Sunday, September 25, 2011

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Ivan Denisovich, written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and published in 1962, chronicles a day in the life of a fictional Soviet gulag prisoner. Solzhenitsyn was well-qualified to write such a work, as he himself spent eight years in a gulag in the Siberian steppes of northeastern Kazakhstan. His crime? Referring to Stalin as "the master" and "the boss" in a letter to a friend.

The book was originally published in the Soviet Union with Khrushchev's approval and with some censorship, and was the first account of Stalinist suppression to come from within. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich led to Solzhenitsyn's deportation from Russia, and to his reception of the Nobel Prize.

The reader of Ivan Denisovich will follow the protagonist through a breakfast of thin gruel, repeated searches, forced marches, heavy labor, biting wind, thin clothes, shorted rations, incredible bureaucracy and cruelty and dehumanizing treatment at the hands of prison guards. Through it all, the heroic triumph of the indomitable human spirit...just kidding. It's pretty bleak.

(But you should definitely read it. There aren't any gory or disgusting parts, so it would be suitable for anyone old enough to understand it.)

Protagonist: Ivan Denisovich
The Baptist: Alyosha
The foreman: Tyurin
The snivelling worm: Fetyukov
Old deaf guy: Senka
There was a lot of: freezing cold, wasting time for Soviet protocol, inhumane conditions
There should have been more: food. seriously, grass seed gruel and 200 g black bread isn't enough to lay bricks on
This book makes you want to: support free speech and human rights
This book makes you glad you don't have better be obvious...

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