Jacques the Frenchman: Memories of the Gulag
University of Toronto Press, 2020 - Biography & Autobiography - 328 pages
Jacques Rossi is one of Stalin's most well-known victims. Author of The Gulag Handbook, a fascinating encyclopedia of the Soviet forced labor camps, Rossi spent twenty years in interrogation, prison, and Gulag detention. Born to a prominent Polish father and French mother, the young Jacques became attracted to communism as a blueprint for radical social reform. He spent years in the communist underground in interwar Europe, agitating for the revolution, but he was arrested during Stalin's Great Purges in 1937. This book represents a conversation between Jacques Rossi and Mich?le Sarde, professor emerita at Georgetown University, and weaves together personal reflections and historical analysis.
Rossi's remarkable life (1909-2004) spanned the twentieth century and sheds important light on the tumultuous history of Europe - the appeal of communism in the interwar period and beyond, the mentality of party members, the effects of mass repression, everyday life in Stalin's Gulag, and the problem of rights for former prisoners during the Khrushchev era. As he abandoned his internationalist communist beliefs, Rossi increasingly identified as French, embracing the name his fellow prisoners gave him in the Gulag, "Jacques the Frenchman." Rossi's reflections on his own political beliefs, his frustrations with those who could not accept the truth of his brutal experiences in the Soviet Union, and his life as a witness to one of the twentieth century's worst crimes offer a fascinating history of Stalinism and its legacies.