Sunday, September 27, 2015

Fortnightly Book, September 27

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn knew the Gulag well, having spent eight years in a labor camp for making sardonically critical comments about Joseph Stalin in letters to his friends. After his experience there, he was sent in exile (for life) to Kazakhstan, where he had a narrow brush with death by cancer. With the rise of Krushchev after Stalin's death, he was freed from exile, and it was at this period he began writing one of his landmark works: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. The work was submitted to a literary magazine, which in turn submitted it to the Communist Party Central Committee for permission to publish it; there was a fair amount of controversy over whether to give this permission, but Krushchev himself pushed it through as part of his campaign against Stalinism. It was published in 1962. It would become one of the major factors in Solzhenitsyn's reception of the Nobel Prize in 1970. But at the time it also made Solzhenitsyn a persona non grata with many people of power and influence, and with the fall of Kruschev in 1964, it seemed his career was just about over -- but Solzhenitsyn, of course, did not stop writing.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a short work, but as I have quite a bit of grading coming up in the next two weeks, it should fit quite well. I have the Ralph Parker translation put out by Signet; although there are no doubt better translations -- like that of H. T. Willetts -- this was the first English translation, and thus is the most common English version.

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