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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Critique/Review (for writers) (05/06/10)

TITLE: The Voice of One
By Ann Grover


I felt the pounding in my chest long before I heard the hammering on the door. The moment was inevitable; I’d known it would arrive, even as I’d written the last word in my manuscript, and when I’d furtively skulked down rubbish-heaped allies to meet with the printer.

I’d known when I finally held the volume in my hand, the essence of my tortured thoughts unleashed on each page, woven through the plot, and cemented into the finale.

I arose resignedly and opened the door.

“Comrade Baranov, come with us.” I offered no resistance to the two black-coated men, as there were always ways to ensure cooperation.

It was a short ride to the unremarkable brick building with dark expressionless windows staring into the streaming rain. I was pushed up the steps, roughly, and through the heavy door which banged shut behind us.

“Ah, Comrade Baranov.” The corpulent man behind the desk dismissed the men, and with hands folded together in a charade of prayer, he tried, unsuccessfully, to appear pleasant and amenable. “Please sit.” He motioned to the single wooden chair.

“I understand congratulations are in order on the publication of your...novel. A fable, is it?”

“No, sir.”

“Ah. An attempt to portray your notion of reality?”

“Somewhat, yes.”

“Then, there seems to be a misunderstanding. I have here, shall we say, a critique of your work.”

He carefully splayed tightly written sheets of paper on the desk. An ominous stamp was impressed on the final page, and icy thorns needled my flesh. I squinted to read the cramped words.

...an offensive diatribe against the military, capitalizing on insignificant failures, condemning strategies and policies as weak and ineffective.

“It appears you are dissatisfied with our military forces.” The rotund man raised an eyebrow.

“I demonstrated the unnecessary loss of life through ineptness and incompetence.”

“You believe our armed power is composed of impotent, bungling fools?”

“I did not say that, sir. I merely narrated the facts.”

The protagonist, though thinly disguised as the “common man,” seeks to transform his destiny through individualism, the exercise of free will, and resistance to so-called oppression.

“Your main character, Ivan Davidovich, he is not happy with his life. It seems he fails to comprehend his purpose, that he is but part of a whole.”

“Ivan has many trials, yes. I related the happenings of his simple, but difficult life.”

“It is manipulative. You sought to arouse emotionalism, sympathy, appealing to base human nature.”

“I tell the truth.”

The tale does not accurately represent the life of the progressive working man, in which every action is deemed admirable. It is negative and uninspiring.

“Comrade Baranov,” he smirked condescendingly, “there is no tragedy or poverty, no failure or misery. What is good for one is good for all. And, it is all good. Am I clear?”

“Of course, sir, but there are many who...”

“Nonsense.” He walked around the desk and leaned toward me, close enough for me to see fine flecks of spittle on his yellowed teeth. His breath reeked of tobacco and onions.

“You are hostile to the Motherland, the blessed land of your ancestors,” he crowed sarcastically as he slammed a copy of my book to the floor. “Do you not understand your pitiful book belongs to the entire community? Are you pleased that this...filth belongs to your revered mother?”

“My mother is dead, and I rejoice that she did not live to see this day, when an honest man may not declare what he knows and believes.”

...a meandering and trite plot...wholly subjective...historically unsubstantiated...treasonous and traitorous...subversive...

He whispered suddenly, wheedling, “This review could, shall we say, disappear, if you renounce your writing.”

“I renounce nothing. I will not apologize for writing truth nor will I recant my belief that God created us as unique and separate individuals who belong to Him and Him alone.”

...entire fabrication is dismissed as seditious falsification and the perpetrator sentenced to...hard labour...Siberia...

“Perhaps, if your slothful hands are tempered by genuinely honest work, you’ll forget about the folly of indiscretion and arrogance.” He gathered the papers.

The two men returned, and again, I submitted to their maltreatment.


The Siberian night is eternal and starless. As our hands and feet bleed into the frozen ground, a whisper arises in the bone-chilling air. Others join, surging into a resounding, unified crescendo, dispersing the intolerable silence.

The voice of one belongs to all.

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This article has been read 778 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Mona Purvis05/13/10
Very powerfully written of a day that has come to some and may come to America if we do nothing.
Purpose and passion drive this strong entry.
Alleys is the plural, not allies.
Leaves one thinking.

stanley Bednarz05/15/10
Perfect word choices, not too purple and not bland. Consider me your new shadow, but don't worry, I will plenty of light to write.
Carol Penhorwood 05/17/10
Powerful and thought provoking!
Linda Germain 05/17/10
Excruciating truth exposed through excellent dialogue. Very good writing!
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/17/10
Chilling story, powerfully written.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge05/17/10
I felt like I was reading the past, present, and future...only God knows how it will all end.
Sara Harricharan 05/19/10
Reminds me of history class--I had a great history prof. This was like an episode out of one of his lectures. Very good atmosphere--definitely creepy folks to have critiquing a decent manuscript. Nicely done!
Carole Robishaw 05/19/10
This was very well written. It was chilling, my sister was a missionary in Siberia in the 90's, I could relate all too well with stories she shared of the history there.
Beth LaBuff 05/19/10
Your story is powerful and haunting. Your writing of this period (and setting) feels so authentic. Excellent!
Lisha Hunnicutt05/19/10
Wow! This powerful piece captivated my interest and sent chills down my spine.
Karen Macor05/19/10
Powerful historical fiction. Nicely done. Sobering.
Marita Thelander 05/19/10
Awesome angle on the topic. POwerful reminder of our freedom to write even if other "freedoms" seem to be slowly disappearing. Such power in the written word.
Lyn Churchyard05/19/10
This brought to mind the book One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Your descriptions put me right there and I could hear the voices and easily visualise the surroundings. A very creative take on the topic, well done.
Rachel Phelps05/19/10
Chilling and wonderful at the same time. I love this take on the topic. Great stuff!