The Gulag Archipelago, Volume 2: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, 1918-1956 (P.S.) by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn (2007-08-07) Paperback – 1656
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But what Solzhenitsyn diagnoses is the pathology of a culture in self-destruct mode, one which allows the Lenins and the Stalins of this world just enough credence and space to perpetrate their evils. Whilst he uses Russian or Soviet terminology to describe this phenomenon, what we see are the kinds of sentiment, intellectual dishonesty and absence of accountability that are now prevalent within left-leaning secular western culture. Time and time again, as he describes the disingenuous self-justifications of the communist leadership in pre and post-war Russia, I was reminded that I have encountered the very same kinds of prevarication within our own regulatory bodies in the UK, the same lines of reasoning, based upon the same set of values and beliefs about human nature and civilisation.
This is a beautifully-written book. It is full of righteous anger at the phenomenal human waste perpetrated by the communist ideologues, and humour too. It is not written according to a modern, western discipline of analysis, but then much of it was composed within Solzhenitsyn's head whilst he served his time within the Gulags. We encounter many thinkers, at that time, who were unable to write anything down - and so they memorised their entire oeuvre, in the hopes that one day they might be free to write it down. As the author observes, what Hitler got up to, in relation to the Jews, was a mere dress rehearsal compared to what Lenin and Stalin achieved between them, pre and post-WW2. Yet Hitler's evils feature prominently within our self-awareness because he was a fascist, yet Stalin's predations seem to get a free pass, because Western thinkers were fawning over the wonderful advances of socialism, and turning a blind eye to its very obvious evils.
A slight frustration with this edition is the number of chapters summarised only by a title and a couple of explanatory lines - but this was, originally, a massive three-volume work. It is nothing short of a miracle that we have this - and in my opinion, it should be required reading on every booklist before it is too late.
Anyone used to Russian literature, especially Dostoevsky, will have no trouble readin this true tale of woe, and anyone unfamiliar with the Russian master will also live through the abridged one-volume reduction of the vast 1,700 three-volume Gulag Archipelago from which this paperback is culled. Culled! Yes, indeed. There is a blend of literary sensibility and journalistic reportage, combined with the classic Russian macabre humour, that positively enables the reading of this account of the unparalleled suffering of the Russian people under the Soviet system. A common hyperbolic adjective is 'indescribable', often missapplied. IT IS DESCRIBED, VIVIDLY, but what it is not is comprehensible. Somewhere in the recesses of my memory is a TV programme that I think broadcast cartoon images drawn inside the camps, illustrating the horrific cruelties meeted (sic) out by the inmates alone, which are a fraction of the reality. And the reader's mind must read and understand and not comprehend, or else suicide through despair would be the likely outcome.
Thank heavens for the humour. Humour allows us to bear-up with anything. I'm reminded of Shostakovich's 13th Symphony with its verses in praise of humour. He truly is an excellent fellow. There's less humour in the incendiary foreword to this book provided by Canada's favourite intelligencer, Dr/Prof. Jordan Peterson. Like many, I'm sure, I was led to/reminded of this literary masterpiece by Peterson's frequent referencing of this text in both his academic lectures and public talks criticising the Left-wing when it is out of control. He really is furious that this book, and the reality which inspired it, are not common knowledge in the West. One can't help wondering if the reported mass hysteria and SJW (Social Justice Warrior) madness on US/Canada university campuses might not be diluted irrevocably by even the first paragraph of the chapter entitled 'Interrogation'. The cruelties doled out by the Soviet authorities are nothing short of ASTOUNDING! The brutalities. The hatred without boundaries, and no-one immune, no-one safe from arrest in the name of the quotas, and in the name of the Great Shepherd of the people, Stalin. STALIN! This book makes the Nazis look like pussycats, WW1 a vacation, the Holocaust an act of mercy. YOU CAN'T COMPREHEND!, BUT YOU MUST READ! READ AND UNDERSTAND, you well-meaning Lefties. This is what The People can come to.
I'm making brisk progress through this nightmare, surprisingly, and expect to finish within a few days. If nothing else, you'll think twice before complaining about your hard and unfair existence, after reading about construction work undertaken at 50 below zero, without any proper tools, and only your pyjamas to wear, and no shoes.
And no, the Brits don't come out of this smelling of roses, nor the Yanks. Everybody was complicit, to some small degree, if only out of wide-eyed vacancy of mind, gullibility, and bloody-minded credulity.
Desribing Hell has always been more vivid an experience than describing Heaven. Here is Hell on Earth.
As regards the rest of the book, the paper used is of poor quality, the cover is unusually flimsy, however, I would have let this go if I could have read the book as it was not expensive but in truth, I would have expected a price tag of £6.99 if I had bought this book in a shop, not relating to its content but the quality of manufacture.