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May 11, Anna rated it liked it Shelves: novels. My copy of the novel that won Alexander Solzhenitsyn the Nobel Prize is thirty-six years old, and it looks it--not just because it is dog-eared and the pages tinged yellow, but because the jacket copy is thick with Cold War fever.

I was bemused by the shrieking of the book cover, but you understand that I began the story of Ivan Denisovich with the understanding that I would be led to dark places. I anticipated something depressing. Probably somebody, or many bodies, would die.

There would be no color. It would be a Tragedy, fitted into a narrative understanding of Hope and Human Possibility. I happen to be a big lover of big old Russian books. I was ready for it all.

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But something strange happened, something that turned my expectations around and made me admire Solzhenitsyn all the more. This one day of Ivan Denisovitch Shukhov's life is actually a rather good one. Check out one of the last paragraphs: Shukhov went to sleep, and he was very happy.

He'd had a lot of luck today. They hadn't put him in the cooler. The gang hadn't been chased out to work in the Socialist Community Development. He'd finagled an extra bowl of mush at noon. The boss had gotten them good rates for their work. He'd felt good making that wall. They hadn't found that piece of steel he'd hidden on his body in the frisk.

Ceasar had paid him off in the evening. He'd bought some tobacco. And he'd gotten over that sickness.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Nothing had spoiled the day and it had been almost happy. This is the author's brilliant move. In a short novel in a dreary and unjust landscape, he gives us a protagonist who we come to like, and who sleeps happily at the end. It is the dissonance of what makes Shukhov so happy, and what we readers hope for him--it is that gap in between--that makes this novel sing. Solzhenitsyn takes readerly expectations--like the ones I had--and turns them on us. We keep waiting for something to go terribly wrong for Shukhov that breaks that day up. But of all the things that happen--the scenes--things turn, if any way, in his favor.

That "Tragedy" catharsis is never fulfilled; it's just an ordinary. But the narrative makes clear that this--only this--is the best Shukhov can hope for. He falls asleep at the end, and we know soon he will wake up, and the morning will look exactly like it did on page one. I think it's a wonderful narrative strategy, and its couched in plain speech--short paragraphs, lots of dialogue, few adjectives and adverbs, zero lyricism--that is absolutely appropriate.

Another terrific narrative strategy: naming. From the title, you open the book ready to meet "Ivan Denisovich. The few times when Shukhov is called by his title name are significant. Again, Solzhenitsyn reveals impressive ability to manipulate reader expectations. When we come to meet the protagonist, we're looking for his dignified, formal, public name--full first name and patronymic, classic traditional Russian. Who we find in his stead is a man reduced to the blunt two syllables of his last name.

He is at first unrecognizable to us, who've never met him, as he might be also unrecognizable to his former self, or to the family he is forgetting. But there is a thing about the language. With all due respect to Mssrs. Hingley and Hayward, I didn't like my translation. It can be hard to parse out responsibility for the language of a translated book, but I feel pretty confident in laying this one in the hands of the H-H team.

First of all, I was frustrated by the rendition of the work camp slang and swearing, which is posited as being hard-edged. Some of the awfully dated s slang is worthy of eye-rolls, but forgivable. Other times it wasn't so much the old-timey insult that threw me off, but an awkwardly worded phrase construction that is intended to spat out or shouted, but comes off as formal and ridiculous.

It did pull me out of the story. Often, actually, in this heavily voiced novel. Second, the translators chose a weird strategy for--well, you can't call them endnotes or footnotes, because they appear in the beginning of the book, all of them, before chapter one. None of them are numbered; they are marked in the text as an asterisk that alerts the reader to turn back to the beginning of the book and run her finger down the list to find the word that appears after the last word she looked up.

It's bizarre. I didn't like how it made me move through the book. On the bright side, the explanations were simple and clear and few. But if Solzhenitsyn can survive Soviet labor camp, he can survive a poor translation.

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The author won the Nobel Prize for Literature in "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature. But this is what he said and it is, in full, really quite something : "But woe to that nation whose literature is disturbed by the intervention of power. Because that is not just a violation against 'freedom of print,' it is the closing down of the heart of the nation, a slashing to pieces of its memory.

The nation ceases to be mindful of itself, it is deprived of its spiritual unity, and despite a supposedly common language, compatriots suddenly cease to understand one another. Silent generations grow old and die without ever having talked about themselves, either to each other or to their descendants. When writers such as Achmatova and Zamjatin--interred alive throughout their lives--are condemned to create in silence until they die, never hearing the echo of their written words, then that is not only their personal tragedy, but a sorrow to the whole nation, a danger to the whole nation.

