The truth can be an opiate when woven into a tale and The Long Walk is so much more than a story. It is a tale that illustrates mans infinite capacity for cruelty, courage, deprivation and sacrifice in order to achieve the simplest of tasks – staying alive.
The book follows a young Polish Cavalry officer who is caught up in the Second World War and taken prisoner by the Russians. Interrogated and processed, he is then shipped out in terrible conditions to a labour camp in Siberia. This first part of the book provides a fascinating and humbling window into the cruelty and injustice of Stalin’s Russia.
It is at this point that the book takes off in a different direction. Slavomir describes how he and his accomplices escape the camp and complete an epic journey across some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world. This is a tale not of adventure (although there is some) but of the power of comradeship and hidden capability of men when life comes calling. I was also touched by the humanity of strangers in faraway places.
This is a fabulous book not because it is technically clever or masterfully written (although it pulls you along beautifully) but because it is both humbling and inspiring at the same time.