In this final volume of a towering work that is both literary masterpiece and living memorial to the untold millions of Soviet martyrs, Solzhenitsyn's epic narrative moves to its astounding and unforseen climax. We now see that this great cathedral of a book not only commemorates those massed victims but celebrates the unquenched spirit of resistance that flickered and then burst into flame even in Stalin's "special camps."
Of the Archipelago as a whole, Le Monde has said: "It is the epic of our times. An epic is always the creation of an entire people, written by the one person who has the creative power and the genius to become the spokesman for his nation. And in this work, we hear a people speaking through the impassioned, intrepid, ironic, furious, lyrical, brutal, and often tender voice of the narrator."
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©1973 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; (P)1990 by Blackstone Audiobooks
Reading or listening to this book is a massive undertaking, but well worth it. The translation is brilliant, the chapters sounding like they were written primarily in English by a master wordsmith such as Gibbon or Thackeray. It is indeed fortunate that the English language has more words than any other: nothing is lost, and the translator, if good, can actually amplify meaning - as he does here.
The authenticity of Solzhenitsyn's experience is clearly beyond question. It is even acknowledged by the present Putin regime, and the work is obligatory reading in Russian schools today. Listening to this detailed chronical of suffering, torture, starvation, depersonalization and arbitary murder - on a mind-boggling scale - there can be no doubt of the moral, social, economic and intellectual bankruptcy of the communist system.
But wait! When was the book first published in the West? It was as long ago as 1973. Did those left wing sympathizers of the seventies and eighties, those 'useful idiots,' those protesters, those hippies, those Bertrand Russels not read this book? If they did, their understanding must have been clouded by the fumes of a forbidden substance.
Yet, within this massive work of oppression and slavery, we occasionally glimpse the human spirit flaring up in a few brave, doomed souls striking out for justice, and dignity. Those short bright flares inspire us to cheer and shout 'Freedom!' from the rooftops. Long may communism be relagated to its rightful place in the dustbin of history!
The Cold War has been over long enough that we have begun to forget how cruel the Soviet state was. This book is a necessary reminder and a classic that everyone who is interested in history (so that we are not condemned to repeat it endlessly) should read/listen to.
History, historical fiction and mysteries are my faves, but a fan of all genres.
Concentrates on life in the Gulag and Solzhenitsyns harrowing experiences and others around him. This volume reads more like a novel IMHO, and is great first person account of the horrors of the Terror and life in the Gulag, from a 20th century icon. Highly recommend for anyone with interest in the Soviet era of Russian history.
If you made it this far in the trilogy, get ready for some of the most exciting parts. The prison escapes and revolts are quite thrilling. I would say that the two most lasting effects of this work, besides a picture of an essential part of the psyche of Russia, are the depiction of the feeling of "what, who me?" after one, incredibly, is picked up by the KGB, for, essentially, nothing, and the thriller aspects of the last volume. Yes, this is a superficial aspect, but the author had to find some surface excitement to hook the deep insights to, as did Shakespeare, and the author did a superb job. The reading is perfect.
The section on Katorga is one of the best parts of the whole book. Some of my favorite chapters are "the committed escaper" and "the white kitten"
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