On Doing Time

On Doing Time

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Product details

  • Paperback | 448 pages
  • 106.68 x 177.8 x 27.94mm | 505g
  • Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc
  • Bantam USA
  • New York, United States
  • Ill.
  • 0553020536
  • 9780553020533

Review Text

Morton Sobell was the silent co-defendant in the Rosenberg trial, and his belated testimony after release from some twenty years in prison reveals a mild, self-effacing man who embraces his tangential role as a bystander caught up in a cold-war witchhunt. With a campaign to reopen the Rosenberg case now well under way, Sobell continues to maintain his innocence but offers little new substantive evidence. His rebuttal to the conspiracy prosecution itself is drawn largely from previously published exposes, and his own explanation of his so-called "flight to Mexico" is naively unskillful even though he forcefully describes being violently kidnapped rather than legally deported as his prosecutors maintained. He does compile a damning indictment of the defense lawyers - whose timidity to the point of outright negligence was apparently caused by the hysterical climate of public revulsion. If Sobell's story is true, and its very ingenuousness tends to inspire belief, then he was enmeshed in a truly Kafkaesque web of government persecution, his counsel's failures of communication and his fear - no doubt realistic - that, should he testify, the jury would convict him on the strength of his past radical associations. Curiously, Sobell's fatalistic dispassion tends to defuse one's sense of outrage, and he pours his own energies into an overlong, and ultimately tedious scrutiny of the dehumanizing regimen of prison and - in uncharacteristically revealing sexual terms - of the pain of separation from his loyal, loving wife Helen. Despite growing impatience at being forced to eavesdrop on all those redundant visits with Helen, one does respond to Sobell as an essentially decent, dignified individual. And his statement will no doubt be studied by all those with a continuing interest in the trial and the era. Nevertheless, there remains his personal - or is it perhaps a generational - reticence, a refusal to claim the public attention due a victim or political prisoner which tends to mute the controversy his version of the facts ought to engender. (Kirkus Reviews)show more