This first-hand account by the Hungarian poet György Faludy (1910-2006) of how to procure writing materials in prison is all the more horrifying for its restrained tone. And his description wasn’t isolated – he learned such tricks from reading other writers’ experiences. He also mastered the art of composing poems in his head and then committing them to memory.
And along with these techniques was the sheer psychological fortitude and discipline to write at all, even when told of his impending execution (which didn’t happen, he died at 96).
I had little difficulty, therefore, in laying my hands on writing material. I tore out a few bristles from the broom the warder brought in the morning for me to sweep the wet floor of the cell. For a while I used my gum as an inkwell, and when it dried up I tore open my finger on the iron legs of the bunk and took blood from there whenever I needed it … I used up ten or fifteen drops of blood for every letter, to make certain it would show on the paper for a few decades.
Source: György Faludy, My Happy Days in Hell, trans. by Kathleen Szasz (London: Penguin Classics, 2010 (1962)), pp. 310-11
Photo credit: Brina Blum at unsplash