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The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 Abridged: An Experiment in Literary…

av Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Andra författare: Edward E. Ericson (Abridged by)

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Serier: The Gulag Archipelago (Abridged)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1,780226,837 (4.13)2
Drawing on his own experiences before, during, and after his 11 years of incarceration and exile, Solzhenitsyn reveals with torrential narrative and dramatic power the entire apparatus of Soviet repression. Through truly Shakespearean portraits of its victims, we encounter the secret police operations, the labor camps and prisons, the uprooting or extermination of whole populations. Yet we also witness astounding moral courage, the incorruptibility with which the occasional individual or a few scattered groups, all defenseless, endured brutality and degradation. Solzhenitsyn's genius has transmuted this grisly indictment into a literary miracle.… (mer)

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What kind of a book is The Gulag Archipelago? While it is encyclopedic in its breadth it also demonstrates the characteristics of autobiography, history, and the epic while using a novelistic literary style – and what else? In a certain sense Solzhenitsyn’s writings may be classified in many ways. The Gulag Archipelago is important for its relationship with each type of work the author has undertaken, and thus it should be considered as central to his literary endeavors.

The abridged version is divided into Seven “Parts” (The original was three separate volumes of more than a thousand pages in total). There are many events, issues, and ideas covered in the book. Here I only mention selected topics, while there are many more that could be noted. He opens with “And those who, like you and me, dear reader, go there to die, must get there solely and compulsorily via arrest.” (p 3) Somehow I was reminded of Kafka's The Trial.

The selection process was political but there was a sort of classification process – noting such issues as quotas, the bureaucratic inconsistencies, propagandists, and the war against the bourgeoisie. He discussed the nature of Interrogations: including the inquisition, investigation, and psychological torture/games. And in most cases one could not be prepared for the departure:
“So what is the answer? How can you stand your ground when you are weak and sensitive to pain, when people you love are still alive, when you are unprepared?” (p 63)

The were the guards - the “Blue Caps” - which reminded me of “The Guardians” from Plato's The Republic. And there was a reference to Socrates: “Socrates taught us: Know thyself! Confronted by the pit into which we are about to toss those who have done us harm, we halt, stricken dumb: it is after all only because of the way things worked out that they were the executioners and we weren't.” (p 75)

Somehow it was possible for Solzhenitsyn to develop thoughts that prison “was not an abyss for me” and how it was a turning point in his life. In every person and place one would encounter Orwellian moments like trying to discern the difference between a "sentence" and "an imposed administrative penalty." From time to time the author would talk directly to the “compassionate reader”. These comments, usually personal notes, were not really significantly different than the rest of the text. The voice of the author was often personal and while the text as a whole read like history, it could have been some other type of literature?

Forgetting and remembering: “We forget everything. What we remember is not what actually happened, not history, but merely that hackneyed dotted line they have chosen to drive into our memories by incessant hammering.” (p 120) There was Stalin and the Show Trials: “Even if Stalin had killed no others, I believe he deserved to be drawn and quartered just for the lives of those six Tsarskoye Selo peasants! . . . 'The peoples of all the world remember him as a friend.' But not those on whose backs he rode, whom he slashed with his knout.” (p 132)

He wondered - does the person behind bars have a soul, or is it hidden or purged by the rigors of confinement? And yet the catalog continued: The Ports: “this is after all a whole epic, another ten volumes of Remembrance of Things Past: to describe the perturbation of a human soul placed in a cell filled to twenty times its capacity and with no latrine bucket,” (p 161)
The Caravans: “the red trains can go into emptiness: and wherever one does go, there immediately rises right next to it, out of the sea of the steppe or the sea of the taiga, a new island of the Archipelago.” (p 167)

The camps were like a malignant cancer, spreading across the steppes, forming an “Archipelago”. Yet, the story of the camps was hidden. How was that possible – and who was complicit in hiding? This was a conundrum. The Archipelago “metastasizes”, it “hardens”. And there was a comparison to Serfdom: “And we agree with that: there are more differences. But what is surprising that all the differences are to the credit of serfdom!” (p 216)

What was worse? The monotony or the deadly daily struggle and the life of work without end. Then there were the “dogs”, the “camp keepers” where he provided insight into the camp bureaucracy. Even satire appears in the book. The discussion of the profitability of the camps was one such topic; also I was moved by a comment about the beauty of the lack of meetings.
One Dostoevsky reference was fascinating: “Our teachers, who had never served time themselves, felt for prisoners only the natural sympathy of the outsider. Dostoyevsky, however, who served time himself, was a proponent of punishment! And this is something worth thinking about.” (p 304)

