10 Great Works of Literature Written in Prison

When we imagine the places where our favorite authors penned their greatest masterpieces, a jail cell usually doesn’t come to mind. But, whether their writers were prisoners of war or victims of bigotry, the solitude and lack of distractions have produced many a great book. From Oscar Wilde’s apologia on spiritual awakening to Thoreau’s thoughts on civil disobedience, we survey authors whose great mental escapes from incarceration resulted in some of their most insightful and profound works, after the jump.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Who would have guessed the model for pop culture’s idealistic, chivalrous protagonist archetype would have originated in a jail cell? Humorous and satirical, Don Quixote is considered to be the first modern European novel, and its hero the original knight in shining armor. Cervantes penned part of his magnum opus while serving time for his debt troubles in 17th-century Spain.