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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Publisher: Signet Classics

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The only English translation authorized by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn First published in the Soviet journal Novy Mir in 1962, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich stands as a classic of contemporary literature. The story of labor-camp inmate Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, it graphically describes his struggle to maintain his dignity in the face of communist oppression. An unforgettable portrai The only English translation authorized by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn First published in the Soviet journal Novy Mir in 1962, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich stands as a classic of contemporary literature. The story of labor-camp inmate Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, it graphically describes his struggle to maintain his dignity in the face of communist oppression. An unforgettable portrait of the entire world of Stalin's forced work camps, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is one of the most extraordinary literary documents to have emerged from the Soviet Union and confirms Solzhenitsyn's stature as "a literary genius whose talent matches that of Dosotevsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy"--Harrison Salisbury This unexpurgated 1991 translation by H. T. Willetts is the only authorized edition available and fully captures the power and beauty of the original Russian.


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The only English translation authorized by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn First published in the Soviet journal Novy Mir in 1962, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich stands as a classic of contemporary literature. The story of labor-camp inmate Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, it graphically describes his struggle to maintain his dignity in the face of communist oppression. An unforgettable portrai The only English translation authorized by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn First published in the Soviet journal Novy Mir in 1962, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich stands as a classic of contemporary literature. The story of labor-camp inmate Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, it graphically describes his struggle to maintain his dignity in the face of communist oppression. An unforgettable portrait of the entire world of Stalin's forced work camps, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is one of the most extraordinary literary documents to have emerged from the Soviet Union and confirms Solzhenitsyn's stature as "a literary genius whose talent matches that of Dosotevsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy"--Harrison Salisbury This unexpurgated 1991 translation by H. T. Willetts is the only authorized edition available and fully captures the power and beauty of the original Russian.

30 review for One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Publisher: Signet Classics