View all 3 comments. Reading about the grueling conditions of a Soviet gulag made my daily worries seem trivial. The novel is set in Stalin's Russia of the s and follows the prisoner Shukhov from the moment he wakes up at 5 a. Shukhov was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor, even though he was "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons. Shukhov was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor, even though he was innocent. He managed to escape and return to his own lines, but then he was accused of being a spy.

Faced with being shot or doing hard labor, he signed a confession to spare his life. Shukhov has already served eight years and knows how to survive in prison. He stays out of trouble and tries to do small favors for people who can get him a little extra food each day. He is a hard worker and believes that prisoners have to help each other to stay alive. He learned this lesson from his first squad leader, who told the new inmates: "Here, men, we live by the law of the taiga.

But even here people manage to live. The ones that don't make it are those who lick other men's leftovers, those who count on the doctors to pull them through, and those who squeal on their buddies. This book makes you appreciate being warm and well-fed, to be sure. When Shukhov is refused a favor from a guard who works indoors and who sits near a heater, he wonders, "How can you expect a man who's warm to understand a man who's cold?

And milk enough to bust their guts. That wasn't the way to eat, he learned in camp. You had to eat with all your mind on the food -- like now, nibbling the bread bit by bit, working the crumbs up into a paste with your tongue and sucking it into your cheeks. And how good it tasted -- that soggy black bread!

I appreciated the spare, straightforward language of Solzhenitsyn. According to the introduction, Solzhenitsyn himself had served eight years in a Russian concentration camp, reportedly for making a derogatory remark about Stalin. The book was published in during Khrushchev's reign, and was considered an attack on Stalin's human rights violations.

I admired Solzhenitsyn for having the courage to tell this story. View all 5 comments. May 01, Lyn rated it liked it. Totalitarian communism could produce some harsh results. First published in the Soviet journal Novy Mir, and then later translated into many, many languages including English, Solzhenitsyn uses severe realism to describe conditions in a Soviet political prisoner camp.

Literally telling a twenty-four hour period in the life of the camp, we follow various characte Totalitarian communism could produce some harsh results. Literally telling a twenty-four hour period in the life of the camp, we follow various characters throughout the brutally cold day. These are hard men taking care of business.

Many were assigned a sentence of hard labor and we see them building and working and surviving on the unforgiving Russian steppe. Only a few are actual criminals, having committed some crime against persons or property; by far most are there because they had run afoul of the Soviet system. Ten years is a lighter sentence, most have been sent to the camp for a twenty-five year sentence of cruel and inhuman servitude. Many were prisoners of war during and after World War II, escaping the Germans only to find themselves back home amidst suspicious circumstances and then jailed for being Nazi spies.

Some were incarcerated because they were Baptists. The enduring significance, though, and high praise for Solzhenitsyn in pulling the literary achievement off, is a sense of perseverance and obdurate humanism. These men live day to day, scrounging and surviving and striving and all with a distant hope that someday, years in the future, they will be free.

No doubt the years of press have diluted the stern message exposed in , but this remains a difficult but important work. May 18, Sidharth Vardhan rated it it was amazing Shelves: list-guardian , list , war-genocide , russian , nobel , bestest. And so here are two quotes from two other Nobel laureates, the first describes the book well enough and the second is in case you feel depressed after on condition of humanity after reading it: Writer " cannot put himself today in the service of those who make history; he is at the service of those who suffer it.

Jun 15, Jan-Maat added it Shelves: read-in-translation , novel , russia-and-soviet-union , 20th-century. Firstly Khrushchev allowed its publication in the journal Novy Mir. This is something that should make readers cautious. It was the first story published in the Soviet Union set in the Gulag system, it wasn't a a searing indictment of the soviet system it was something that was considered fit for publication in the context of a society which was making tentative steps into de-Stalinisation.

Secondly it was published during the Cold War and was seized upon as a searing indictment of the soviet system by the wider world. This provided Solzhenitsyn with an excited international readership and funding for translation which was only to dry up midway through his Red Wheel cycle because the Cold War was over at which point the mysterious agencies that were keen to have him translated into English during the Cold War unaccountably ran out of interest.

In retrospect it strikes me that Ivan Denisovich's life in the Gulag is pretty good compared to what I have heard of life in British prisons. He gets to work on a building site, he's with people all day long, he isn't locked up in a single cell for maybe twenty hours a day with nothing meaningful to do. The regime is mild in comparison with Ginzberg's Into the Whirlwind view spoiler [ but then I am a fan of Ginzberg's book, read it if you can and the sequel too, which is also full of bizarre things hide spoiler ] , probably a fair reflection of the differences between winding up in that system in the post war period rather than in the s but above all this is a book that needs to stand along side Notes from the House of the Dead as a stage in the self creation of a writer.

