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August 1914: The Red Wheel 1: A Narrative in Discrete Periods of Time: 001 [Paperback]

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

31 Aug 2000 Red Wheel (Book 1)
Part of a sequence of novels about the Russian Revolution carrying the overall title of The Red Wheel. The other titles in this series include October 1916 and Lenin in Zurich. Other books by Solzhenitsyn include The Gulag Archipelago.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Revised edition edition (31 Aug 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140071229
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140071221
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 13.2 x 3.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 888,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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They left the village in the clear dawn light. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is a massive historical novel about the Russian campaign against the Germans in the first month of the First World War.
A large cast of characters shows the great-hearted Russian troops undermined by incompetence behind the lines and lying, cowardly generals. It's a depressingly familiar story, but Solzhenitsyn's ability to fire your sympathy for individual characters, despite their flaws, still had me biting my fist and begging that the inevitable didn't happen, and outraged by the hypocrisy in high places which betrayed the sacrifice of the men at the front line.
A narrative which moves from one part of the scattered Russian armies to another is united by the figure of Colonel Vorotyntsev, an idealistic young officer who tries against the odds to co-ordinate Russian efforts against the German forces, superior in strategy, communications and modern weaponry. The war story requires some poring over maps of Germany and Poland, but more than repays the effort.
Since the book is set in 1914, there's no direct comment on the Communist regime which followed so swiftly afterwards. But scenes from rural life and in student bars are nostalgic for the history of a country which would soon change so enormously. Through this, as well as the narrative of the war, this book forcefully brings home the impact of politics on individual lives.
From teenage onwards we're fed the futility and despair of the massacre of young British men in World War One, and for me at least, it's taken Pat Barker's novels to allow me to absorb those emotions freshly. August 1914 did the same while awakening me to the fact that it wasn't just Western Europe that suffered this tragic fate.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I first read this book about 35 years ago in the original English edition. I was hugely impressed with it then and re-read it once a few years later. I wanted to read it again now and was surprised to find that it was not in print. How could one of the great books of the 20th century be out of print? So, I bought a second hand copy of the 1989 edition which has been much revised and expanded by the author with the addition of chapters about the assasination of Stolypin and a study of Nicholas II. I think that the book has been almost ruined by these changes. The new chapters plod along, lacking the inspiration of Solzhenitsyn's earlier work. As for the chapters directly concernng the campaign of August 1914, it is difficult to commment not having the earlier edition to hand but they do differ from my 30 plus year old memory of them.

My advice is to buy the earlier edition if you can.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars responsibility versus fatalism 7 Jun 2010
By Sherpa
Format:Paperback
August 1914 is the portrait of a pivotal moment in Russian history, the defeat of the Russians at the battle of Tannenberg. However, it is also a tract expounding Solzhenitsyn's theme that our spiritual purpose is to take responsibility for what falls within our immediate sphere of influence. Amongst the many characters, Vorotyntsev, a staff officer who roves around the battle trying to shore up the collapsing Russian front, epitomises the responsible human being. So, what is Solzhenistsyn opposing by this depiction? He is saying that by 1914 the Russian generals had fallen under the influence of Tolstoy's fatalistic ideas, and therfore did not know how to take responsibility for what lay before them. This did not mean the generals were cowards or even stupid. They simply did not understand that they could turn the tide of battle by decisive, voluntary action. Thus, General Samsonov is a courageous, sincere and noble man. But his fatalism makes him incompetent. His courage though is registered by the fact that his men carry his body through the woods for scores of miles. It should be understood that although Tolstoy's fatalism gets the blame for 1914, nonethless, the real target for Solzhenitsyn's moral criticism is Marxism -- which is similarly fatalistic. Solzhenistsyn fought in the second world war when there were analogous problems in the Kremlin. Vorontyntsev is a man like Solzhenitsyn himself--an artillery officer who took responsibility for his part of the front--and yet suffered the consequences of other people's errors--in Solzhenitsyn's case from Stalin's paranoid policy of arresting anyone who questioned his judgement.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great historical narrative 22 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Lengthy but un-put-down-able. This covers a particular month before the Russian revolution. How he makes politics interesting and individual's lives fascinating in the same story is beyond me...
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars August 1914 10 Oct 2011
Format:Paperback
A wonderful book, opened my eyes to the fact that Russia too had "lions led by donkeys" just the same way we in the UK had. Leaders fighting battles on maps who were miles away from the actual fighting, expecting men to work miracles with no hope of succeeding. General Samsonov being so afraid to tell his superiors that the battle had been lost and most of the ordinary soldiers were dead, shot himself rather than be court martialed for failure. It showed the futility of war, all wars, and the human cost of such futility.
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