  1. 4 out of 5

    TK421

    Dear Mr. Solzhenitsyn, I am not a Russian scholar, not even in the armchair variety. But you have done something magical in ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH that eclipsed this reader's ignorance: you have transmuted what it was like to live a life day-in and day-out in much the same fashion. Think about it: Morning, the same as yesterday. Afternoon: the same as yesterday's afternoon. The night: yep, the same. And this made me yearn for a day when Ivan would awaken and see that i Dear Mr. Solzhenitsyn, I am not a Russian scholar, not even in the armchair variety. But you have done something magical in ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH that eclipsed this reader's ignorance: you have transmuted what it was like to live a life day-in and day-out in much the same fashion. Think about it: Morning, the same as yesterday. Afternoon: the same as yesterday's afternoon. The night: yep, the same. And this made me yearn for a day when Ivan would awaken and see that it would be different. This ability to create (which you lived for a time) a life of perpetual recycling was heartbreaking, and so real that it made me think of not only Russian dissidents (political or otherwise), but of all the people incarcerated now in prisons, relationships (marriages, dating), loneliness, jobs, or, to a certain degree, aimless lives. To think that every morning is going to be bleak when one awaits sleep, mortified and numbed and haunted my thoughts as I read this novel. Add in the fact that Ivan never knew if more time was going to be added on his sentence or if he was going to die in this desolate gulag, I had a real hard time distancing myself from this character. I live a very happy life. I have a wife I love and adore and two beautiful children, a house, a career (at times I would trade this), always a full stomach, clothes, cable, thousands of books, and countless friends. But even with all these pleasures, the thought of being isolated in a world were insubordination was met with violence or, worse, disappearance, became my mental reality, trapping me in this world that you created. Dark thoughts permeated throughout my mind like a giant shark searching for prey and ate my happiness. Rarely has such a deft, short novel made such an emotional impact on me. This, sir, is why you are one of my favorite authors. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Some Nobel Prizes in Literature resulted in more trouble than glory for the laureates. Little did it matter to Harry Martinson that his genius epic poem Aniara: An Epic Science Fiction Poem spoke for his worthiness as a Nobel Laureate, the bad press that followed the announcement ruined his mental health. In the case of Solzhenitsyn, the attention he received internationally after the award quite literally threatened his physical well-being and his ability to live and write in the country he c Some Nobel Prizes in Literature resulted in more trouble than glory for the laureates. Little did it matter to Harry Martinson that his genius epic poem Aniara: An Epic Science Fiction Poem spoke for his worthiness as a Nobel Laureate, the bad press that followed the announcement ruined his mental health. In the case of Solzhenitsyn, the attention he received internationally after the award quite literally threatened his physical well-being and his ability to live and write in the country he considered his home, despite its oppression and cruelty. His most well-known work, describing one single day in the life of an inmate in a Soviet Gulag, quite miraculously was approved for publication in the Soviet Union in 1962, and played a major role in the decision to award Solzhenitsyn the Nobel Prize in 1970. As a harrowing, cold, sharp witness account of the suffering of Gulag prisoners, it is a document of universal importance. It does for Soviet history what All Quiet on the Western Front does for the history of World War I, depicting the experience of one protagonist in a sharp realism that makes the reader shudder. I felt cold, I felt hungry, I felt scared, I felt harassed, I felt helpless, I felt hopeless, I felt powerless, I felt humiliated. Every single emotion described in the book immediately transferred to me, and made me live through this one particular day in the gulag. Very much like the soldier in All Quiet on the Western Front, the prisoner does not have time to be worrying about the political system that placed him in his living hell. His sole focus must be to get through the day, and then wake up the next morning and face it again, constantly fighting the biological needs of his body. The repetition of the suffering is the hellish part of the story, made crystal clear in the heartbreaking final sentence: “The end of an unclouded day. Almost a happy one. Just one of the 3,653 days of his sentence, from bell to bell. The extra three were for leap years.” For the reader, suffering through the ONE SINGLE DAY in a reading chair, with a cup of hot tea and shortbread and a warm blanket, was hard. The unimaginable reality of the real prisoners is summed up in the accurate account of how many of those days they LIVED through, not forgetting the three extras for leap years. Imagine reading this story 3,653 times. And it would still be much more comfortable than living it. And don't forget that you only have to deal with one of the unclouded, almost happy days! And you don't have to die in the end, after years of suffering, like the hero of All Quiet on the Western Front, who lived through the trench warfare reality only to die in October 1918, a completely unimportant, random detail in the big schemes of things. One day in one life, but there were so many days,and so many lives! Solzhenitsyn received the Nobel Prize "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature". This was already perfectly outlined in "One Day", and then shown in a magnificent parable in the Cancer Ward, where different individuals from a variety of political and social backgrounds find themselves with a disease that destroys them from within, and there is nothing they can do to prevent it from happening. The gulag was one symptom of the symbolical illness that spread in the Soviet Union! A must-read for people interested in the connection between literature and history. Put on a warm jacket, though, it is going to be freezing cold!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    I want to appreciate life the way Ivan Denisovich Shukov does. I want to take pride in my work; I want to taste every bite of sausage, suck the marrow out of every fish bone, enjoy every puff of every cigarette, bask in a sunset, watch the moon cross the sky, fall asleep content; I want to focus on the necessities of living; I want to focus on life, but I have too much. It's not much compared to most everyone I know, but it is still too much. And because it is too much I can't appreci I want to appreciate life the way Ivan Denisovich Shukov does. I want to take pride in my work; I want to taste every bite of sausage, suck the marrow out of every fish bone, enjoy every puff of every cigarette, bask in a sunset, watch the moon cross the sky, fall asleep content; I want to focus on the necessities of living; I want to focus on life, but I have too much. It's not much compared to most everyone I know, but it is still too much. And because it is too much I can't appreciate life the way Ivan Denisovich Shukov does. Reading about it is not enough, but right now it is what I have. I'll keep trying.