Curiously both writers end up as nationalists view spoiler [ sending Solzhenitsyn to the USA was possibly a crueller blow to the man than sending him to Siberia seeing as his response was to live behind a stockade protected against his new neighbours hide spoiler ] , the question for every reader to find their own answer to is whether that is despite or because of their prison experiences?

One of my old lecturers, a gloriously opinionated old woman who would occasionally wear horse brasses as though she was the embodiment of the rural response to the Beastie Boys, was of the opinion that One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was not only the best work of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn from a literary point of view but also one that had been much improved in the process of being translated into English.

May 20, Sara rated it really liked it Shelves: russia , catching-up-classics , cold-war , historical-fiction. The real significance of this novel lies in its exposure of the political system that fostered and supported the gulags of Soviet Russia. The writing is stark and matter-of-fact, just like the life of the gulag. It is weighty and yet there is no despair in the character of Shukhov. He brims with hope and appreciation. What offence lands a man in such a prison?

Very small inf The real significance of this novel lies in its exposure of the political system that fostered and supported the gulags of Soviet Russia. Very small infractions or none at all can draw a ten years sentence, and frequently that is extended, again without any explanation or reason. The injustice of the system is paled against the suffering inflicted in the camp, being worked at hard labor in freezing conditions, without proper clothing, with little food, and without any possibility of escape or rescue.

Perhaps the saddest thing is that prisoners become used to this life and come to value the small bits of joy they can squeeze from a crust of bread or a tobacco butt passed to them by a more fortunate inmate. And yet, that is what speaks to the spark of humanity that even these kinds of conditions cannot stifle View all 21 comments. Who needs air conditioning when there is this book? I could feel the chill of the Siberian winter even if at home I am struggling with 38 degrees celsius. View all 8 comments. Jul 23, Steven Godin rated it really liked it Shelves: russia-ukraine , nobel-laureates , history , non-fiction.

It's the simple story of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and there is hardly a detail in Solzhenitsyn's story which, in itself is new. The cruelty, the falseness of the charges, the animal fight for survival, the debasement, the cynical grafting, the brutalizing, the sentences stretching into infinity or death , the hunger, the suffering, the cold-all this is familiar. But what makes this an important work is that Solzhenitsyn doesn't simply write a mere propagandistic expose. He has created an almost flawless tale employing the eloquence of reticence and understatement in a manner which even the fumbling of translation cannot obscure.

Ivan Denisovich Shukov, his central figure, is a simple peasant. His crime was to escape from the Germans who took him prisoner in and return to his own lines. Had he not said he had been in German hands he would have gotten a medal. By telling the truth he was sentenced to a concentration camp as a spy. Had he not confessed being a spy he would have no doubt been shot.

It's a grim read, but you really could expect nothing more, he takes us by the ankles in chains into the heart of the Stalin state with all of its dehumanising horrors. And there are plenty of them. At times there is a strange surreal edge to this, an odd feeling that may lead readers to pinch themselves to believe that these horrors actually took place in a modern 20th Century society yet the author was speaking right from the heart, and the guts as well. Solshenitsyn smashes us fully in the face with his tragic depiction of a visit by prisoner's wives and the arrest of a suspect and his degrading treatment at the hands of the secret-police.

I found myself hoping for some light at the end of a long cold dark tunnel but somehow knew there would be no such thing. This is a work masterfully written, and will hang around in the mind for some time. Shukhov looked up at the sky and gasped - the sun had climbed almost to the dinner hour. Wonder of wonders! How time flew when you were working! That was something he'd often noticed. The days rolled by in the camp - they were over before you could say "knife.

This is the reality of prison-camp life: the days, colourless, marked only by toil and the struggle to survive, pass on in a jiffy; but there is no termination to the end Shukhov looked up at the sky and gasped - the sun had climbed almost to the dinner hour. This is the reality of prison-camp life: the days, colourless, marked only by toil and the struggle to survive, pass on in a jiffy; but there is no termination to the endless procession of the hours.

It is eternity divided into diurnal and nocturnal cycles. The Soviet Union is a piece of history to most young people nowadays - and Stalinist Russia is ancient history. For communists across the globe, Joseph Stalin is the man with the magnificent moustaches whose portrait adorns their offices, a sort of legend.

