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The Gulag Archipelago, Volume 2: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, 1918-1956 (P.S.) [Paperback]

Anne Applebaum , Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn , Thomas P. Whitney
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
Price: £13.61 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product details

  • Paperback: 712 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reissue edition (7 Aug 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061253723
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061253720
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 3.1 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 722,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

"Its importance can hardly be exaggerated," said Doris Lessing. "It helped to bring down an empire." For those who doubt that literature can change the world, here is evidence to the contrary. Solzhenitsyn's scorching, brilliant, part-autobiographical expose of the dreary oppressiveness and institutionalised cruelty of the Soviet regime, really did contribute to the final collapse of the Union in 1989. It also exposed how, if Hitler had the deaths of well over 6 million on his hands, the figure for Stalin might be nearer 60 million. This is not only history-in-the-making, but also an absolutely compulsive read (especially in this 400-page version abridged from the 1800 pages of the three-volume original.) From the breathtaking opening page, when Solzhenitsyn depicts starving prisoners of the Kolyma gulags, discovering a deep-frozen, prehistoric salamander in an icy stream and devouring it on the spot, "with relish," he holds you rapt, like the Ancient Mariner, with his "skinny hand" and "glittering eye." You have no choice but to listen to him, especially when he derides those who say "It would not happen here". "Alas," he says, "all the evil of the 20th century is possible everywhere on earth." One of the very few undeniable books of the century. --Christopher Hart --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Solzhenitsyn draws upon his own life in labor camps as well as the experience of fellow prisoners and extensive research to document the workings of the Soviet secret police and prison system. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
72 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes there's just not enough stars 3 Oct 2005
By A Customer
This is unquestionably the best non fiction book I have ever read. It is at once profound, intelligent, affecting, exquisitely readable (excepting some of the more factual chapters, perhaps), terrifying, uplifting and occaionally - unexpectedly - very humourous. Solzhenitsyn manages to convey the details of the most outrageous atrocities without ever losing a sense of what is good about the human race and without ever losing an acutely righteous anger about what is bad about it.
Personally I have spent the last two months since reading this book all but beating everyone I know into reading it; some books, after all, should be reccomended highly, but this book should be mandatory, a rite of passage for anyone who has any opinion on history or morality - hell, for anyone who has the ability to read.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this book changed my life 24 Jun 2011
By rob crawford TOP 1000 REVIEWER
It is a marvel to flip through this book again, though the abridged version is nothing compared to the original 3-volume trilogy. Though it is very difficult to get into - in the original v1 there is a long abstract section on gulags as a sewage system in turbid prose - once the reader gets swept into thos narrative of suffering there is no other reading experience like it.
Solzhenitsyn spent his youth as a gulag prisoner for having criticized Stalin on a postcard. V1 covers his arrest and interrogation and transport into despair and disillusionment. What he experienced, from his start as a strong and idealistic young war leader, can only be described as hell on earth. Only Hitler's death factories could compare, and yet Stalin's slave labor camps were being held up as marvels of social policy and redemption. The cruelty of treatment, the insights into the astonishing characters around him, and the compilation of other people's stories - Solzhenitsyn describes his experience as only one gulp from an ocean of bitterness and shattered lives - are unequalled in the modern literature on totalitarianism. My experience was to be utterly transported into this realm, to look at my life and values and think about what mattered most to develop within myself. No other book ever had a deeper impact on me. That makes this, in my opinion, essential reading to understand the last century at its very very worst.

The second volume follows Solzhenitsyn as he becomes a hardened and grief-stricken prison slave, indifferent to whether he is killed by a stray bullet during riots and abandoning his faith in communism. A central pert of the book is his religious conversion - the only one I ever read about that I truly understood on an emotional level - at the deathbed of perhaps his greatest freind.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Monumental - literally 29 Jun 2012
This book was published at a point of crisis in Solzhenitsyn's life. He completed the manuscript in 1968 and succeeded in getting it typed, copied and hidden in several different places. In 1973, on being tortured, his typist revealed to the KGB where one of the copies was hidden. Such was her remorse that shortly after her release she hanged herself. Solzhenitsyn's response to the knowledge that the authorities had obtained a copy of the work was to authorise its immediate publication in the West. Until that time he had intended to withhold the work until it could be published in the Soviet Union. First publication was achieved in Paris in early 1974. Six weeks later, Solzhenitsyn was deported from the Soviet Union to begin a 20 year exile in Western Europe and America.

