Books have the ability to transport the reader to another world. When we imagine an author writing a great novel, the prison is not the first place that comes to mind. However, there are certain books that were produced by great authors within the confinement of four walls. Here are 7 authors, some prisoners of war and some of injustice who penned great books in prison:
List of Best Books Written By Authors In Prison:
- Letter From Birmingham City Jail by Martin Luther King Jr. :
- Conversations With Myself by Nelson Mandela:
- My Experiments With Truth by Mahatma Gandhi
- Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes:
- De Profundis by Oscar Wilde:
- The Travels Of Marco Polo by Marco Polo and Rustichello Da Pisa:
- Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky:
Letter From Birmingham City Jail by Martin Luther King Jr. :
Letter from Birmingham City Jail is an open letter written by Civil Rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1963. King was imprisoned for organizing a non-violent protest against racial segregation in Alabama. In the letter King defended peaceful protest against racism and stated that people have moral responsibility to break unjust laws. It was in this letter he wrote in jail, where he penned the now historic phrase, ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’
Conversations With Myself by Nelson Mandela:
Conversation With Myself is a powerful memoir by Nelson Mandela. This memoir is a comprehensive collection of diary entries, notes and letters that he wrote during his 27 years of incarceration. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for standing up against the South African government and speaking out against the human rights violations that were being committed against black South Africans. The book was originally published in October 2010. So this book comes in our list of Best Books Written By Authors In Prison
My Experiments With Truth by Mahatma Gandhi
My Experiments with Truth is an autobiography by Mahatma Gandhi. The book is a collection of Mahatma Gandhi’s writings. Most part of the book was written from prison where he was imprisoned several times for his non-violent, civil disobedience campaigns in support of India’s independence from Britain. My Experiments With Truth contains Mahatma Gandhi’s personal reflections, his teachings of civil disobedience and non-violent protests and community organizing. The autobiography was originally published in 1927.
Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes:
Miguel De Cervantes the 17th century Spanish writer was imprisoned two or three times. Cervantes wrote part of his book Don Quixote behind the bars. He was imprisoned because of few issues with his debts. Don Quixote is considered Europe’s first modern novel. It is a story of, Alonso Quijano, who has read so many chivalrous novels that he decides to revive chivalry under the name of Don Quixote. The novel Don Quixote, just like the character it is named after, is chivalrous, romantic, brave and sometimes a bit naive. The book was published in two volumes, in 1605 and 1615.
De Profundis by Oscar Wilde:
The 19th century Irish playwright and novelist, Oscar Wilde penned his letter ‘De Profundis’ from imprisonment in Reading Gaol, to Lord Alfred Douglas. ‘De Profundis’ is dedicated to ‘Bosie’, which was Wilde’s nickname for his lover Lord Alfred Douglas. The letter begins with ‘Dear Bosie’ and ends with ‘Your Affectionate Friend’. Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for gross indecency with men after he lost the libel case against Lord Douglas’ father, the Marques of Queensberry who had accused Wilde of being gay. The first half of the letter narrates Wilde’s and Lord Douglas’ relationship and their extravagant lifestyle which led to Wilde’s imprisonment. In the second half Wilde writes about his spiritual development and how he views Jesus Christ while in prison.
The Travels Of Marco Polo by Marco Polo and Rustichello Da Pisa:
When Marco Polo, a 13th century Italian merchant returned to Venice after travelling for almost 24 years, he found that there was war raging in Venice with Genoa. After Genoa had seized the Venetian fleet, Polo was taken prisoner. In prison he spent several months recounting his travels to his fellow inmate Rustichello Da Pisa. Rustichello who was a writer, compiled all the stories into the book ‘The Travels of Marco Polo’. The book describes Polo’s travels through Asia between 1271 and 1295 and his experiences at the court of Kublai Khan who was grandson of Genghis Khan. The book was first published in 1300. Probably this book is the oldest book written in prison and also comes in the list of Books Written By Authors In Prison.
Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky:
In the Soviet-era many writers were imprisoned in Russia, as there was no freedom of expression . In 1849, Dostoevsky was arrested for reading and circulating banned political essays and was sentenced to death by firing squad. He was on his way to be executed along with several other people when his sentence was commuted by the Czar at last minute to four years in prison in a Siberian labor camp. While he was in his prison Dostoevsky began writing his novel ‘Notes From Underground’. The book was originally published in 1864. Many consider this book to be the first existentialist novel.
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