Yet Solzhenitsyn would go on to discuss the nature of katorga, penal servitude – as if they needed special camps for the “traitors”. Ultimately there was release, but did it have any meaning? “But there is a curse on those “released” under the joyless sky of the Archipelago, and as they move into freedom the clouds will grow darker.” (p 444)

There was even some political history when he described the connections between the camps and the changes in the political regimes from Lenin and Stalin to Beria and Khrushchev. “Nikita had only just allowed the screws of his very own system to be turned no less tight. . . Rulers change, the Archipelago remains.” (p 457) ( )
  jwhenderson | Nov 29, 2020 |
Escrito clandestinamente de 1958 a 1967, o manuscrito de "O Arquipélago Gulag" foi descoberto pelo KGB em 1973, na sequência da prisão de Elizabeth Voronskaïa, uma colaboradora de Soljenítsin que o dactilografava.
Na sequência disso, Soljenítsin, que tinha sido galardoado com o Prémio Nobel em 1970, decide publicar o livro no exterior. Uma primeira edição em russo é publicada em Paris ainda em 1973 e depois finalmente a edição francesa, no verão de 1974. Soljenítsin fora entretanto preso, acusado de traição, despojado da nacionalidade soviética e enviado para o exílio, onde estará vinte anos, até ao seu regresso à Rússia em 1994.

Para realizar este extraordinário livro, Soljenítsin foi ajudado pelo testemunho de 227 sobreviventes dos campos do Gulag. O livro agora publicado pela Sextante, no âmbito do projeto de edição em língua portuguesa das principais obras do autor, é a versão abreviada, num só volume, preparada por Soljenítsin e por sua mulher, Natália, com o objetivo de tornar mais acessível este livro aos leitores estrangeiros e a novos leitores. Traduzida diretamente do russo por António Pescada, eis pois uma obra excecional, um livro de combate contra o totalitarismo de face estalinista, um livro que ainda hoje nos queima as mãos.

Não esqueçamos as palavras de Soljenítsin: «Devemos condenar publicamente a ideia de que homens possam exercer tal violência sobre outros homens. Calando o mal, fechando-o dentro do nosso corpo para que não saia para o exterior, afinal semeamo-lo.»
  LuisFragaSilva | Nov 9, 2020 |
I thought I would never finish reading this because I had to keep stopping to think about what I read and keep trying to put things into some kind of perspective. How do people ever recover from such tragic experiences? I take my freedom and civil rights for granted, and I can't even begin to imagine living in a nation where free speech and individuality do not exist.
This was a compelling read, and I highly recommend it. Yes, it will require a time investment, but it's guaranteed to make you appreciate freedom more than ever. ( )
  MadMaudie | Sep 5, 2020 |
It's eerie to read this novel today with everything going on in the United States and elsewhere with populist leaders seeming to try to take hold and tear down many of the establishments western society holds so important. What a read, I think this novel really shows how depraved and sick human leadership and society can become if the proper foundations and morals/ethics aren't in place and enforced as they should be. The novel is extremely readable and despite the material I found myself eagerly reading through page after page. It made me so sorry to think of how many good lives were wasted and how many opportunities missed not only in Russia but all countries where policies were enforced such as what early soviet Russia had. If only more people today read and try to understand the past and what roads are possible if we don't try to work together ethically and keep trying to make things better for all and not just the lucky few who are in power. ( )
  briandarvell | Aug 7, 2020 |
"… to describe the perturbation of a human soul placed in a cell filled to twenty times its capacity and with no latrine bucket…" (pg. 161)

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's dense, sprawling The Gulag Archipelago is a hard book to appraise, not only because of the sombre weight of its content but because it is impossible to classify. A history, a journalistic account, a personal memoir, a polemic, a piece of philosophy, a cultural document, with some novelistic flourishes in the Russian tradition… it is all of these, and yet none of them stand alone as an adequate qualifier. A 'literary investigation' is how Solzhenitsyn subtitles the book, and that is perhaps the closest approximation.

The Foreword to the 50th anniversary edition of the book, written by Jordan B. Peterson, emphasises the philosophical aspect of Solzhenitsyn's writing: the totalitarian nature of the gulags ("if you did manage to poison yourself, you would only make the task of the authorities easier" (pg. 353)); the importance of truth ("every word, if it does not have to be a direct lie, is nonetheless obliged not to contradict the general, common lie" (pg. 325)) and free exchange of ideas (pg. 452); the dangerous follies of ideology (pg. 77), regardless of the particulars of that ideology; and, perhaps most importantly, the human nature of both prisoner and guard, including perhaps Solzhenitsyn's finest (and oft-quoted) piece of writing, where he explains how "the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart" (pg. 312 – a similar passage is on pg. 75). "If my life had turned out differently," Solzhenitsyn asks on page 73, "might I myself not have become just such an executioner?" These ideas, Peterson correctly identifies, are the greatest riches of The Gulag Archipelago, and his astute Foreword focuses a message that can sometimes be lost in the mass of the book itself.