  4. 5 out of 5

    karen

    it's all about perspective. yeah, ivan denisovich shukov is in a soviet labor camp, where he is freezing and has to work at bullshit tasks and is being punished for something he didn't even get to do (because being a spy is cool, while being punished for being a spy when you didn't even get to have the fun of being a spy is lame), and it's all terrible with no end in sight, but come on. he got to sleep late. his punishment for oversleeping is he had to wash some floors - indoors - instead of working o it's all about perspective. yeah, ivan denisovich shukov is in a soviet labor camp, where he is freezing and has to work at bullshit tasks and is being punished for something he didn't even get to do (because being a spy is cool, while being punished for being a spy when you didn't even get to have the fun of being a spy is lame), and it's all terrible with no end in sight, but come on. he got to sleep late. his punishment for oversleeping is he had to wash some floors - indoors - instead of working out in the russian subzero nightmare. he got extra food time and time again,he didn't get caught with his secret contraband, he networked and got some karma for future favors in his karma bank, he got some smokes and was recognized for his hard work, and he had a fever, which had to be good for keeping him a little warmer than those people who didn't have fevers. pretty good day all around. me, i am not in a russian gulag, but i didn't get to sleep late. it is nearly 7 pm and i have not had any food today, nor any cigarettes, i have not been praised for my hard work, even though i did indeed work very very hard today (you try keeping your composure when someone yells "hey" at you from across the floor and with no preamble thrusts his sweaty cell phone at you so you can talk to his friend who wants books about russian icons, but doesn't have any titles, but commands you to just "type it in" and he will "memorize" the list. this man has very optimistic ideas about the search capabilities of the computers at barnes and noble) after work i had to go to staples because my power strip exploded, then to the hardware store and the organic market, even though all i wanted to do was go home to have the pleasure of working on my ALA presentation for the rest of my friday night. i did not network. i have no future karmic payload coming. as for the contraband... well, that's my little secret. still and all - i feel like karen brissetova's day was more exhausting and less rewarding overall. and i don't even get to see any snow. snow, sausage, and cigarettes sound pretty good to me, man. come to my blog!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Fabian

    Moral of this tale: No matter your socioeconomic position in life, or the degree of happiness in it, hard WORK is just the thing to let the hours sift on by.... The book that caused such a general sensation back then is but a significant albeit very tiny beep on the literature radar now. The smallness made big by elegant & overexpressive prose is a sight to behold, but not, alas, a true wonder to read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons." -- Fyodor Dostoevsky This book was a good way to take my mind off of my own problems. 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 1950s and follows the prisoner Shukhov from the moment he wakes up at 5 a.m. to when he finally goes to bed after laboring all day. Shukhov was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor, even "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons." -- Fyodor Dostoevsky This book was a good way to take my mind off of my own problems. 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 1950s and follows the prisoner Shukhov from the moment he wakes up at 5 a.m. to when he finally goes to bed after laboring all day. Shukhov was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor, even though he was innocent. While fighting for Russia in World War II, he was captured by the Germans. 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." The prisoners are forced to work in brutally cold weather and have very little food. 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?" In other sections, we see how important it is to eat slowly and to treasure each bite: "More than once during his life in the camps, Shukhov had recalled the way they used to eat in his village: whole pots full of potatoes, pans of oatmeal, and, in the early days, big chunks of meat. 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!" While reading "One Day," I was reminded of some other great books about work camps, such as "Escape from Camp 14," which was about a North Korean prison, and several about the Holocaust: Viktor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning," Elie Wiesel's "Night" and Art Spiegelman's "Maus." Each of those books has their own insights into how people survive in subhuman conditions. 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 1962 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.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Luís C.

