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August 1914: The Red Wheel 1: A Narrative in Discrete Periods of Time: 001 Paperback – 31 Aug 2000

4.8 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Revised edition edition (31 Aug. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140071229
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140071221
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 3.7 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,145,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
This is a massive historical novel about the Russian campaign against the Germans in the first month of the First World War.
A large cast of characters shows the great-hearted Russian troops undermined by incompetence behind the lines and lying, cowardly generals. It's a depressingly familiar story, but Solzhenitsyn's ability to fire your sympathy for individual characters, despite their flaws, still had me biting my fist and begging that the inevitable didn't happen, and outraged by the hypocrisy in high places which betrayed the sacrifice of the men at the front line.
A narrative which moves from one part of the scattered Russian armies to another is united by the figure of Colonel Vorotyntsev, an idealistic young officer who tries against the odds to co-ordinate Russian efforts against the German forces, superior in strategy, communications and modern weaponry. The war story requires some poring over maps of Germany and Poland, but more than repays the effort.
Since the book is set in 1914, there's no direct comment on the Communist regime which followed so swiftly afterwards. But scenes from rural life and in student bars are nostalgic for the history of a country which would soon change so enormously. Through this, as well as the narrative of the war, this book forcefully brings home the impact of politics on individual lives.
From teenage onwards we're fed the futility and despair of the massacre of young British men in World War One, and for me at least, it's taken Pat Barker's novels to allow me to absorb those emotions freshly. August 1914 did the same while awakening me to the fact that it wasn't just Western Europe that suffered this tragic fate.
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By A Customer on 23 Feb. 2000
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first read this book about 35 years ago in the original English edition. I was hugely impressed with it then and re-read it once a few years later. I wanted to read it again now and was surprised to find that it was not in print. How could one of the great books of the 20th century be out of print? So, I bought a second hand copy of the 1989 edition which has been much revised and expanded by the author with the addition of chapters about the assasination of Stolypin and a study of Nicholas II. I think that the book has been almost ruined by these changes. The new chapters plod along, lacking the inspiration of Solzhenitsyn's earlier work. As for the chapters directly concernng the campaign of August 1914, it is difficult to commment not having the earlier edition to hand but they do differ from my 30 plus year old memory of them.

My advice is to buy the earlier edition if you can.
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
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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