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4.6 out of 5 stars
Cancer Ward
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 17 June 2008
This work of Russian literature -which is quite epic in scope-deals with many themes.
It is set in a clinic in Soviet ruled Uzbekistan for cancer patients ,in the mid 1950's ,shortly after the death of Joseph Stalin.
It deals with the personal stories and lives of many different characters
There are parallels between the cancer that ravages the bodies of the dying patients and the cancer of Communism that ravaged the once proud Russia.
The hero of the novel is Oleg Kostolgotov who has gone from being a soldier on the frontline of Russia's fight against the invading Nazi armies during world War II to a political prisoner doomed to destruction for falling foul of Stalin's psychopathic system to a cancer patient lingering in a rundown hospital
He lives life to the full however , even in this seemingly gloomy clinic.
His foil is the Communist Party hack Pavel Rusanov , a man who has no heart and soul at all other than the Communist Party itself , in whose name he has cold-bloodedly ruined countless lives.
Now he lies in the cancer ward layed low by a disease that even the mighty Party cannot save him from .

Kostoglotov lives life to the full in the ward and has an interesting relationship with two remarkable women -the dedicated and beautiful Dr Vera Gangart and the vibrant and attractive young nurse Zoya.

Through the stories of the many people in this book we learn of the type of society they lived in ,and there are profound observations on so many subjects in life that are extremely memorable.
Always in the classic Russian combination between hope and depression where neither completely triumph over the other , but rather vie in a dependant type of antagonism .
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2009
I love this book. It is superbly well observed and written and shows the many different angles of the human experience of cancer as well as giving a very strong and interesting historical perspective and political analogy. Reading this book has got me through quite a dark phase of my own experience of advanced cancer.
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61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2001
Simply put, one of the greatest novels of all time. This may seem a rather grandiose and even foolhardy statement to make, but I firmly believe it to be true. Supremely provocative and involving, Cancer Ward tells the story of Kostoglotov, a man who suffers hardship at the hands of the Soviet State, and the cancerous corruption it represents. The disillusion with what socialism has become serves as a backdrop to the story of a number of men, all fighting to overcome cancer. There is so much I could say about this most wonderful of books. As it is, I cannnot advise you strongly enough to read it. Not only is it a devastatingly incisive analysis of the soviet state, but a beautiful study of the human spirit.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2000
Strange how one can learn so much about Russia in the post Stalin years from a book about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn own experiances in the cancer wards. To be honest I was a little wary of reading a 500 page novel about a hospital, but i'm glad I took the time and effect. It is very emotional and the characters within are deep and real. An interesting, heart felt and informative read, even better if you can cope with some of the unpronouncable russian names that appear within it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 7 June 2009
Another wonderful book by Solzhenitsyn - truly one of the greatest writers of all time. There's so much to say about this book and so much in it that I thnk it would be foolhardy of me to start - I'd never finish! So thought-provoking on so many vitally important subjects e.g. human relationships, emotional needs, facing illness and death, medical practice, frustration and bureaucracy, politics, betrayal, social structures and tension, Soviet history and society, even what constitutes happiness. A meaty, stimulating and evocative read to be revelled in. What a talent! Impressive.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 15 December 1999
It touches an immensely heavy subject - cancer, with its fears, pains and horrible experiences. At the same time it gives a huge look inside people both oppressed and supportive to Soviet regime. A book on the character, love and passion that can still exist under both physical and moral suppression - both under the regime and one's health. Must reak for those wishing to understand Soviet mentality of both prisoners and regime's supporters. The most honest and objective author for Stalin's era! I wish I could meet him personally and talk about our past, present and future, even though I am not Russian but grew up in the USSR, in the city where the book's narrative took place - Tashkent.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 3 December 2000
Contrary to what might be assumed from the title this book is life affirming, particularly in the form of the main protagonist, Oleg Kostoglotov. If you want to be informed about the state of Russia in the immediate post-Stalin era or want to read a superbly written indictment of collectivism, or simply want a good old fashioned love story - this is for you! Has to be one of the top one hundred novels ever written.
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on 29 August 2015
I was always tempted to read ‘Cancer Ward’ but was hesitant because of the ‘heavy’ themes of serious illness and Soviet totalitarianism. But having, at last, plucked up the courage to read the novel, I was rewarded with a brilliant piece of literature.

Solzhenitsyn’s semi-autobiographical – and allegorical – masterpiece is a joy to read. Despite its sombre themes, Solzhenitsyn colours the book with an array of fascinating characters, who represent strands of Soviet society.

The author exposes the intellectual and moral vacuum that existed at the heart of the Soviet state, using the metaphor of cancer.
And battling against the system, is the book’s central character, Oleg Kostoglotov.

Like Solzhenitsyn himself, the world-weary exile and cancer patient, Kostoglotov is ex-Red Army and an ex-Gulag inmate. But despite his invidious position, Kostoglotov shines with humanity, decency and love – qualities absent from the brutal Soviet system.

Part love story, part autobiography, part medical ethics, ‘Cancer Ward’ is, above all, a historical novel that teaches us about what matters in life and what is superfluous. Though set in the 1950s and in the Soviet Union, the book contains a message to all of us, and it resonates today.
‘Cancer Ward’ was Solzhenitsyn’s gift to the world. It’s a wonderful book that deserves to be read.
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on 11 October 2013
His greatest novel, indeed, one of the greatest works of fiction ever written. This massive work follows in the finest traditions of great Russian Literature over the previous 200 years.

Partly autobiographical, Solzhenitsyn had himself been a political prisoner in the Gulag and was treated and cured of cancer in the 1950s. Yet this is not a narrative of just the author's sufferings but the sufferings of a nation ripped apart by the terror of Stalinism and blitzed, raped and slaughtered by WW2.

The survivors are grouped together in a drab provincial hospital where they have to continue the struggle against a disease that will get them all eventually. The Cancer of the Stalin State and all its hideous outcomes proving a far greater enemy than the illness itself.

Bleak, yes, but a beautiful book as well. A love story supreme from the master himself, surely the greatest novelist of the 20th Century. Hats off to a Genius.
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Solzhenitsyn is a favourite author of mine. He writes in a straight forward manner which seems to translate easily from the Russian. He conveys the social and political upheaval of the times, (under Stalin), he himself having spent time in the camps and in exile. I found having read most of the Gulag Archipelago helpful in understanding Cancer Ward. The former is a more comprehensive look in to the gulag system which forms a backdrop for much of Cancer Ward and helps to form the characters, who being drawn from various positions within this society, now face each other with a common enemy. This in itself would seem to provide a fertile environment for dialogue.
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