August 1914: The Red Wheel 1: A Narrative in Discrete Periods of Time: 001 Paperback – 31 Aug 2000
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
My advice is to buy the earlier edition if you can.
**If interested in Russia another good book is "We, The Living" by Ayn Rand
'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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A novel set in a Moscow communications laboratory manned by expert political prisoners in the 1950s. Read morePublished 3 months ago by mr
Bought for book club - just finished reading it this week - it is a LONG read. But I am glad it was chosen and we had a wonderful discussion of the book yesterday. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Maureen Rae
This is a very long story, but I am enjoying it. I read it in small "snatches" because it is historical, and one has to concentrate hard to follow the intricacies of the... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Grantastic
Nothing about this book looks fun. Boring, literary-allusion name, set in a Soviet prison, takes 700 pages to cover just three days during which nothing much happens. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Toreados