beckett than Boccaccio. Ever alert to the matter-of-fact realities of prison life, the book is also a celebration of pranks, fantasy, non-sensical bureaucracy, the absurd lengths that prisoners will go to in order to make life more bearable for themselves. Despite its very bleak context, this is a fundamentally optimistic book, engaging comically, yet honestly, with what it means to be human. Znak’s book represents a major coup not only for his family and friends, but for all artists living under oppressive regimes struggling for freedom of expression.

This session is a collaboration between Amnesty International and the People’s Consulate of Belarus in Scotland, whose members introduce the book and read selections from it. Chaired by Cathy Crawford, Portobello Branch of Amnesty.

This event is free to attend. Tickets can be collected in person from Portobello Library on Rosefield Avenue.

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