    Ivan Denisovich Shukhov was sentenced to ten years of labor camp for "treason against the fatherland". In reality, he was simply taken prisoner by the Germans during the Second World War before he managed to escape, thinking, naively, that he would be welcomed with open arms on his return. Although he has already done most of his time, he knows full well that it will be extended again and again, and that he will probably only come out of the camp with his feet in front. Shukhov nevertheless Ivan Denisovich Shukhov was sentenced to ten years of labor camp for "treason against the fatherland". In reality, he was simply taken prisoner by the Germans during the Second World War before he managed to escape, thinking, naively, that he would be welcomed with open arms on his return. Although he has already done most of his time, he knows full well that it will be extended again and again, and that he will probably only come out of the camp with his feet in front. Shukhov nevertheless supports each day with a resignation approved by the stoics of antiquity. All the little tricks are good to improve a little its existence: do not eat all your loaf of bread in the morning to make it last and have the illusion of having larger rations; to render small services to those who can receive parcels to receive something in return; muddle the cook's accounts to get a share of extra soup; hide the best trowel on the job site to make sure you keep it every day; ... From the first pages, we identify with Shukhov: we feel the biting cold trying to make its way to him, his hollow in the stomach, we share his fear that the piece of bread he has hidden is stolen during his absence, we tremble that another prisoner does not betray him to gain a small advantage. A powerful work, which makes us understand through a minimalist testimony all the back of the scenery: a totalitarian system that denies the individual, removes all hope and opportunity to return to normal life.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Horace Derwent

    that day, some people drink their first beer or have their first kiss kissed that day, some people wreck their car on some road and some of them tear it all to pieces that day, people lose cherry or goes banana that day, some people find jesus sitting on their bedroom wall and whispering to them "it's alright, kiddo" that day, some junkies swallow their pain and a bullet down together into their throat, meanwhile, some human flesh stuffed wolves feel joy under the warm bright sunlight with their naked eyes open wide ... on that day i see the devil, that day, some people drink their first beer or have their first kiss kissed that day, some people wreck their car on some road and some of them tear it all to pieces that day, people lose cherry or goes banana that day, some people find jesus sitting on their bedroom wall and whispering to them "it's alright, kiddo" that day, some junkies swallow their pain and a bullet down together into their throat, meanwhile, some human flesh stuffed wolves feel joy under the warm bright sunlight with their naked eyes open wide ... on that day i see the devil, he tells me that violence has made good friends with lie ...i live in china...born and raised

  9. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    My copy of the 1963 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. This copy, for example, is "THE COMPLETE, UNEXPURGATED TRANSLATION BY RONALD HINGLEY AND MAX HAYWARD." One Day is "A SHATTERING PORTRAIT OF LIFE INSIDE STALINIST RUSSA.' It is also: "the terrifying story of an almost unbelievable man-made hell--the Soviet work cam My copy of the 1963 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. This copy, for example, is "THE COMPLETE, UNEXPURGATED TRANSLATION BY RONALD HINGLEY AND MAX HAYWARD." One Day is "A SHATTERING PORTRAIT OF LIFE INSIDE STALINIST RUSSA.' It is also: "the terrifying story of an almost unbelievable man-made hell--the Soviet work camps--and of one man's heroic struggle to survive in the face of the most determined efforts to destroy him--a scathing indictment of Communist tyranny that has shaken the whole Soviet world." My edition also, conveniently, includes Solzhenitsyn's "now-classic letter of protest against censorship." The author himself spent eight years in these labor camps, and three more years in exile, all for the crime of making derogatory comments about Stalin in a letter to a friend. 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. 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. 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." Rather, you start following around "Shukhov," and it takes a bit to realize they are one and the same. 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 1970s 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. The author won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970 "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature." He was not able to speak at the prize ceremony--it seems that his acceptance speech was smuggled out of the USSR. 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. "In some cases moreover--when as a result of such a silence the whole of history ceases to be understood in its entirety--it is a danger to the whole of mankind."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    Totalitarian communism could produce some harsh results. Such is the succinct message sent by Soviet writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in his 1962 publication One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. 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 characters throughout the brutally Totalitarian communism could produce some harsh results. Such is the succinct message sent by Soviet writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in his 1962 publication One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. 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 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. Speaking out against the government or like-minded open and obvious political malfeasances are also rare; most “confessed” to some ridiculous treason after a period of ruthless and senseless interrogation. 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 1962, but this remains a difficult but important work.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sidharth Vardhan

    "“Can a man who's warm understand one who's freezing?” What I have to say might spoil the book. 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." -Albert Camus “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from co/>“You/>

