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Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riotby Masha Gessen
Synopses & Reviews
Early in the morning of February 21, 2012, five young women entered the enormous Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, took off their overcoats to expose neon dresses, tights, and balaclavas, climbed up on the dais and began to perform a punk prayer” beseeching the Mother of God” to get rid of Putin.” Although the performance was quickly shut down by security, thanks to YouTube the event began to make its way around the world. And in the weeks and months that followed, instead of fading from public awareness, Pussy Riot went viral, as three of the women were arrested and tried, and two of them were sentenced to a remote prison colony. From their cage-like confines in the courtroom, they spoke out with exceptional eloquence and bravery to condemn not only the circumstances of their own detention but the Putin regime and its massive corruption and abuses of power, including its unholy alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church. The world took notice. The trial captured international headlines and celebrities—Madonna, Bjork, the Red Hot Chili Peppers—raced to vocalize their support. It became increasingly clear that Pussy Riots punk prayer” had been no prank and no accident but a uniquely well-conceived, well-planned, and well-executed act of political confrontation that surpassed what years of dissent and months of public protest had attempted: in a society built entirely on lies, it reinvented the power to tell the truth. It was a great work of art.
This riveting account, based on Masha Gessens exclusive, extensive access to the principals—she was the journalist they wanted to tell their story—tells how such a phenomenon came about. Centered around Nadya, the groups unofficial leader, and including the stories of several other members of the group and additional important major secondary characters, it portrays how a society at an Orwellian extreme of hypocrisy spawned a group of women determined, from a very young age, to confront it and to make their confrontation heard and felt. And it also portrays the devastating loneliness and isolation that is the price of such success.
"Bestselling author Gessen (The Man Without a Face) chronicles the progression of Nadya Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Kat Samutsevich from their idealistic beginnings as young intellectuals to their arrest and prosecution for hooliganism as the punk rock collective Pussy Riot. The events are set in the background of Putin's Russia with its rigged elections, 'bourgeois morality,' and the corrupt Russian Orthodox Church that ignited a firestorm of protest. The author sets the stage with early Pussy Riot actions in Moscow Metro stations and the Red Square, before culminating in the notorious event, in which they used the performance art piece 'Mother of God, Get Rid of Putin' as a form of protest at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. She details their frightening arrest and interrogation in which Samutsevich was threatened with rape and months of pretrial detention. What follows is a trial reminiscent of those from the Soviet era, with bumbling defense attorneys, pearl-clutching witnesses, a bomb threat, and a botched political action, while the defendants watched from within a clear Plexiglas aquarium. Readers visit the penal colony in Mordovia where Tolokonnikova's family travel 11 hours to sit with her for a mere two and a half. Interspersed throughout are Pussy Riot lyrics, correspondence with Gessen, friends and journalists, and the entirety of the closing statements at the trial. Gessen's manner of storytelling is exhilarating and cinematic and this important book will be the definitive text on Pussy Riot. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The heroic story of Pussy Riot, who resurrected the power of truth in a society built on lies
On February 21, 2012, five young women entered the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. In neon-colored dresses, tights, and balaclavas, they performed a punk prayer” beseeching the Mother of God” to get rid of Putin.” They were quickly shut down by security, and in the weeks and months that followed, three of the women were arrested and tried, and two were sentenced to a remote prison colony. But the incident captured international headlines, and footage of it went viral. People across the globe recognized not only a fierce act of political confrontation but also an inspired work of art that, in a time and place saturated with lies, found a new way to speak the truth.
Masha Gessens riveting account tells how such a phenomenon came about. Drawing on her exclusive, extensive access to the members of Pussy Riot and their families and associates, she reconstructs the fascinating personal journeys that transformed a group of young women into artists with a shared vision, gave them the courage and imagination to express it unforgettably, and endowed them with the strength to endure the devastating loneliness and isolation that have been the price of their triumph.
About the Author
Masha Gessen is a journalist and the author of several previous books, most recently Perfect Rigor. Editor of the Russian-language Snob magazine, she has contributed to Vanity Fair, The New Republic, Granta, and Slate, among other publications.
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