How many of you would die for literature, he asked them.

All ten of them raised a hand. It was warm in the room and the man stood at the front, pacing slowly with his hands clasped at the small of his back, as if bound there. His eyes were wide and cast down to the tile before him.

The students in the room watched, waiting, a few of them nervous but the rest empowered by the speaker’s words and intensity. In that room they had a common bond, they shared warmth and their love of free expression, the exchange of ideas. They shared the homeland and they shared respect for the professor, the ex-professor, fugitive, translator of banned works, outlaw and dedicated man of letters.

Before you join us you must submit to losing everything, all that you have, everything you’ve built.

The room was silent. The man paced, his head down.

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