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dem

    A short novel at just over 180 pages but a painstaking and laborious read which is probably fitting as the story is set in a Soviet labor camp in the 1950s and describes a single day in the life of ordinary prisoner, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov , He is innocent, but is sentenced to ten years in a forced labor camp. The book's publication was an extraordinary event in Soviet literary history, since never before had an account of Stalinist repression been openly distributed and therefore the importance of A short novel at just over 180 pages but a painstaking and laborious read which is probably fitting as the story is set in a Soviet labor camp in the 1950s and describes a single day in the life of ordinary prisoner, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov , He is innocent, but is sentenced to ten years in a forced labor camp. The book's publication was an extraordinary event in Soviet literary history, since never before had an account of Stalinist repression been openly distributed and therefore the importance of this publication would have made this book an extraordinary piece of writing given the fact that Russia had hidden any details and accounts of what went on in the camps for years so I get how important as a political tract and as a literary work this must have been at the time. I read this novel as book club read and having read it a couple of years previously I knew that this was a difficult read and not because it graphic but more that it is stark and eventual read (for the reader) where a day in the life goes slowly by as you read the prisoner's daily routine from he gets up in the morning until the end of his day and yet what is uneventful for the reader is monumental in achievements for the prisoner and it is in understanding this that makes the book so important. I adapted a different approach to this novel second time around and printed off the discussion questions for the book beforehand in order to read this one and get more from it than I did first time around and I can honestly say I read the book differently and understood it better having the discussion questions to keep me focused. This was not an enjoyable or even an informative read for me, and I think readers who may not be familiar with Russian history, as you would have to have prior knowledge of Russian leaders and events or the history of these camps in order to read this book and connect with it in my opinion. I can understand the importance of the book and how it is still a book that is on many reading lists as it is a stark and realistic telling of a day in the life of an ordinary prisoner. I liked the book but having read it now twice I can honestly say it is not one for my favorite shelf.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    this was like the last couple of holidays i have been forced to go on with my family. they make you do all this crap and then they make you pretend you are having a good time doing it as if just doing it is not enough for them you have to keep saying you are having a good time and grinning like a babboon. so i could see where the guy in this book was coming from. but that didnt make it suck less. they made me go in a zoo which is gross the animals are not really like on tv and some of them resen this was like the last couple of holidays i have been forced to go on with my family. they make you do all this crap and then they make you pretend you are having a good time doing it as if just doing it is not enough for them you have to keep saying you are having a good time and grinning like a babboon. so i could see where the guy in this book was coming from. but that didnt make it suck less. they made me go in a zoo which is gross the animals are not really like on tv and some of them resent you you can see it. the guy in this book is in prison for some stuff he probably didn't do and I can relate to that because i probably didn't do all the shit they say i did all the time. you know what i'm saying. this world is a giant prison i think. thats called existentalism. its tough ivan dennisovitch didnt' live in a time when there are ipods because at least you can listen to your stuff whn you are in your cell waiting to get raped . anyway this was better than gullivers travels like how could it be worse anyway, that would just not be possible unless its by dickens, but it wasn't as good as Chained Heat, Barbed Wire Dolls and Bare Behind Bars, which are movies about prisons which are better than this book because the weather is a lot better which means that the ladies in the prisons have clothing that falls off a lot lol. also just a little thing but guys if you are going to write a novel have a name you can pronounce, even if i liked this i couldnt tell anyone he should have called him self Alex Sol that would have been a good cool name so that will be wy this book is unknown to any person that is not a teacher

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    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. He is grateful when the weather is warm enough that the mortar doesn’t freeze. “It is a good day for bricklaying” he says. 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. 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. He is grateful when the weather is warm enough that the mortar doesn’t freeze. “It is a good day for bricklaying” he says. What offence lands a man in such a prison? 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...where there is hope there is life, without it how could any of them endure even a "good" day.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Adina

