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In the First Circle: The Restored Text [Paperback]

Aleksandr Isaev Solzhenitsyn
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
RRP: 11.47
Price: 10.94 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

13 Oct 2009
At the height of Stalin's postwar terror, Innokenty, a young diplomat and scion of a corrupt ruling class, discovers an earlier and more spiritual tradition than that adopted by the October Revolution, the beginning of a process which is Solzhenitsyn's basic theme: the individual's experience of acquiring an immortal soul. Unwisely but generously, Innokenty helps a friend in danger of arrest, only to be arrested himself and sent to a special prison. This, the archetype of the Gulag, is described with masterful psychological insight. There are no heroes and hardly any villains; oppressors are no less victims then the oppressed. In the great tradition of the Russian novel, "The First Circle" is both a brooding account of human nature and a scrupulously exact description of a historical period.
--This text refers to the Unknown Binding edition.

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In the First Circle: The Restored Text + Cancer Ward + One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Penguin Modern Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 741 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (13 Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061479012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061479014
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 8.8 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 275,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A great novel... A majestic work of genius Sunday Times The First Circle is arguably the greatest Russian novel of the century Spectator A future generation of Russians will be able to come to terms with their history through books like Doctor Zhivago and The First Circle Financial Times --This text refers to the Unknown Binding edition.

Book Description

One of the greatest Russian novels of all time, this epic explores the dark side of Soviet life in the final years of Stalin's reign of terror. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to read again. 23 Feb 2000
By A Customer
I first read this book 30 years ago. On finishing it this time I felt the same regret as then.
The theme is so bleak that it could be unbearable. It is kept from being so by three things. The first is the real possibility of good overcoming evil. The second is the ability of love to reanimate even the most hopeless situations. The third is the potential strength of the human spirit in such circumstances
Although its setting is most unusual, the characters are easily recognisable. They might have become stereotypes. Happily they are all too human for that.
This is a wonderful, if desperate, book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life in the Soviet Camps 8 April 2006
Solzhenitsyn is probably most famous for 'One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich', which was the first introduction most Russians had to the horrors of the labour camps. 'TFC' is an equally important book, describing three days in the workings of a 'special camp'. The special camps were camps to which skilled prisoners were sent to work on prestige projects for Stalin (such as a telephone scrambler, described in this book), and were not marked by the disease and starvation of the labour camps, or the isolation ('The First Circle' is set in a camp just outside Moscow). It was the book that was confiscated from Solzhenitsyn in 1964, and one that contributed to the decision to send him into exile.
'The First Circle' follows a group of prisoners over the course of a Christmas weekend, especially Gleb Nerzhin, and observes their behaviour towards the authorities that have put them there. Although not in imminent danger of starvation or execution, they despair of ever being released, while simultaneously suffering the guilt of the knowledge that others less fortunate than themselves are dying in the labour camps. Despite being largely innocent, they have given up hope of returning to a normal life but, not being threatened with death, they have also lost their fear of authority. Their superiors, meanwhile, make promises to Stalin about the work schedule, knowing that failure will probably result in execution at Stalin's capricious hands. Thus the prisoners, although not free, are able to hold the lives of their captors to ransome. Solzhenitsyn's vision of these damned souls playing hopeless games with what life they have left equated to Dante's first circle of hell, in which those who have not sinned but also not accepted God are forced to spend eternity.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solzhenitsyn at his very best 25 May 2003
The book according to me is a masterpiece by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.The way he has portrayed the characters and their backgrounds is engrossing. There is nothing the reader doesn't know about the characters, their lives, attitudes and thinking. It is a must read for all those who want an insight into the conditions in Russia during the post-world war II era. The way people were arreted the reasons behind the arrests.
**If interested in Russia another good book is "We, The Living" by Ayn Rand
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The First Circle" is the True Masterpiece 17 Oct 2009
This publisher's marketing machine (as in an Oct., 2009 Wall Street Journal article by the author of the book's forward) claims "In the First Circle" is now "finally available in the West". Not exactly. The same text as "In the First Circle" was published in France in 2007 as "Le Premier Cercle."

More importantly, the publishers claim that the previous English version of "The First Circle" was "bowdlerized", not "authentic" and by implication, polluted by Solzhenitsyn's revisions when he attempted to get the book published in the Soviet Union. This is very misleading.

Solzhenitsyn prepared two versions of this novel while writing in Russia in the 1960s. The version now called "In the First Circle", just published in English, was 9 short chapters longer and had a different opening plot line from "The First Circle", which he edited to 87 chapters and unsuccessfully attempted to publish in the Soviet Union.

In that editing, Solzhenitsyn, genius that he was, crafted a far more powerful opening. That's the major difference between the two versions of the novel.

"In the First Circle" (the newly published version) has a young Soviet diplomat, Innokenty Volodin, call the US Embassy in Moscow to warn about a Soviet spy operation in New York related to nuclear military secrets. As such, Innokenty is a 1 in 100 million superman hero (or traitorous villain) who cannot represent ordinary people that lack the opportunity or the courage for such an act.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A horrifying look at life under Stalin 7 Mar 2008
By Rebeki
After enjoying 'One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich' and 'Cancer Ward', I decided to try The First Circle. I was a little daunted on seeing the list of featured characters at the beginning of the book (which is very helpful, by the way!), but I loved the fact that the story is told from the point of view of several characters - prisoners and their jailers, the privileged and the alleged enemies of society.

By describing three days in the life of a special prison, Solzhenitsyn presents a microcosm of life in Stalin's Soviet Union. Clearly, the paranoia, the dishonesty and the degrading treatment of those who may simply have happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time make for bleak reading, yet there are many heartening and genuinely amusing moments. As with 'One Day In The Life...', this is a tale of the triumph of the human soul over hopelessness and inhumanity. A brilliant book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of story telling
I guess I've read this book half a dozen times over the last 30 years. I know I'll still read it again and again. Read more
Published 26 days ago by Graham Bailey
5.0 out of 5 stars Real gritty yet amusing lives of prisoners in post war Russia
Excellent read - now if you haven't already read it get Cancer Ward and A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Sally Place
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely readable book, but a warning too
Along with the diary of Anne Frank and George Orwell, Solzhenitsyn is one of the key authors who remind us what a precious thing Human Rights are. Read more
Published 8 months ago by G. PERCY
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb book
Excellent book, strong characters, vivid description of the state security and penal system in Stalin's post war Soviet Union. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Leslie Tait
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 Star rating
I bought this as a present and the person I bought it for loved it! Hence the five star rating! :)
Published 11 months ago by James Mills
I have read this book about 3 times in my life. I have just discovered that there is a fuller version (96 chapters), as Solzhenitsyn wrote an 87 chapter version for publishing in... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mrs. J. M. Faulding
5.0 out of 5 stars in the first circle
i read this book two years ago and will probaly read my purchsae during the next two years i enjoyed it then
Published 24 months ago by none
4.0 out of 5 stars The first circle of hell - almost paradise
In One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Solzhenitsyn contrived a day for Ivan Denisovich that served to inform readers of the principal aspects of life in a Stalinist Special... Read more
Published on 13 Mar 2012 by Lost John
5.0 out of 5 stars in the first circle
my first book by this author,it is all I expected it to be,fantastic insight into Russian penal system,life under stalin regime,extremely engaging book,but I am a devotee of... Read more
Published on 30 Nov 2010 by William Campbell
5.0 out of 5 stars A Grim Insight Into the Stalin State
This long, grim book takes us into the heart of the Stalin state with all of its de-humanising horrors. Read more
Published on 21 Jan 2010 by P. Ronayne
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