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Into the Whirlwind (Harvill Press Editions) Paperback – 7 Oct 1999

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Paperback, 7 Oct 1999
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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill P.; New e. edition (7 Oct. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860466532
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860466533
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 14.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 238,034 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


The story of Eugenia Ginzburg, a model communist, a teacher and journalist, this text gives an account of how in 1937 she was expelled from the Party and arrested having been falsely accused of belonging to secret terrorist organization. It describes how she was separated from her family, spent two years in the infamous Butyrki prison, then to prisons of Lefort and Yaroslavl and then how she was deported to hard labour camp in Siberia in 1939. She was never to see her husband or elder son again and was not released until1955. This book is her personal account of all these events.

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Colin C on 7 July 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are plenty of must-read books on Stalinism and the Gulags, many of which are far better known than this, but 'Into the Whirlwind' is possibly the most powerful I have read. It's the autobiography of a woman caught up in Stalin's terror of the 1930s onwards, and every page seems very immediate and personal.

Engrossing, horrifying, and above all deeply humanistic, 'Into the Whirlwind' will certainly move you. Ginsburg narrates her own story in detail - from the first signs that her life and existence was under threat by the Soviet regime, through her arrest and initial imprisonment in Moscow on trumped up charges, to her first years in the Gulag in Russia's frozen far east.

One slight qualification is that this book ends near the start of her long sentence, as she is adjusting to life in the camps, so there is no description of how she survived and was (as the notes to this volume tell us) eventually released and able to return to European Russia. I would have found that further volume of her autobiography just as fascinating, but at the moment it does not seem to be available in English.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Luc REYNAERT TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 15 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback
his formidable human document illustrates painfully `how tenuous was the line between high principle and bigoted intolerance, and also how relative are all human ideologies, and how absolute the tortures to which men submit their fellow men.'

Purge, accusers and accused
The brutal purge of 1937 in the USSR in the aftermath of the killing of the Leningrad party boss S. Kirov, targeted all potential political `enemies' of Stalin and accused them under the common denominator of `Trotskyite terrorists'. Nearly all the accused were political party members, like socialist revolutionaries, Mensheviks and, most of all, orthodox communists, members of the party machine and the party intelligentsia.
The instruments of the purge were all sadists. `They were bewildered by the fantastic events of those days', but also `terrified for their own skin.' Some accusers (judges, stool-pigeons, party bosses, apparatchiks) became themselves victims of the whirlwind already after a few months.

Solitary cell, books and the gulag
Evgenia S. Ginzburg, a loyal party member, was very lucky to survive (on the day of her trial only 3 out of 70 accused were not shot).
First, she was incarcerated in a solitary cell: `Nothing is simpler to explain the profound effect of books on a prisoner's mind. Isolation from everyday life and from its rat-race favors a kind of spiritual lucidity. Sitting in a cell, you don't compromise with your conscience.'
The gulag showed the worst and the best ingredients of the human character. People's personalities completely changed by the struggle of life in camp conditions. Some `without moral standards never attempted to recall the days when they were still free and human beings.' Stool-pigeons ruined the lives of many inmates, but also their own life.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an amazing book. It's also very thought provoking. Though the theme is the survival odyssey in a Soviet Gulag. Its not grim. There is always a reason to lighten up the hope for survival and how can people endure a life in a hellish setting by having literature and poetry to bring a sense of worth in their lives and make them feel they still are human beings. Its scary too to think of a state which can inflict that torment and terror on its citizens out of the blue. A materialization of the worse nightmares imagined by Orwell.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1 review
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Absolutely wonderful reading 20 Oct. 2009
By reno buyer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I couldn't recommend this book more enthusiastically. What a story of what is was like in the socialist paradise that Stalin had created and how the most minor misstep could subject one to what the author endured.

I couldn't put the book down.
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