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Paperback November 1916: The Red Wheel/Knot II Book

ISBN: 0374527032

ISBN13: 9780374527037

November 1916: The Red Wheel/Knot II

(Book #2 in the The Red Wheel Series)

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Book Overview

In time for the centenary of the beginning of the Russian Revolution, a new edition of the Russian Nobelist's major work The month of November 1916 in Russia was outwardly quiet--the proverbial calm... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Second Part of an Epic Novel

This is the second volume of Solzhenitsyn's epic "The Red Wheel" and, unlike "August 1914", this book focuses more on Russian society than the war. A number of the same characters return from the first work and Solzhenitsyn takes them, and the reader, to the parlors of St. Petersburg, the homes of Moscow, the trenches, the schools, the factories, the farms, and the legislative assemblies. It is an astonishing work, capturing the mood in Russia before chaos consumed her and showing the last days of a failing society. There are some flaws. Solzhenitsyn continues using the "camera eye" technique that he used in the first novel and, again, does not quite succeed with it. He is better in his use of newspaper headlines than he was in "August 1914." Where he truly fails though is in the numerous essays he includes giving the history of political parties, legislative leaders, even transcripts from the Duma debates. It is a bit too much and Solzhenitsyn is not particularly subtle in his contempt for progressives and society. Where Solzhenitsyn excels is when his characters dominate the narrative. Above all, the powers of redemption and love flow through the book despite the chaos, despite the coming Soviet horror. There are scenes that remain with the reader: a priest and a young officer talking about faith in the trenches; a colonel who comes to St. Petersburg to make a major political impact only to have it undermined by his attraction to a woman, a woman going to confession crying over her dead child, a writer on a train and his assorted notes and musings. This is an epic book to be sure but Solzhenitsyn is truly incredible when he describes the intimate moments of daily life. Be warned. While the book was translated in English a decade ago, the last two volumes have yet to be translated. Despite the book being over a 1,000 pages and a difficult read, you will want more. "The Red Wheel" is not for everyone but those who pursue it will find one of the greatest novels written in the last half of the twentieth century.

Monumental Wave of Events

Although the second book of the series (following AUGUST 1914 by 20 something years) was written so much later than its "prequel" it still resonates. What a fantastic story!! The slow and inevitable passage of events, the horrors of WW1, the breakdown of authority in imperialist Russia - all combine into an awesome conjunction of people and events.But it is the characters that make this tale, for the lives of the individuals are what gives this story meaning. The author also presumes that one is at least somewhat familiar with the history of the time. I have always had trouble with the long, unpronouncable Slavic names (shortening them in my mind for readability) but if one persists, it is well worth the effort. Solzhenitsyn is trying to WRITE history, to tell a story that he considers of utmost importance not only to the Russian people but to the rest of the world.

Will Still Be Read in the 22nd Century

My approach to reading the two Red Wheel volumes has not been ideal, since I read each when it was first avaiable in English translation. The 25 year separation between the two "knots" was not ideal for me as a reader, but then the circumstances faced by the author have never been ideal. The second knot, November 1916, will reward your reading efforts with a recreation of the Great War's Eastern front, and of the unfolding disaster in the Russian heartland, that cannot be found elsewhere. Since the horrors in the process of being unleashed in the month captured here by Solzhenitsyn have not yet run their full course, one cannot, even as late as the year 2003, assess the full damage. But this novel lets us glimpse, and perhaps understand, the beginning of a nightmare--for a great people and for all of humanity.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

In November 1916, Solzhenitsyn continues the story she started in August 1914 - the grand saga of conflicting forces that led to the revolution of 1917. At an even 1000 pages, the book would seem overlong except that despite its length it can barely contain the numerous characters, movements, 'plots', conspiracies, and ideas that form the mosaic the author presents of Russia on the eve of revolt. There are a number of things that strike the reader in reading this book. One is the general description of conditions in Moscow and St. Petersburg at the time: extreme inflation, unavailability of goods, long lines waiting in bad weather for whatever is available in stores, conspicuous displays of wealth by some in the face of extreme poverty by most, capricious strikes and labor shutdowns, lack of any agreement on action among the leaders of the government and a general sense that the government has betrayed the people. Having just read David Remnick's excellent book Resurrection: The Struggle for a New Russia, it seems that not much has really changed there since the early decades of the century. Despite the 'success' of the Soviet Union in WWII, the space race and the huge effort at industrialization, Russia seems to be prey once again to the same despair and chaos that bred the last revolution.This book works as both a historical summary of conditions at the time and as an engrossing human story of various people (soldiers, revolutionaries, peasants, writers, and government officials) caught up in those conditions. The human meaning, and cost, is never lost in the 'big picture' but is used to help clarify it. Like most Russian literature, this book is filled with talk, excellent conversation and argument, emotional displays of temper and grief, and enough self doubt and inconsistency to make 100 versions of Hamlet. Intermingled with the story also are long sections of historical expositon, often quotes from actual speeches, dispatches, articles and proclaimations. Less interesting than the story of his main characters, these sections nevertheless add a great deal of depth to our understanding of the 'present' circumstances presented in the book.One of the best aspects of the book for me was the portait of Lenin in Switzerland - fussy, neurotic, and constantly lecturing everyone else about his brand of socialism while living off his mother's (and other's) charity. The subplot relating Germany's effort to get Lenin to foment a revolution in Russia so that eastern front could be retired, is fascinating.Anyone who enjoys Russian literature will find much to appreciate in November 1916. It is in the grand tradition of great Russian fiction that touches the heart while stimulating the mind. There is never any doubt about Solzhenitsyn's values and beliefs, but he can still create a three dimensional world where even what he hates glows with real life.


This is not an easy read. It took me nearly a year to go through its French translation, but it was well worth it. I read it as though it were divided in three volumes. Nothing has given me a better feel for Russia shortly before the 1917 revolution and the irrationality and obsessiveness that were its background. People stopped thinking and just wanted to get rid of the Czar. What they got was much worse. A must for anybody interested in understanding Russia and the profound crisis of Western culture that reached its climax first with World War I, and later Hitler and his infernal madness.
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