For conservatives, he is the mass murderer and devil incarnate. Very few know of the real man, one of the greatest leaders of the modern world, as well as one of the most ruthless dictators. During the years he ruled the Soviet Union with an iron hand, Stalin killed off many suspected dissidents and condemned many more to living death in the so-called labour camps, in the trackless wastes of Siberia.

Many lived and perished there until Khrushchev reversed the Stalinist policies and reinstated many of the prisoners. Amongst them was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who became a writer and went on to win the Nobel Prize for literature. This is his first novel, written based on his labour camp experiences. Ivan Denisovich Shukhov is serving a sentence of ten years for the crime of spying on Russia for Germans - a trumped-up charge, but something he willingly accepted as an alternative to being shot.

We meet him when he has served eight of them, and become quite a veteran at the art of survival. His simple mantra: keep a low profile and get through the day without being fingered by the powers that be. Take each day as it comes. From reveille to lights out, we see in Shukhov a man composed in parts of honesty, selfishness, compassion, ingenuity and low cunning. He is compassionate towards his fellow prisoner but always looks after number one.

He doesn't mind hiding bread in his pillow, cheating the cook to get an extra bowl of stew, or sucking up to his superiors for small favours.

Yet he does an honest job of building a wall which has been entrusted to him, helps out his compatriots when he can and even returns borrowed tobacco to other prisoners. In fact, he is an animal whose senses are attuned to only one thing: survival. Solzhenitsyn describes the prison camp in deft strokes without any emotion. These are not active death factories like the ones built by Hitler, but rather passive hells where death takes place by attrition.

We have heroes as well as villains here, but all are human, including the guards; all caught in this wasteland of history, where time and space are buried under a canopy of ever-present snow.


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This is the story of one day, and a rather good one at that. Shukhov went to sleep fully content. He'd had many strokes of luck that day: they hadn't put him in the cells; they hadn't sent his squad to the settlement; he'd swiped a bowl of kasha at dinner; the squad leader had fixed the rates well; he'd built a wall and enjoyed doing it; he'd smuggled that bit of hacksaw blade through; he'd earned a favour from Tsezar that evening; he'd bought that tobacco. And he hadn't fallen ill. He'd got over it. A day without a dark cloud. Almost a happy day.

Now, Shukhov has to survive many other days like this, in his total stretch of three thousand six hundred and fifty three days. One at a time. This short novel has been written by one such prisoner who survived - and went on to become a literary icon. Read it. For all its bleak background, it is a testament of hope. View all 4 comments. Shelves: modern. I hadn't noticed how much this book had affected me until I sat down to dinner. Bear with me. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch is a fascinating story in light of its historical context.

While reading the book I had a hard time reminding myself that this story didn't take place in some nineteenth century prison, but in the nineteen fifties. The life that these men live is hard, grueling, and for that Ivan describes his day as a good one. One in three thousand six hundred and fifty three da I hadn't noticed how much this book had affected me until I sat down to dinner. One in three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of his sentence.

And that's the rub. You can imagine making it through one day, even a month of horrible days. But year in year out, knowing the years won't be full of good days That makes it sink in. And that is why I found myself sitting there, in my seat in a nice restaurant at dinnertime, nibbling every last scrap of meat off of the ribs that I had ordered. In my minds eye I can still see Ivan, sucking the marrow out of the few fish bones he got in his watered down soup, and I the desperate nature of his situation hits me like a ton of bricks.

Yes, even Iago was a little lamb too. Because they had no ideology. Apr 16, Rebecca McNutt rated it really liked it Shelves: fiction , classic , russian , history , russia. More assigned reading for my Soviet Russia class. Initially I found it incredibly dry and difficult to get into, but the further it went, the better and much more compelling it became. Solzhenitsyn drags readers right into the struggles and frustrations of its main character, something few writers can do so realistically, and I found that as the book went on, Ivan really began to feel like a real human being, not only a fictional construct.

Tackling heavy themes, Solzhenitsyn is able to write ab More assigned reading for my Soviet Russia class. Tackling heavy themes, Solzhenitsyn is able to write about the underlying political climate without getting too politically weighed down in the prose, and he's able to write powerfully about the will of a labour camp inmate and the things that keep him going in such a harsh environment. It's hard in this modern day and age to appreciate fully what such a life would be like on a daily basis, but One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich makes it possible.

While I had some trouble with the beginning of the novel, I really ended up enjoying this story and it's one which I think everybody should read at least once. If you go into it with an open mind, it's definitely worth it in the end. Dec 12, Ammara Abid rated it really liked it Shelves: books-to-buy. Bitterly cold wind whips all around me! One of the most chilling book I have ever read. It doesn't remember how well you treated it yesterday; it'll cry out for more tomorrow. It's been too long since I read my old paperback copy for me to tell if that was the same or not, though.