This was not, of course, the first crisis, or series of crises, in Solzhenitsyn's life. Neither was it the most threatening to his continued existence, alarming as the situation seemed between his arrest and totally unexpected arrival in Frankfurt. The Gulag Archipelago describes many of the yet more shattering crises imposed on him by the Soviet state between his admission to the Gulag prison system in 1945 and eventual release (initially to internal exile) in 1953.

Not that the book is primarily autobiographical. Solzhenitsyn's aspiration was to provide a comprehensive account of the entire Gulag system - his metaphor of an archipelago of small islands, distributed throughout the Soviet Union, is very apt. He begins with his own arrest for criticising Stalin in a private letter. This whilst he was serving in East Prussia as an officer in the Red Army.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the must reads of the Soviet Era 29 Sep 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a Monumental work by a Monumental Writer. With a Surgeons meticulousness of dissection, Solzhenitsyn lays bare the entire anatomy of the Oppressive apparatus, laying bare the workings at an Ideological, state and individual level. He uses hundreds of examples of individuals and groups of individuals experiences of the Soviet oppressive 'Organs' to create a vast network of suffering interlinked by time, place and person.
It is an unrelenting and heavy read. It demands by the nature of its grave subject deliberation and slow digestion.
The Soviet process of arrest, interrogation charge and sentencing are each painstakingly laid out. The Politicohistorical background of the (in)justice system is similarly dissected apart with reference to historical events.
It is dry writing, blisteringly sarcastic with an understanding sympathy for the forces of oppression that is unrelentingly ironic.
It is an extraordinary piece of work, immense in scope, rich in ironic understatement that can leave the reader exhausted. Stunningly detailed, and essential reading for any serious student of the Soviet era.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Not yet read but I've wanted to read it for a long time.
Published 2 months ago by John Arnold
5.0 out of 5 stars Gulag
Perfect condition, interesting but difficult reading for me, shocking and I have to put it away some time.
I would recommend it of course
Published 13 months ago by Diana
3.0 out of 5 stars UNLIKE A BRITISH JAIL
I am still reading this 630 page book and ordered it after reading a shorter book entitled Gulag Boss which was rather biased towards the State. Read more
Published 18 months ago by J. W. PRESTON
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book I Wanted To Read For A Long Time
Harrowing, but one of those stories that I just had to read, to hear first hand what really went on.
Published 19 months ago by Greg Costello
5.0 out of 5 stars Gulag Archipelago
I read this book some years ago and it had a profound effect on me - it's a very important work, everybody should read it. Read more
Published on 13 Aug 2012 by 250gto
4.0 out of 5 stars Solzhenitsyn - Great Russian Hero
I had always imagined Solzhenitsyn as some kind of fiery Biblical prophet, full of righteousness and rhetoric, hurling verbal thunderbolts at his enemies and damning them to... Read more
Published on 4 Jan 2012 by John Fitzpatrick
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
Fascinating, often harrowing account made up of the author's direct experience along with stories and rumours he picked up as he was processed through the Soviet punishment... Read more
Published on 17 Aug 2011 by Mr. S. N. Cubitt
5.0 out of 5 stars Gulag Archipelago Vol 3
I would recommend anyone who has read the first two volumes to obtain and read the 3rd Volume.
After so much written in the first two volumes this work still adds insight and... Read more
Published on 3 May 2011 by Lighthouse
4.0 out of 5 stars THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
While Solzhenitsyn has been heavily criticised in recent decades, for a number of sound reasons, The Gulag Archipelago is a classic in a Russian tradition, known for it's... Read more
Published on 30 May 2010 by J. Southworth
5.0 out of 5 stars The message is in the questions you ask of yourself
I can't really do this book justice, I'd love to spend hours pouring over it, but I think I'd be serving myself more than Alexander's. Read more
Published on 28 Oct 2009 by M. J. LUDGATE
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