ANTONIO GRAMSCI, LETTERS FROM PRISON, Lynne Lawner (eel.) Harper and Row, New York 1973. 292 pp. $ 10.00.
BY ANY standards, Antonio Gramsci is one of the greatest proletarian internationalists of tlie twentieth century. Born in a small town in Sardinia in 1891, he entered the Italian revolutionary movement at a very young age. By the time he was arrested by Mussolini in 1926, he had done outstanding revolutionary work. But Gramsci, the practising revolutionary, was also to prove to be one of the most important Marxist! Leninist theoreticians of this century. It is indeed fortunate that Gramsc successfully defied Mussolini's injunction at the time of his trial: ^Wc must prevent this brain from functioning for twenty years." During the ten years that Gramsci languished in Mussolini's jails from February 1927 he wrote brilliantly and incisively on a wide range of problems raised by the on-going class struggles, in particular on the state, culture, ideology and superstructure. While some of these writings have been brought out in the form of a book entitled Prison Notebooks,l the volume under review is a selection of Gramsci\s prison letters.
The book includes 94 letters written between December 1926 and his death in April 1937. Lynne Lawner who selected, translated and edited them, has written a long introduction providing a political biography of Gramsci. The letters in the book are addressed to Gramsci's wife Guilia, her sister Tatiana, Gramsci's brother Carlo, his mother, sister Teresina, two sons Delio and Guiliano, a friend Giuseppe Berti (also imprisoned by the fascists) and the well-known economist Piero Sraffa.
The letters written under difficult prison conditions and censorship regulations reveal a remarkable man. They are by and large very analytical, though by no means wanting in affection. They show a man who, despite ill health and prison life, refuses to be broken or destroyed.