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The Day Is Born Of Darkness by Mikhail Dyomin. New York. 1976. Knopf. Translated From The Russian By Tony Kahn. keywords: Autobiography Crime Criminals Prison Translated Russia. 371 pages. Jacket design by Lidia Ferrara. 0394491661. April 1976.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Mikhail Dyomin was only 16 when he went to jail for the first time, for evading a compulsory wartime work order. But it was the beginning for him of a 15-year career as a professional criminal, as an inhabitant of one of the strangest and least-known societies on the face of the earth - the Soviet underworld. This extraordinary first-person account of his life there - as a thief, as a convict, as a writer of prison ballads sung in camps from Magadan to the Aral Sea - is an authentic voice out of Russia's lower depths, brilliantly evocative of the color and violence that still lurk behind Communism's stolid gray facade, an engrossing tale of adventure, and probably the fullest picture yet given of life on the wrong side of the law in the Soviet Union. Here in riveting detail are the realities of outlaw existence: the battles in prison ; the tricks of housebreaking, con games, train robbery; the arcana of convict life, from instructions for making a deck of cards out of blood and bread, to tips on eating nettles. Here are the gypsy camps, the brothels and thieves' dens, the black markets and village fairs and long, lonely trains howling into the Asian night, the whole exotic rogue's-world of crime. And here are the characters Dyomin encountered, fought with, loved: Queen Margo, the sophisticated and monumentally connected Grande Dame of Crime; Saloma the Onanist, ultimate prison camp escapist; Khasan, the homicidal cardshark, with his court of cutthroat lovers; the author's deadly enemy Snuffles, whom he finally kills, and dozens more. Dyomin's first robbery, his attendance at the all-European Thieves' Conference in Lvov, his chilling run-in with political terrorists, his narrow escapes, murders, love affairs, imprisonments - adventure piled on adventure, and all recounted with the energy, style, and rolling pace of a born storyteller. THE DAY IS BORN OF DARKNESS ends with the author's discharge from a Siberian labor camp, his dream of becoming a published poet about to come true. Once on the outside, he went on to write five more books under the name Dyomin, becoming a popular and successful writer. In 1971, he quietly defected during a visit to Paris, where he now lives and writes.

Mikhail Dyomin has taken his writing name from the forged identity papers he was forced to use while in hiding within the Soviet criminal underground. He was born Georgy Trifonov in 1926. His mother belonged to the pre-revolutionary nobility; his father, a top Red Army commissar in the Civil War, fell into disfavor and was persecuted during the Stalinist era. Dyomin was first arrested in 1942, at the age of sixteen, for disobeying a compulsory work order. Sentenced to two years of hard labor in a Moscow foundry, he was finally given a medical discharge. He worked for a while as an advertising artist, until an office-wide investigation by the secret police sent him fleeing, without identity papers, into the underground. There he lived for several years, working with a pickpocket gang and 'riding the rails. ' After his arrest, he spent six years in some of the most notorious Arctic camps--as a member of the criminal elite--and during this time earned a name for himself as a 'scribbler' of prison songs and poems. Dyomin's first literary scholarship was earned upon his release from the Siberian camp, when his fellow inmates took up a collection to see him through his first book. In the fifteen years following his release, he published six books; he became a member of the Writers' Union and was by all measures a successful, popular author. Yet, he was dissatisfied with the restrictions imposed by state censorship, and during a visit to France some years ago, he quietly defected. He now lives in a small apartment in Paris, where he continues to write.

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