    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.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    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." But the years, they never rolled by; they never moved by a second. 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 pr 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." But the years, they never rolled by; they never moved by a second. 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. 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.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn had two huge strokes of luck with One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. 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 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn had two huge strokes of luck with One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. 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 1930s 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.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    Solzhenitsyn, a 44-year-old mathematics teacher in the old Russian town of Ryazan who spent eight years in Stalinís concentration camps writes his first literary work, and what a memorable one it turns out to be. 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 s Solzhenitsyn, a 44-year-old mathematics teacher in the old Russian town of Ryazan who spent eight years in Stalinís concentration camps writes his first literary work, and what a memorable one it turns out to be. 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 1943 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.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    Single Quote Review: Macbeth’s self-justifications were feeble—and his conscience devoured him. Yes, even Iago was a little lamb too. The imagination and the spiritual strength of Shakespeare’s evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses. Because they had no ideology.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    Foreword --One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ammara Abid

    Bitterly cold wind whips all around me! One of the most chilling book I have ever read. "The belly is a demon. It doesn't remember how well you treated it yesterday; it'll cry out for more tomorrow." -Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

  22. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    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. 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 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.

  23. 5 out of 5

    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. 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 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. Powerful.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    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. 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 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.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    This is supposed to be a full, uncensored version unlike the originals & done by a better translator. According to the foreword, there's not a lot of change, just some sentiments & details that wouldn't have made it originally. It's been too long since I read my old paperback copy for me to tell if that was the same or not, though. It doesn't really matter, this is an incredibly moving & perceptive novel. Since it's a 50 year old classic, I'm not going to worry about spoilers in my r This is supposed to be a full, uncensored version unlike the originals & done by a better translator. According to the foreword, there's not a lot of change, just some sentiments & details that wouldn't have made it originally. It's been too long since I read my old paperback copy for me to tell if that was the same or not, though. It doesn't really matter, this is an incredibly moving & perceptive novel. Since it's a 50 year old classic, I'm not going to worry about spoilers in my review nor do I think they can do anything to harm even a first reading of this novel & may even help. It's moving as the obvious denunciation of the Soviet system, a distorted version of communism that eventually collapsed under its own inefficiencies & excesses. Ivan Denisovich Shukov was one of far too many that had the misfortune to escape capture by the Nazis & make it back to his own lines only to be imprisoned in a gulag, a work camp, for his efforts. We're never really told why, but it was probably so he couldn't spread the word of the horrible defeat his Army unit had suffered & conditions on the front. Perhaps it was just paranoia or quotas, though. In any case, he was sentenced to 10 years, 3653 days (3 to make up for the leap years), & this is just one of those during his 8th year. Hopefully he has less than 2 years to go, but he barely let's himself hope that he'll be that lucky. The corruption & inefficiencies of the system are well shown in day's work detail. They don't actually get to work until halfway through the day without proper tools or materials unless they steal them. Shukov proves that as a farmer, he's handy & makes himself useful. It allows him to make the little extra he needs to survive & enables him to hold on to tatters of his self respect. The other theme running through the book is selfishness of the state & every level below it to the poor zeks like Shukov. 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. Both the margin & selfishness is made extremely clear in The Captain, a Navy officer who will not survive long in the camp. Shukov never even thinks this directly, but he knows that 1o days in the hole will break The Captain's health & other thoughts have shown just how unfit he is. 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. It's scary & instructive to see just how resilient a man can be as he finds pleasure in finding a bit metal or fish in his watery stew. 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. Depressing? 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 1918-1956 decades ago. I don't really recall it several other histories while I've never forgotten this book. Thanks to Tytti in the "History Is Not Boring" group for the recommendation of In the Clutches of the Tcheka which is available from The Internet Archive here: https://archive.org/details/1929InThe... This is a 1929 account by one of the earliest prisoners.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Connie G

