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A tough read in more ways than one
on 14 February 2017
The Gulag Archipelago is no-doubt a very important book. At the time of its publication (1958 - 1968) it threw light on the previously hidden world of Soviet detention camps where millions were kept prisoner for minor infractions. As Solzhenitsyn says, the Soviet government could not govern without the threat of imprisonment. That being said, the way the book is compiled / written makes it a hard slog. Firstly, Solzhenitsyn refers to places, people and camps in a flurry which can be confusing. He often compares different camps from different decades in the same paragraph. He has a very sardonic tone throughout which can be wearing, and mocks both the prison guards and those who were stupid enough to support the Soviet system (including prisoners such as himself). He lacks the humanity expressed by Primo Levi in his similar work, Is This A Man? This book is a momentous task and achievement but I felt cold throughout.