In the spring of 1967, I took a train from Ceausescu’s Romania to Tito’s Yugoslavia. Travel in Communist countries switched the imagination into overdrive. The books of Walter Krivitsky, Anton Ciliga, Victor Serge, George Orwell came menacingly alive. To ring someone up and propose a meeting was to do that person no service. Each encounter brought with it shades of the prison house. In Romania, I had met a former political prisoner, one of thousands sent to cut reeds in the Danube delta up to their necks in water in all seasons. In Yugoslavia, the people I knew were nationalists, whether Serb, Croat, or Slovene. They led me to the window to point out the secret policemen on watch in the streets below. They also spoke with awe of the foremost dissident in the world, Milovan Djilas. Nobody had done more than he to expose the reality of Communism.

One afternoon in Belgrade, the poet Miodrag Pavlevic introduced me to ...