Spedding was given a sentence of 10 years on 7 May for possessing 1. She was also charged with intent to supply, an allegation that was subsequently dropped for lack of evidence. She is appealing against the sentence, with little prospect of success. She arrives in the visitors' room dressed in a jumper and faded jeans, a muddy shawl slung over both shoulders. Her nails are overgrown and impregnated with dirt.
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Spedding was given a sentence of 10 years on 7 May for possessing 1. She was also charged with intent to supply, an allegation that was subsequently dropped for lack of evidence. She is appealing against the sentence, with little prospect of success. She arrives in the visitors' room dressed in a jumper and faded jeans, a muddy shawl slung over both shoulders. Her nails are overgrown and impregnated with dirt. She shares a cell of three metres by four metres with three other inmates.
Her prison companions currently have their children staying with them, finishing off their school holidays. She has never married and has no children. I spit on all that. She continues to talk about the inmates' offspring, a stream of consciousness interrupted only by jittery hand movements. Here, unfortunately, one is forced to live together with the darling little brats.
An author of science fiction novels, Spedding moved to La Paz in She holds a Masters in anthropology from Cambridge and a doctorate from the London School of Economics. At the time of her arrest, she was working as a lecturer at the University of San Andres in La Paz, supplementing her income by night as a translator. In recent years the writing career had stalled, she says. I wrote a book called Fear and Posing in Cambridge, a satire about unemployment under Thatcher.
My publisher refused to publish it. A few other prison inmates walk past, stopping to glance at the British author giving an interview. Spedding makes little or no eye contact with any of them, preferring to shout out a catalogue of grievances against the other prisoners. Well, they ain't, you know.
They're just ordinary people - what have they done, apart from getting married and having kids? They're married with children - it's just such an objectionably ordinary thing to do. The hand movements take on a greater violence - her head swings from side to side, her eyes wide open in disbelief.
Spedding might be understandably embittered by the harshness of her sentence, but she gives little indication of any resentment. Her fellow companions in prison are of greater immediate concern. A guard scurries into the room, fearing trouble. He gives Spedding a quick look and wanders off - 'that eccentric woman is always screaming about something', he laughs later. They all pretend they were huge drug dealers, but I know they're lying.
They're just ordinary people, amazingly boring to listen to. Locals describe the Centre for Female Incarceration as a 'girls' boarding school with metal bars'.
The visitors' area opens up at one end to reveal a tiny volleyball court. Space seems a precious commodity in the cramped grounds. Spedding says she spends most of her time in her cell, reading local newspapers and books. One charge against her was dropped during her trial - subversion. When her flat was raided, the police discovered several texts by Karl Marx. Everything is very heavy-handed and orchestrated with no subtlety. They don't seem to have a clue.
She stands up and wanders off to another part of the building. A hysterical English wailing interrupts my exit - Spedding has found another victim of her unquenchable ire. They'll never let her out if she keeps this up.
The centre for Female Incarceration isn't mentioned on any local tourist map. It's an ugly, greying building thrown up on the outskirts of La Paz, the Bolivian capital.
The former hospital seems an unlikely meeting place for an interview with a British author, but then Alison Spedding would probably look and sound at odds with her surroundings anywhere. She has little time for her new companions.
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British author's torment in Bolivian prison
Spedding studied archaeology and anthropology and later philosophy at King's College, Cambridge , receiving her BA degree in She wrote a trilogy of fantasy novels, set approximately in the time of Alexander the Great. In the novels, Alexander dies, and the female protagonist, Aleizon Ailix Ayndra , goes on to fulfil Alexander's destiny. While there she published the academic work Wachu Wachu.
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