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A literary masterpiece about the dark underside of the Soviet Union under Stalin

  • May 21, 2010
While there were many earlier sources that described the existence of the Soviet Gulag, this book was the first document that described the camps that was sanctioned by the Soviet authorities. To readers of books about the German and Japanese camps of World War II, the descriptions of life in the Soviet Gulag are all too familiar. Hunger is a constant companion and the inmates jostle and curry favors for slight improvements in food. Even something as simple as an extra pint of watery soup, a small slice of bread or having the dispenser dip the ladle deeper into the kettle are points of significant triumph. In all camps there were those that lied, bullied and otherwise worked to curry favor, but there were also people that maintained their humanity and dignity so that some social society could be maintained. Simple possessions such as spoons and shoes became items of great value.
One unusual trait of this book is that Denisovich is described as a man that takes pride in his work, even though he is in essence building his own prison. His work is that of a mason, laying blocks and mortar, building walls and being pleased with the quality of the result.
Solzhenitsyn spent several years in a labor camp; his offense was that he criticized Stalin in a letter. Therefore, while this book is labeled a work of fiction, it is of course based on fact; only the names have been changed.

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review by . January 03, 2010
"One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" is Alexander Solzhenitsyn's first book, a classic of modern Russian literature and the title that propelled him onto the literary world stage. As for the plot - well, the title itself serves as a synopsis. The story, such as it is, describes a single day in the life of Ivan Denisovich Shukhov who is serving a term in a Stalinist labor camp for offenses against the state. That they were never clearly described is surely Solzhenitsyn's method of making …
review by . February 05, 2009
"Hell" is a pre-Christian concept, adopted and adapted from the religion of Odin and Thor. In Old Norse, Hel was an underworld deity as well as a place of bleak afterlife. Hell was not an inferno, a fiery punishment for sinners, but rather an icy cold limbo. The various Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin words in the King James translation of the Bible that are translated as "Hell" chiefly have the more fundamental meaning of "the grave."    The forced labor camp for 'special' …
review by . July 29, 2008
At the height of his power in the 1930's and 1940's, Joseph Stalin sent millions of the citizens of the Soviet Union into forced labor camps. All it took was a chance word heard by the wrong person and you were sent to a camp. It is not an exaggeration to say that at the time, the entire economy was based on slave labor. This book is about Shukhov, one of the inmates in a camp located in the frozen north. The day described here is a typical day, as he and his fellow prisoners all engage in the daily …
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From the icy blast of reveille through the sweet release of sleep, Ivan Denisovich endures. A common carpenter, he is one of millions viciously imprisoned for countless years on baseless charges, sentenced to the waking nightmares of the Soviet work camps in Siberia. Even in the face of degrading hatred, where life is reduced to a bowl of gruel and a rare cigarette, hope and dignity prevail. This powerful novel of fact is a scathing indictment of Communist tyranny, and an eloquent affirmation of the human spirit.
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ISBN-13: 978-0374529529
Author: H.T. Willetts
Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux
Date Published: March 16, 2005

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