How to honour Solzhenitsyn?


I’ve not read a word of the Gulag Archipelago. I did read Anne Applebaum’s book Gulag a few years ago, and thought it was phenomenal. Aside from its obvious historical importance, is the GA still worth reading?
By which I mean: given that my book-reading time is finite (and growing more finite by the minute), what would be the best way of honouring Solzhenitsyn? Should I read his book, or is there another book about the gulag or related topic that I should read instead? (Note: I have not read Primo Levi, nor have I read Proust).

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How to honour Solzhenitsyn?

  1. I’m not sure how you “honour” an author by
    reading a book by another author….
    GA was worth reading but it was not “literature”.
    Ivan D. was literature. Others – The Cancer Ward,
    The First Circle, are worth reading.
    It is more worth while,at this date,reading about
    Solzhenitsyn. He was a simple and complex and
    difficult man.

  2. I agree with the above. Gulag A is good, but it is learning. Iven Denisovitch is transcendental. It is the book I take with me on every trip I go on because I can read it ad infinitum. And it is short, small and easy to pack – only one day after all.

    Most of what can be said about the human spirit is said in Ivan Denisovitch.

  3. Gulag Archipelago fits into the same category on the “books to read” taxonomy as Joyce’s Ulysses – it’s a book to own more obviously than it is a book to read. You’ll want it for reference, and in order to dip in and out of passages as the mood strikes you. Oh, and vol. 1 is enough for most – the subsequent two volumes are for, shall we say, completists only.

  4. you must read it.

    my great grandmother fled stalin with kids in tow – men killed/left behind.

    too many anglos are totally oblivious to the total bankruptcy of communism – go to an ndp meeting, you’ll find plenty of clueless english-ancestry morons who condemn capitalism while extolling communism.

    don’t be another fool – read it.

  5. Actually,Solzhenitsyn was in the process of
    writing his first book – in praise of true
    socialism – when he was arrested for criticism
    of Stalin in a personal letter.
    So you can read his works as a condemnation of
    communism if you like. Or as a condemnation of
    cult-of-personality tyranny no matter what the
    ideological label.
    At this point in history (it’s not dead) it
    probably doesn’t matter what you call it.

  6. And,just as an addendum, my great-great-great
    grandparents fled the anglos with kids in tow.

  7. First priority to read: “A Day in the Life of Ivan Desinovich”. I read it at 14 or 15 and it changed me forever.

    Secondly I would recommend “First Circle”. Great book, it illustrates the worker’s paradise from a different angle.

    As Bob Taratino notes above, if you read the first volume of Gulag, you get the message. The immense, bureaucratic millstones will grind you down. Volume three has interesting stuff on specific groups, I like the chapter on Party member prisoners the best.

  8. I can still remember reading the Gulag decades later. I had read about individual cruelty and madness, but the Gulag let me see how a whole system of cruelty and madness can first be assembled and then run successfully for decades.

    I think it is a must read.

  9. Try “Cancer Ward” – my first Solzhenitsyn and the one I remember best.

  10. Given your time is finite, you ought to just read his 1978 commencment addres at Harvard University. It gives a very good and concise veiw of his philosophy and what he was attempting to get at throught his writing.

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