Gary's Reviews > The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom

The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz
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Dec 31, 08

Read in December, 2008

A memoir must be an unrewarding thing to write today. So many have been discredited as either full of untruths or completely fabricated. Jerzy Kosinski's "Painted Bird", Carlos Casteneda's "The Teaching of Don Juan", more than a few of Oprah-publicized books, and now (a revelation for me) "The Long Walk", a book that has sold half a million copies since it was first published in 1956. I started to get suspicious about 1/3 of the way through this book. There were too many implausible incidents, starting from his insistence that he was completely innocent of spying or any other any crime against the Soviets (they claim he killed an NKVD officer), his extraordinary long interrogations, the long march from Irkutsk to the camp chained behind a wood-burning truck, his ability to interview and then reject candidates for the escape without anyone ratting him out, the help he got from the commandant's wife, and his naive view of the natural world. He claimed that the only living things in the Gobi desert were snakes, which they caught and ate (what did the snakes eat? Were they cannibals?). They evidently just laze around in holes with only their head sticking out. All of the snakes I have ever seen were either lying or crawling over the ground. It sounds more like gopher or night-crawler behavior to me.

Then there were the pair of Yeti they spotted! Now I know there was a lot of interest in the Yeti, Sasquatch, and Loch Ness monster back in the 50's when this book was written, but really now, are we supposed to take this seriously? I haven't researched the disbelievers extensively, but Outside did a scathing review in 2003 ( http://outside.away.com/outside/featu... ) and the BBC did an expose in 2006 ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6... ).

The current edition of the book has the usual testimonials on the back cover, including a glowing one from Sebastian Junger (The Perfect Storm), "One of the epic treks of the human race ...." he says. Well Sebastian, I've now got you calibrated! How does such obvious fabrication go unquestioned by so many people for so long (read some of the angry comments at the end of the BBC article)? Part of it may be the desire to believe a compelling story of incredible hardship and adventure, and part of it must be the West's fixation during the cold war with the evils of the Soviet Union. Anybody who can tell a story that makes them look like fools has got to be believed!

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fake_mem... for more about other fake memoirs. Also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavomir...
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