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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Hardcover – 2 Jul 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (2 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297858912
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297858911
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.8 x 20.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (137 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,271,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


""One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" yields, more than anything else, a beautiful sense of its author as a Chekhovian figure: simple, free of literary affectation, wholly serious."--"The New Republic " --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

The Russian masterpiece by Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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As usual, at five o'clock that morning reveille was sounded by the blows of a hammer on a length of rail hanging up near the staff quarters. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Graham on 17 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback
I read this book, in this translation, when it was first published in English in the 1960s. It was the beginning of a life-long interest in Solzhentisyn. His work presents a formidable challenge to translators and sadly, this not the best translation available and I am surprised the Penguin are still publishing it. The translation by H. T Willets published by Harper (ISBN 0002716070) is vastly superior and is the only one that was approved of by Solzhenitisyn. If you don't read Russian and want to understand why Solzhenitsyn was so critically acclaimed a writer this version will not help much.
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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 14 Feb. 2001
Format: Paperback
First and foremost, this book conveys the barbarity of Stalin's concentration camps. By writing the novel from the perspective of an uncomplicated utilitarian, Solzhenitsyn's message is conveyed in a simple but extremely effective way. By drawing on his own experiences in such a camp, his account of this single day is both authoratative and compelling. Beyond that though, he makes numerous attacks on the state of Russian politics at the time and indeed on Russian society, which he weaves elegantly into the text. After reading this book one is left in no doubt as to the horror of a life in Siberia's camps, or to the author's personal opinion of the state of the land of his birth. In short, this is probably Solzhenitsyn's finest work, and as such must be read by all.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lost John TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 20 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback
Before Novy Mir published Solzhenitsyn's 47,000 word story, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, in 1962, Soviet authors had only been allowed to refer to the labour camps of the Gulag, not actually write about them. Essentially a Stalinist phenomenon, the camps had finally been abolished a year or so earlier. Publication of the novella (after a degree of censorship) required the specific authorisation of Nikita Khrushchev.

The story reflects Solzhenitsyn's own experience as a political prisoner. He was sentenced for criticising Stalin in a private letter; his character Ivan Denisovich Shukhov for having the misfortune to spend a few wartime days in Nazi captivity before escaping and re-penetrating the Red Army lines. Shukhov was obliged to sign a confession that he had returned as a spy (better to sign than be shot, he reasoned) and sentenced to ten years, which he spent at first in a 'general' camp and then in the 'special' camp in which Solzhenitsyn details his day. Knowing prisoners who had been sentenced to one ten year term after another, Shukhov had no expectation of being allowed to return home when his sentence ended, but he hoped at least to gain the relative freedom of internal exile.

The day described is in winter, with an outdoor temperature of -27.5C. Nevertheless, the work battalions are formed-up as usual and marched to various work sites in a rapidly developing settlement. Shukhov's team is assigned to work on construction of a power station. Although not as favourable as the indoor work of the machine works, that is considered preferable to being sent to the Socialist Way of Life settlement, where there was neither shelter nor any source of heat.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By J C E Hitchcock on 27 Feb. 2009
Format: Paperback
Now that Alexander Solzhenitsyn is remembered as a formidable opponent of Communism and the Soviet system, it is strange to think that "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich", which deals with the controversial subject of life in a Soviet labour camp, was first published (in November 1962) in an official literary magazine with the blessing of the Soviet authorities. Indeed, its publication is said to have been authorised by Nikita Khrushchev himself. Khrushchev's motives were, of course, self-interested. He saw the book as a useful tool in his campaign of de-Stalinisation, a campaign which served to justify his own rule and his disposing of rivals such as Lavrentiy Beria and Viktor Abakumov who had been more closely associated with Stalinist repression. (Khrushchev's own complicity in Stalin's crimes was, of course, airbrushed out of history). Nevertheless, the publication of the book was an unprecedented event; never before had so critical an account of Soviet rule, even Stalinist rule, been openly distributed.

The action of the book takes place on a single day in January 1951, a day seen through the eyes of the central character, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, who is in the eighth year of a ten-year sentence. Shukhov's sentence was imposed after, as a soldier in World War II, he was captured by the Germans. Although he managed to escape and make his way back though the Soviet lines, he was accused of being a spy. The novel is autobiographical and reflects Solzhenitsyn's own experiences in the gulags after he was imprisoned for writing derogatory comments about Stalin in a private letter.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By unlikely_heroine VINE VOICE on 22 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback
Solzhenitsyn's account of life in a Stalinist gulag is a must-read for anyone interested in modern Russian literature, Soviet history or quality, meaningful literature in general. This is a short (around 140 pages in this edition) but deeply affecting novel that charts one day in the existence of the inhabitant of a prison camp. This is not a book which contains dramatic events or shocking twists and turns, but rather it is a quiet, thoughtful study of struggling through misery and despair, and of the power of hope, survival and clinging on through the bleakest of moments.

Through every minor skirmish, battle and victory of Ivan Denisovich, the reader is willing this likeable character on. Though he has suffered tremendous ill-fortune, has been separated from his family for years and endures daily want, hardship and misery, Ivan Denisovich survives, endures and retains his humanity. In depicting one day in this man's life, Solzhenitsyn puts the Soviet post-war prison camps under the microscope. The power of this author's writing (and the quality of the translation) is such that the reader can feel as if they are in Ivan Denisovich's world with his uncomfortable bunk bed, his constant hunger and coldness through paltry food rations and freezing temperatures. Solzhenitsyn also shows the camaraderie and form of friendship that flourishes between prisoners despite everything they are put through and the delight and sense of victory that can be derived from an extra piece of dry hard bread or helping of lumpy porridge, or from the chance finding of a small discarded piece of metal in the snow.

The historical significance and insight of this novel, coupled with the powerful writing and perfectly-conveyed sense of place, mean that I have to give this work five out of five stars. It is highly readable and accessible and is a book to be thought about long after you have turned the final page.
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