Whilst serving in the Soviet army in 1973, Sergei Ovsiannikov was arrested and imprisoned for acts of disobedience under military command. It was while in prison, like Solzhenitsyn and Dostoevsky, that he began to ponder deeper issues and on release trained to be a Russian orthodox priest. This extraordinary but short book is about his search for true freedom. The issues he wrestles with are profound and, like any confrontation with truth, it caused him great anguish and pain. As Ovsiannikov wrote: 'It was in my prison cell that I lost fear. I realised that if they sent me to a labour camp with a long sentence, it did not matter because I was free. Of course subsequently I came to realise that freedom is not given, you have to take responsibility for it.' It was during this time that he discovered Christianity and decided that this was the real meaning of his life. Later, after a period spent with the Russian Orthodox community in London, Ovsiannikov lived for the last twenty years of his life in Amsterdam in charge of the Russian Orthodox community. Drawing heavily on Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Pushkin and translated from the original Russian by celebrated translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky with an introduction by Rowan Williams, this brief spiritual book is a small masterpiece of its kind.
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