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Prisoner Without a Name Book Review Essay

Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a number is a melancholy novel that expresses Argentina’s terrorist state. Jacob Timerman, a well respected man of Argentina, an editor of a well know Argentinian paper, La Opinion, tells the audience his story of the terrorist state of Argentina from 1967-1978. His gripping novel both describes his personal experience being kidnapped by terrorist, while he tells us about the condition of the terrorist state of Argentina. His book is important because it tells a first hand account of the fear, the distrust, and the mere insanity of conditions in the country of Argentina during its darkest time.

In Timerman’s first chapter, he opens by describing how he lives (though being locked up in a cell is not living) while being locked away in an unknown location (p.g. 4). He first describes his own “cell”. He is extremely descriptive and the reader can feel as though they are in his small, narrow, cold, wet cell. He tells his audience of a little crack in the wall, his only ventilation and only source of light, in such little detail, yet the reader can understand his isolation from light, the outside world, and his family.

Timerman describes the crack as a “faint glow, night and day, eliminating time” which represents his unwilling determination and hope for freedom. Timerman’s first chapter also gives the reader a sense that through all the events he has under gone, he still remains the same strong willed person (under the circumstances) he was as he is described in the rest of the book. In addition to he crack in the wall, Timerman describes an encounter with another prisoner when the eyehole of his cell accidentally left open by the guards. He describes his encounter with such passion and emotion, yet they do not say anything,, only stare at each other. Timerman describes how their movements, their eyes blinking, represented emotion and passionate communication between the two of them.

For in these conditions seeing someone who is in the same situation and somehow communicating with them was extraordinary for Timerman. This encounter that he describes is an important aspect of his book, in that it represents an encounter with another person struggling through the same pain, and same tourture that he is experiencing. This can be looked at as a simile towards the conditions in the country of Argentina.

After Timerman describes his torture and isolation while under imprisonment, his next chapter tells us about the chaos that has under gone in Argentina, and her government. He explains to the readers that there are two sides in this civil war between the two parties of government, and describes all of the violence that has occured as a by-product of this war. He tells us of his encounters with the hysteria before he was kidnapped, and the disarray that was upon Argentinians. Timerman uses a quote by Luis Borges that was very interesting and nsightful, claiming that “the Argentine is not a citizen but an inhabitant; that he lacks an idea of the nation where he resides , but views it as a territory…” which is an understandable view.

The people of Argentina, as Timerman describes, are scared of their government and the terrorism that is upon them. Timerman describes Argentina is such a state that there is no government, and, that the government is corrupt and that there is no trust authorities. Timerman, throughout the book, tells about mothers, fathers, relatives, and friends coming to La Opinion asking to write a letter about their loved one going missing, yet he further explains in almost every instance, that he could not do anything about it because it could get him executed.

Timerman, throughout the book, always described his reasoning and perspective, in that, he said he wanted to help those people that came looking for help, yet he was already pushing his luck writing articles that no other paper would dare to write. Timerman tells the read that during his position as editor at La Opinion he received many death threats and hostile remarks due to his articles in his paper being to left sided, or too right sided political view. Yet Timmerman tells the reader that his intensions where not to support either side, but to write about the truth about what was going on in Argentina. He also wanted to stop this terrorism and find a way to halt this insanity.

Timermans book does an amazing job at telling two stories, his story of survival during imprisonment for multiple years, while also telling the reader about the irrationality and absurdity of Argentina’s “government”. Though the book takes place in Argentina, those who read it will understand the universal application. It could happen else where, and that is why it is an important book to read, understand and take in. Timerman, in his book, is a witness for the rest of us.


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