Tuesday, 29 May 2007

having trouble thinking of a title.

As usual I've tried to use the picture cover from the actual version of the book I read, so sorry it's so small - this one has a photo by Georgi Zelma which I really quite like, but I doubt it's available anymore. In any case, I've read that there's a couple of translations floating around, and I don't think this one is the best. Apparently H.T. Willetts' is the one to go for, and is the only one Solzhenitsyn himself actually authorised.

I seem to be reading a lot of Russian Literature (big 'L' intentional) these days, and although it's not really my cup of tea, I'm enjoying it and getting quite a lot out of it though. Tom suggested I read 'One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich' by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, which kind of surprised me, because I wouldn't have thought it his cup of tea either, but then he surprises me quite a lot like that.

It's quite a short read this one, a novella really, and quite easy too. Halfway through, I mentioned to Tom that I was finding it interesting but wasn't sure where it was going, and he pointed out to me that I was being a bit dim, and it's all in the title. Der. So that's basically what it is - one day in the life of a political prisoner in a Soviet labour camp. Solzhenitsyn himself spent a lot of time in labour camps, so this book is based on his experiences. I found myself wondering exactly how much of himself is in the main character.

One interesting thing about this book is that, although it's obviously not a barrel of laughs, it's not really that depressing or melodramatic. Learning about the life Denisovich (or Shukov as he is mainly referred to in the book as - I really don't get the conventions of Russian naming, it's always so confusing) and political prisoners is kind of shocking, especially the numbness with which Shukhov has accepted his fate, but on the whole it's not a down-in-the-dumps book. Actually, as Tom said, and I agreed with, what's interesting is the way that Shukov has accepted his life and gets on with it, finding clever ways to make his life a little better without compromising his morals, and learning how to get on with the different people around him. For example, he always saves the crust from his breakfast slice of bread to mop up his lunchtime soup, making sure he gets every last drop. On the day in question, Shukov cadges himself an extra serving of sludge, and an extra slice of bread. This makes it a good day.

All in all, I doubt this book will rock your world, but it is a really interesting and relatively easy read. And it does have a great last line.

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