    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. 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 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. 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. "There were three thousand six hundred and fifty-three days like that in his stretch. 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." The author had been imprisoned from 1945 to 1953 for criticizing Joseph Stalin in letters to friends. 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 1962.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    I'm slowly getting sucked into the world of audiobooks and loving them more and more, but I nearly abandoned this one. I am glad I didn't, though. This Blackstone edition suffers from one of the most painful voices I have ever heard -- some guy named Richard Brown. He has a nasally, whiny, smoke-too-much voice that grates the ears the way skin grates when a thumb slips off a carrot and gets shredded. He makes no attempt to offer performance of any sort, opting instead for straight rea I'm slowly getting sucked into the world of audiobooks and loving them more and more, but I nearly abandoned this one. I am glad I didn't, though. This Blackstone edition suffers from one of the most painful voices I have ever heard -- some guy named Richard Brown. He has a nasally, whiny, smoke-too-much voice that grates the ears the way skin grates when a thumb slips off a carrot and gets shredded. He makes no attempt to offer performance of any sort, opting instead for straight reading. No variations of emotion, no variations of tone or vocal quality, just him reading Solzhenitsyn's words translated (albeit from H.T. Willets' reputedly excellent authorized translation) into English. My kids listened to about an hour of the story one day while we were driving, and much to my surprise, they loved it. Bronte said that Brown sounded really cool and that his voice was perfect. She got me thinking, and I had to admit that she was onto something. His voice is perfect. His adanoidal drone, the sort of voice you'd expect from a "evil" English rodent in an animated movie, was perfectly suited to Ivan Denisovich Shukov, the carpenter/bricklayer/"spy"/zek banished to a Siberian Gulag in Stalinist USSR. Brown's voice really does capture the grind of camp life. The crushing weight of scrounging for food, working for pride despite the hardship, the biting cold, the loyalties and pities that dictate every minute of every day, all that camp life must have been is contained in that torturous voice. So listening to this translation to the dissonant sound of Brown's voice turned out to be a rewarding experience. By the end I really liked it. But I am still going to have to cut off a star from this edition because I came so close to turning it off and not going back. Still, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich itself gets five stars. There's no diminishing its brilliance.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Shovelmonkey1

    Literary brilliance captured in one book, in one day and one man's story. Evocative descriptions of a days toil in the frozen wastes of a Siberian labour camp where unthinkable hardships are subtly diminished by the joy and the triumph of surviving another day. Precise, cold, crisp, bitter and hardened like the tundra upon which the writer stood as he scribed this story. Well deserving of its place on the 1001 books to read before you die list. If you read one book from the list this year, make Literary brilliance captured in one book, in one day and one man's story. Evocative descriptions of a days toil in the frozen wastes of a Siberian labour camp where unthinkable hardships are subtly diminished by the joy and the triumph of surviving another day. Precise, cold, crisp, bitter and hardened like the tundra upon which the writer stood as he scribed this story. Well deserving of its place on the 1001 books to read before you die list. If you read one book from the list this year, make sure it's this one.

