"Zekameron" derives from the Russian word zek, an abbreviation formed by the names of two letters of the Russian Cyrillic alphabet - зк; it stands for zakliuchonny, a word that originally referred to a convict held in a Soviet labour camp. The word now means "prisoner".
Born in Minsk in 1981, international lawyer Maxim Znak was arrested in autumn 2020 and sentenced to ten years in prison in 2021. He is recognised by Amnesty as a prisoner of conscience. The 100 tales in The Zekameron are based on 14th century collection The Decameron but Znak is closer to Beckett than to Boccaccio. Banality and brutality vie with the human ability to overcome oppression. Znak's stories in different voices chart 100 days in prison in Belarus today. The tone is laconic, ironic; the humour dry. The stories bear witness to resistance and self-assertion and the genuine warmth and appreciation of fellow prisoners.
"The fact that this book exists at all should be a miracle. Simply because the stories were smuggled out … The true sensation, however, is the mental achievement the prisoner Maxim Znak was capable of: that in his situation, which could really be called hopeless, he still possesses the internal freedom to create literature." - Cornelia Geissler, Berliner Zeitung