Peterson has said, elsewhere, that The Gulag Archipelago is perhaps the most important book of the 20th century. If this is the case, it is not because of the dexterity of the book itself, but because of its implications; implications that Solzhenitsyn himself doesn't consistently explore. Even in this abridgement (an excellent one, and one of the few books that is improved by such an action), the great bulk of the book is a litany of dry reportage from the gulags, whether that be Solzhenitsyn's personal reflections, accounts from other prisoners across the Soviet Union, observations on the day-to-day workings of the camps, or passages on how the gulag system was birthed. It is a worthy endeavour – many of these stories would be lost otherwise – but a repetitive one. There are passages with a literary flourish, and sometimes entire chapters with a consistent fire, like 'The Ascent' (pp299-313), but it is often hard to hold on to Solzhenitsyn's thread, even if you can identify it.

Nevertheless, it is an impressive achievement. Even if the book's literary merit is diminished by the fact its difficulty comes more from the density of the content than any literary complexity, just consider how unlikely this achievement is. Solzhenitsyn's manuscripts were confiscated by the secret police, his archives were raided, much was written from memory or from fragments – and that's even before you consider the overwhelming nature of writing about a continent's worth of gulag, or the mental hurdles Solzhenitsyn had to overcome in order to process his own personal experience within that system. Solzhenitsyn acknowledges the "jerkiness of the book", and when he marks this out as emblematic of Russia's "persecuted literature" during the Soviet years (pg. 470), he's not wrong. The fact that this book was not only conceived, but completed and published, under such conditions is remarkable.

Solzhenitsyn did not intend for the book to be the final word on anything; not on morality or philosophy or human nature, and not even on the Stalinist prison system. Its sole intention was survival. Ending the book with an appeal to "write your own commentaries… correct and add to it where necessary" (pg. 470), Solzhenitsyn shows that he only intended to start a conversation, to protect and then plant a seed. "Nowhere on the planet, nowhere in history, was there a regime more vicious, more bloodthirsty, and at the same time more cunning and ingenious than the Bolshevik, the self-styled Soviet regime… no other regime on earth could compare with it either in the number of those it had done to death, in hardiness, in the range of its ambitions, in its thoroughgoing and unmitigated totalitarianism – no, not even the regime of its pupil Hitler" (pg. 342). Our continued inability to accept this fact – as Peterson writes in his Foreword, we find it much more difficult to identify when the Left has gone too far, compared to the Right (pp xvi-xvii) – not to mention our struggles in assimilating Solzhenitsyn's broader ideas, means that, if you can appreciate the difference, The Gulag Archipelago remains an essential document even if it is not an essential read in the literary sense. ( )
  Mike_F | May 31, 2020 |
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Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
Aleksandr Solzhenitsynprimär författarealla utgåvorberäknat
Whitney, Thomas P.Översättarehuvudförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Willets, HarryÖversättarehuvudförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Ericson, Edward E.Abridged bymedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
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In the period of dictatorship, surrounded on all sides by enemies, we sometimes manifested unnecessary leniency and unnecessary softheartedness. - Krylenko, speech at the Promparty trial
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I dedicate this to all those who did not live to tell it.  And may they please forgive me for not having seen it all nor remembered it all, for nt having divined all of it.
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How do people get to this clandestine Archipelago?
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Aleksandr Solzhenistyn's The Gulag Archipelago has been published in a number of formats, and is catalogued in a variety of ways. The complete work consists of seven parts, often divided into three volumes as follow: Volume One, consisting of Part I ("The Prison Industry") and Part II ("Perpetual Motion"); Volume Two, consisting of Part III ("The Destructive-Labor Camps") and Part IV ("The Soul and Barbed Wire"); and Volume III, consisting of Part V ("Katorga"), Part VI ("Exile") and Part VII ("Stalin Is No More").

THIS LT WORK IS INTENDED ONLY FOR THE ABRIDGED EDITION.

Please do not combine it with other copies having materially different content (e.g., Parts I-II, Parts III-IV, Parts V-VII, the complete work, an omnibus [such as Parts I-VI], any individual Part, or the abridged version). Thank you.
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Drawing on his own experiences before, during, and after his 11 years of incarceration and exile, Solzhenitsyn reveals with torrential narrative and dramatic power the entire apparatus of Soviet repression. Through truly Shakespearean portraits of its victims, we encounter the secret police operations, the labor camps and prisons, the uprooting or extermination of whole populations. Yet we also witness astounding moral courage, the incorruptibility with which the occasional individual or a few scattered groups, all defenseless, endured brutality and degradation. Solzhenitsyn's genius has transmuted this grisly indictment into a literary miracle.

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