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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

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Book Overview

The first published novel from the controversial Nobel Prize winning Russian author of The Gulag Archipelago . In the madness of World War II, a dutiful Russian soldier is wrongfully convicted of... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Ivan Denisovich is a symbol of bravery.

I love this book. Ivan Denisovich is a symbol of bravery of the human spirit in despair. This story is necessary for all of us who used to the living in a society that supports freedom. The images of the Siberian camps in the Stalinist era are disturbing but impressive. There are many powerful outlines that express what a prisoner has to do in order to survive. Solzhenitsyn captures the society's dehumanization masterly. I was arrested in this story, making me feel as if I am Ivan Denisovich's cellmate. This is a masterwork on the psychology of continued existence. Reading about Ivan's life changed how I live each day. My uncle met Solzhenitsyn in CT. Great man. I wish I met him. He is one of my idols.

The Sickness of Communism

"One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, is one of those books that look deceptive. It isn't that long, and it's a little mass-market paperback that would blow away with the wind. Even the cover design really doesn't convey what lies inside. What we have with this book is a worthy contribution to the annals of Russian literature. Solzhenitsyn finds himself in the ranks of Tolstoy, Turgenev, and Gogol with this gripping tale of the Stalinist Gulag system. Solzhenitsyn went on to write a massive indictment of the Gulag system in a three-volume work called, "The Gulag Archipelago." Solzhenitsyn won a Nobel Prize for Literature and found himself exiled, forcibly, from the Soviet Union for his writings. He returned to Russia after the collapse of Communism.As the title indicates, the story covers one day in Ivan Denisovich's ten-year prison sentence. Ivan is a peasant who runs afoul of the authorities when the Germans capture him during the war. When he finds his way back to the Soviet camp, the authorities charge him with treason and sentence him to the camps. Denisovich is luckier than many of his fellow convicts; they are serving 25-year sentences. This day is better for Ivan than most; he ends up getting a better work assignment, a member of his squad gets a parcel loaded with food, and Ivan manages to get extra food rations. He even scores some tobacco, his only weakness.Ivan lives day by day; it is the only way he can survive the camps. What is most shocking about this book is the matter-of-fact way in which the story is told. All of life is reduced to acquiring food and staying warm. Following the rules and avoiding punishment is just as important. Woe to the man who ends up in the guardhouse cells for ten days. I was nauseated by how hard Ivan worked on the power plant. Here's a guy who is a prisoner, forced to lay bricks in the middle of winter, and he is busting his hump to do a good job. But in a way, this can be uplifting, too. Ivan refuses to give up to the brutality of his condition. Every day is a struggle, but Ivan never grouses or causes problems. He accepts everything camp life throws at him and triumphs. You get the impression that Ivan is going to make it out of the camp no matter what.This is an excellent book that exposes the real face of Communism. No matter how brutal Communism is (or was) as a system of government, it failed to crush the spirit of humanity. I recommend reading this book in conjunction with Arthur Koestler's "Darkness at Noon," another book that exposes the sickness of Communism.

Stimulus to a Searching, Introspective Analysis

"One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" is indeed a powerful book. Were it merely the grim testimonial to life in the Soviet Gulags or a witness to infringed liberties, its force would be staggering. Were it a testimony to the indomitableness of human nature, it would be crushing. As it is, it shatters our perception of man and ourselves as no other book, save Anne Franke`s diary and the testemony of Elie Wiesl, could ever have done. However, it is more than all the above. "One Day" is actually a searching look at human nature. The biting wind, jagged wire, frigid climate, watery soup, and the warmth provided by an extra pair of mittens or an hour of hard physical labor all find matches in the colorful crowd of characters that parades through this narrative - from the prison guards to the prisoners themselves to the prison director to the turncoat prisoners who sold their integrity for the favor of their oppressors.This is a book to be read, first of all, for its historical value - a tribute to those who were imprisoned but whose voices were never heard, and a silent plea to commit all our forces to the proposition that such vileness will never reach our liberty-loving shores. No less importantly, this is a book that should prompt us to turn our eyes inward and question ourselves whether, in our own way, we are capable of committing the same atrocities against our fellow man, and whether, if subjected to the same suffering, we would have the strength of character to find as much comfort in a bowl of soup as we do now in the transient, unfounded knowledge that such inhumanity will not touch us.

Life in a gulag, on one fine day

I read this book on the recommendation of a friend, who said he literally shivered through the entire book. So did I.This is Solzhenitsyn's tribute to the millions of people lost inside the Gulag Archipelago. Unlike the mammoth Archipelago, which documents the evil prison camp system of the Soviets, this is an intimate story of just one man, Ivan Denisovitch, who is sent to the impossibly harsh camp because he returned as a prisoner-of-war and was thus by definition, a traitor. The book takes place over one day in Ivan's life in the Gulag. He schemes for an extra ration of bread, he survives an inspection, he grasps the crumbs of existence that literally are the difference between life and death. At the end of this day, you feel as cold as the sub-zero Siberian air. This book is utterly brilliant and, though depressing, heroic. Ivan never sacrifices his humanity for a moment. There was an actual biography (now out of print) by Victor Herman called Coming out of the Ice. He was an American caught in the Stalin purges and imprisoned in a Siberian gulag. He survived the deadly games of partial cannabalism and lived on rats he trapped. He eventually got out and was able to document his experience. It compares exactly to Ivan Denisovitch. (By the way, where did the gulags go after the fall of the USSR?)

A Penetrating Look Into the Human Condition

Highly recommended reading! Many have hailed Solzhenitsyn as a modern Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Turgenev or Gorky, and I fully concur. He, like many of his Russian literary predecessors, is able to penetrate into the inmost workings of the human consciousness. The book does indeed display the atrocities of the Russian labor camps under the rule of Stalin, yet it goes much further than this. Solzhenitsyn elucidates the struggle to make life "normal" even in the midst of utterly inhumane circumstances. He shows how people search for dignity and respect though thrown into the lowliest of situations. So you walk away from this book, not simply with a feeling of disgust at the treatment of people, but with an better understanding of the human condition. You may find yourself asking "How could they have possibly continued in such a state?"; Ah, but they did.
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