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I wish that everybody in the world would read this book. And my reasons are not due to any desire on my part that people should join any group of social philosophers or revolutionists. I desire that the book be widely read because the general and careful reading of it would definitely add to true civilization.
It is a contribution to the writings which promote civilization; for the following reasons:
It is a human document. It is a difficult thing to be sincere. More than that, it is a valuable thing. To be so, means unusual qualities of the heart and of the head; unusual qualities of character. The books that possess this quality are unusual books. There are not many deliberately autobiographical writings that are markedly sincere; there are not many direct human documents. This is one of these few books.
Not only has this book the interest of the human document, but it is also a striking proof of the power of the human soul. Alexander Berkman spent fourteen years in prison; under perhaps more than commonly harsh and severe conditions. Prison life tends to destroy the body, weaken the mind and pervert the character. Berkman consciously struggled with these adverse, destructive conditions. He took care of his body. He took care of his mind. He did so strenuously. It was a moral effort. He felt insane ideas trying to take possession of him. Insanity is a natural result of prison life. It always tends to come. This man felt it, consciously struggled against it, and overcame it. That the prison affected him is true. It always does. But he saved himself, essentially. Society tried to destroy him, but failed.