Orion Reads
a diary of books etc.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

one day in the life of ivan denisovich

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn is a 1962 Russian novel about life in the Stalinst Russian gulags. Apparently it was quite notable when it came out, being one of the first published and government-approved criticisms of Stalinist Russia. Solzhenitsyn was himself a gulag prisoner for about a decade after WWII, and the novel is a condensation of his experience, portayed as a single day in the life of a ten-year prisoner of. Solzhenitsyn's novel is obviously a more fine-grained account of the gulag than what Martin Amis was able to put into Koba The Dread , and surpisingly One Day in the Life is also a substantially softer, more human account of the gulags. Which is a very unexpected sentence to find one's self writing. Personally, i suspect that Day in the Life was more or less censored and watered down, either preemtively or postemtively by Solzhenitsyn.

So, a summary.

I think basically the gulag as described by Solzhenitsyn and to some degree coroborated by Amis's research can be fairly accurately compared to the Nazi centration camp but without the torture. In the gulag you weren't expected to live, you were treated like literal shit, but your basic humanity was to some tiny degree recognized. Amis might disagree.

A Day in the Life was politically approved by Kruschev, as it fit well with his program of condeming the shit that went down in the Stalin era. According to the forward and introduction, it was a pretty big deal wen published in 1963.

Also, finished Tom Sawyer; it was good. It's a lot more sugary than Huck Finn, as everybody knows. Twain's Indian-hating sure comes thru again:
"It's all plain enough, now. When you talked about notching ears and slitting noses I judged that that was your own embellishment, because white men don't take that sort of revenge. But an Injun! That's a different matter altogether."


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