  29. 5 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    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.D. Absolutely. You see, there are days when K.D. 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 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.D. Absolutely. You see, there are days when K.D. 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 income K.D. Absolutely makes to support the family. Not that K.D. 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. Now that K.D. 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.D. Absolutely's mind. How does he make sure that his savings are enough for him and his wife to have a comfortable twilight years? Given the high cost of hospitalization and medicines not to mention the daily life's necessities? The life of Ivan Denisovich in the gulag has nothing to do with his retirement and he is still young. His concern is mostly about food. He leaves his plate sparklingly clean because he licks every surface if there is still some kind of flavor clinging on it. It does not matter if it is sausage or some kind of boiled grass, he either finishes them all of or he leaves some for the rainy day. He even knows how to get more food, e.g. befriending the office worker Tsezar who has some access to food. Ivan Denisovich is there in the gulag because he was suspected to be a German spy during WWII. Even if he is in fact, innocent, he still gets incarcerated and has been there to serve his sentence for ten years. I will not give the details of my life in the office because I might get the attention of my bosses especially because my book reviews (or rants really) get posted on Facebook and you just don't know who reads what in this time in cyberspace. However, my days nowadays are similar to that of Ivan Denisovich in terms of surviving the heavy workload: I am just swamped to the extent that I could not visit Goodreads and Facebook during workdays. Last year, I still could open my GR in the morning to type in a book review and click on the like button to the delight of some of my Facebook friends. Last year, I could finish one book a day because 8 hours of honest work in the office was enough. Last year, I could even read books during my one-hour lunch break at noontime. Now, all of those have to go. I just work and work because assignments keep on coming like crazy. And it just felt that life in the office for me is just like the modern version of Solzhenitsyn's gulag. Even if I have money to buy food, oftentimes, I don't have the time to go out to buy even from the ground floor's bakery. The work is challenging (hello, boss!) but it is dizzying (from lack of sleep) and you always hope and pray "God please show me the light even just a flicker" as you work on the many assignments that you have to finish on time.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    4.5/5 Ivan 'Shukhov' Denisovich, I ask. How do you function? You have spent eight years in a total of two prison camps, consigned to backbreaking amounts of work in some of the worst environments known to man. If it went down to forty-two below zero they weren't supposed to be marched out to work. Ivan! What could you have possibly done to deserve such a fate? Ah, that's right. You were a POW in WWII, so obviously you collaborated with the Germans as a spy. So you were sentence 4.5/5 Ivan 'Shukhov' Denisovich, I ask. How do you function? You have spent eight years in a total of two prison camps, consigned to backbreaking amounts of work in some of the worst environments known to man. If it went down to forty-two below zero they weren't supposed to be marched out to work. Ivan! What could you have possibly done to deserve such a fate? Ah, that's right. You were a POW in WWII, so obviously you collaborated with the Germans as a spy. So you were sentenced to ten years in prison camps, but they could always tack on some more years to that. Just for kicks. After all, you've been in there for a while. Now the standard sentence is twenty-five years, for believers in the wrong religion, for receivers of casual letters from the wrong side, for those in the wrong place at the wrong time in a whole host of arbitrary conditions. So they extend your sentence, to make everything line up. You know how it is. So what do you do in this camp? You're helping to build a compound, one of many workers. But you're not just any old worker. You were a carpenter, before, and if you ever get out, you will be a "free" worker employed as a carpenter "outside". But that's not a likely thing to happen, so now you block up walls with roofing-felt and lay down brick walls and all sorts of things. You only worked with wood outside, but hey, it's easy enough to switch around. All that matters is you get the work done so your gang boss, who looks out for you and gets you larger work rates, doesn't get in trouble. Because there's lots of things to get in trouble for, they want you to do the job but they don't give you anything to do the job with. It's an odd arrangement, but some stealth and threatening posture can go all the way. You can apply the 'odd arrangement' statement to the entire thing, really. All around there are punishments in the 'cooler' that will cripple you with tuberculosis for life, murderers that accidentally slit the wrong persons' throat in the middle of the night, complaints sent to the higher ups that either never make it or come back marked 'Rejected'. And everyone needs to be paid their due if you want your letters delivered, your packages somewhat whole, your beard shaved, with the little you get and the little more than you're not supposed to have. And yet: Shukhov went to sleep, and he was very happy. He'd had a lot of luck today. Such small things you were grateful for. A little extra food, no extra work, no consignment to the cooler. And not only that, but you even felt sorry for your other prisoners, felt a sort of comradeship with them, and helped out when you could. You even looked out for your family, never mind the barbed wire, miles of frozen wasteland, and the unknown amount of years you have left to work that separates you from them. What was your story? How did it come to this, that you observe the abysmal and tortuous conditions around you, the tragic fates of your fellow prisoners, the fact that there is an ache in your body that comes and goes with the passing days, and feel nothing? What did you have to suffer between the time you began and the time now, to stamp you down into a man who feels happiness and maintains a sense of honor, but when it comes to atrocities: He didn't mind. He was used to this sort of business and it would soon be over. I suppose that's too many things to ask. Let's rephrase that into a single cohesive statement. What is your secret to your existence, Ivan 'Shukhov' Denisovich, or perhaps it is Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn? What is the meaning of your life? The clouds roll over the cold light of the moon, and the wind whistles through the barbed wire. The long abandoned compound is silent and still and dark, no prisoners in the barracks and no guards to operate the searchlights. I turn and trudge away, as bundled up as I could possibly be and still shivering in the cold, answer received.

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