Monday, April 10, 2006

The Confession

SS Standartenführer Steinbrecher on the psychology of a prisoner (pp. 156- 158) excerpt taken from How to Quiet a Vampire, Translator’s Foreword; English translation copyright © 2005 by Northwestern University Press; translated from the Serbian: Stephen M. Dickey and Bogdan Rakić. Originally published in Serbian – Kako upokojiti vampira, © 1977 by Borislav Pekić.

(…) A prisoner exists exclusively for the purpose of signing a confession. All his other functions are peripheral and may be disregarded as long as ignoring them doesn’t hinder the realization of the primary function. (…)

(…) One may deviate from the rule that a prisoner may not dispose of a single object that might distract his attention from the confession if and only if a purposeless item is placed at his disposal, which quickly loses its ability to distract his attention with some pointlessly repetitive activity. A ball of twine, a sharp nail, or a shard of colored glass from a bier bottle all have inestimable value for a prisoner. Not to mention social games like cards, dominoes and chess. Animals and insects are especially dangerous to us.

Gentlemen, the hunting pursuits of spiders can keep your interrogation transcript at a standstill for weeks. Industrious bands of black ants will discredit your investigative reputation more thoroughly than a prisoner’s mental stability, strength in his convictions, or any possible hypalgesia. Nothing is more fatal for an investigation than some process that is not under its complete control.

As we’ve seen process involving the exchange of matter – inspiration and expirations, temperature maintenance and digestion, and even thought – can to a certain extent be considered permissible only if we control them. By depriving a prisoner of oxygen (from the removal of windows and ventilation to a forcible prevention of his respiration – we’ll leave the details to Hauptsturmführer Rotkopf), gentlemen, you’ll make a powerful contribution to the disorganization of the suspect’s defense. He simply won’t be able to come up with intelligent answers. He won’t have enough air.

Or let’s take digestion; the exchange of matter involved are completely in our hands. However, gentlemen, a stray fly, a ladybug, anything that crawls and lives in the detention cell without our permission, any of those things undermine a well-planned investigation better than a well-planned defense. In this sense, any bug is more dangerous than the inductive abilities of some professor of classical philology. (…)

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