In 1892, Alexander Berkman, Russian émigré, anarchist, and lover of Emma Goldman, attempted to assassinate industrialist Henry Clay Frick. The act was intended both as retribution for the massacre of workers in the Homestead strike and as an incitement to revolution. Captured and sentenced to serve a prison term of twenty-two years, Berkman struggled to make sense of the shadowy and brutalized world of the priso—one that hardly conformed to revolutionary expectation.
Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist is above all else the story of the education of one man….[We] watch Berkman become humanized, tolerant, able to sympathize with the most diverse and antagonistic individuals….No other book discusses so frankly the criminal ways of the closed prison society, its homosexuality or extortion. No other political prisoner even remotely approaches Berkman’s sympathy for what most of the revolutionaries refer to contemptuously as common criminals.
— Kenneth Rexroth
Alexander Berkman is one of the lost heroes of American radicalism, a rare pure voice of rebellion.
— Howard Zinn