Perhaps it was just paranoia or quotas, though. Hopefully he has less than 2 years to go, but he barely let's himself hope that he'll be that lucky. They don't actually get to work until halfway through the day without proper tools or materials unless they steal them.

Corruption is rampant, a constant factor in every thought since the margin of survival is so thin. A few extra grams of bread can make all the difference.

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He hasn't the skills to scavenge or think the way Shukov does. I doubt anyone who reads this book will ever have less than Shukov. I first read this as a teen over 4 decades ago. The Soviet Union was then the only other world power, the country that we half expected to mutually destroy the world with us in a nuclear war. As a teen, I wondered how they could continue with such inefficiencies as I read in this book.

About 15 or 20 years later, I found out they couldn't. It didn't change the novel much for me, though. Yeah, but also amazing. I can't recommend this book highly enough. It's short, but all the more powerful for that. I vaguely recall drudging through most of The Gulag Archipelago decades ago. I don't really recall it several other histories while I've never forgotten this book. This is a account by one of the earliest prisoners. During the Stalin regime, people were sentenced to hard labor for the flimsiest reasons. I wondered why the author focused on just one single day in a grim labor camp since the prisoners usually had long imprisonments of eight to twenty years.

Ivan Denisovich Shukhov is in his eighth year of a ten year sentence. Conditions are horrible with inadequate food, warm clothes, and heat in frigid conditions. But he cannot think of the future because his prison term could be extended if the authorities During the Stalin regime, people were sentenced to hard labor for the flimsiest reasons.

But he cannot think of the future because his prison term could be extended if the authorities brought him up on another charge. Shukhov can only think about the present--how can he survive for one more day? Shukhov is a hard-working mason and carpenter who sometimes gets an extra bread ration for his good work.

One Day In the Life Of Ivan Denisovich by Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr

He tries to savor every bite of bread and spoonful of soup since there are no other pleasures in life. To keep his feet warm he pads his boots with rags. He knows how to work the system, taking on extra little jobs, like mending clothes or holding someone's place in line, in exchange for a cigarette or a few bites of bread. With the guards, it's important to fly under the radar because an argument might land him in a freezing cell--and almost certain death from hypothermia, pneumonia, or tuberculosis. So Shukhov lives in the present.

From the first clang of the rail to the last clang of the rail Three thousand six hundred and fifty-three days The three extra days were for leap years. Solzhenitsyn based this book on his experiences at a labor camp in Karaganda in northern Kazakhstan. Premier Khrushchev, who denounced the excesses and abuses of Stalin, allowed the publication of the book in View all 6 comments. Jan 11, Kelly Solzhenitsyn wrote a really good novella that effectively showed the horrendous life of people in the forced labor camps run by the Soviet government.

He showed the dreariness and sameness of the days, which must have led to so much boredom and even mental breakdowns. He allowed the reader to feel the cold seep into their bones. He made me hungry. I was completely immersed in the story and longing for a way to break the pattern.

And then as the book wound to an end he brilliantly told of the tho Solzhenitsyn wrote a really good novella that effectively showed the horrendous life of people in the forced labor camps run by the Soviet government. And then as the book wound to an end he brilliantly told of the thousands of days left to live in the hellish place!

I think this final sentence may have been one of the best I have ever read. View all 7 comments. Aug 02, K. Absolutely rated it liked it Shelves: classics , core , russian. I have read so many novels with concentration camps as setting so this classic and controversial book just did not really have much impact to me.

In fact, this day in the life of Ivan Denisovich is comparable to just another day in the life of K. You see, there are days when K. Absolutely is sick but he has to go to the office because he needs to work for his family. He is the breadwinner because his wife has already retired after 20 plus years of working trying to augment what in I have read so many novels with concentration camps as setting so this classic and controversial book just did not really have much impact to me.

He is the breadwinner because his wife has already retired after 20 plus years of working trying to augment what income K. Absolutely makes to support the family. Not that K. Absolutely is complaining. In fact, he is grateful to his wife who had to help him in putting food on the table and paying the bills.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Now that K. Absolutely is alone trying to earn money to support their daughter who is still in the university, he is also thinking of saving up for their retirement. That life when both of them are already retired seems like a big question mark in K. Absolutely's mind. I ask that steve jobs takes this book of the store or i will never buy a apple device ever again. Sincerely -A disgruntled costumer. Customer Reviews See All. Willetts See All. The Gulag Archipelago.

August A Novel. Stories and Prose Poems. Between Two Millstones, Book 1.