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Publisher's Summary

In this masterpiece, Solzhenitsyn has orchestrated thousands of incidents and individual histories into one narrative of unflagging power and momentum. Written in a tone that encompasses Olympian wrath, bitter calm, savage irony, and sheer comedy, it combines history, autobiography, documentary, and political analysis as it examines in its totality the Soviet apparatus of repression from its inception following the October Revolution of 1917.

This volume involves us in the innocent victim's arrest and preliminary detention and the stages by which he is transferred across the breadth of the Soviet Union to his ultimate destination: the hard-labor camp.

©1973 Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn (P)1989 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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Average Customer Ratings

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Not for the feint of heart

I find this book to be much like like life itself. It is difficult. It is a slog. There is much that is tedious (It is even exhaustive to passively listen to while one does other things like drive across country or the dishes). But it is also many other things. It can be oddly beautiful. At times there are moments when Solzhenistsyn stops, breaks from the narrative history that he is relaying, and gives exquisite moments to the reader. They are beautiful and heartbreaking and make it all worthwhile. I know no other work like it. Like anything that is worthwhile, it takes work. It is not easy. But it is highly rewarding. I did not always enjoy the book while i was listening to it, but I was very happy I did listen to it, when I was finished with the work

38 of 38 people found this review helpful

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Still an important literary work

This is the latest in a string of books I’ve read about the early years of Soviet communism. I continue to be dumb struck with the cruelty and inhumanity of Lenin and Stalin. I just can’t get my mind around how many millions Stalin killed. Between his purges, his Gulags and the starvation of the Ukraine he killed more innocent people than Hitler, yet the world chose to ignore his crimes and in this century there are those who still hold him up as an example of a great leader.

Solzhenitsyn catalogs the gulag experience. He talks about how efficient the machine was in consuming human life in Russia. Even when the Soviets were about to lose WWII to the Germans he continued to kill and purge, destroy and starve his people. Cruelty without bounds in the name of an economic theory is outlined by Solzhenitsyn. Simply putting the day to day life of a “Polital” caught in the machine designed to chew them up and destroy them was his objective. I think he achieved this end. This is a powerful account of a man’s surviving a trip through hell in all of its vivid detail. Dante missed this level of hell.

There are no possible ends that could be perversely rationalized that would justify this cruelty. One would have a more simple time explaining the ethnic cleansing of the American Indians from the United States than you will justifying Lenin’s or Stalin’s purges and activities.

“The Gulag Archipelago” is an important literary work. This is a powerful part of world history and we are lucky that Solzhenitsyn risked his life to bring it to us. We are lucky that his friends were also willing to risk their lives to contribute to and to protect the work. Solzhenitsyn compiled stories of many of his fellow “58s” and he weaves those into what seems to give the reader a complete picture of Soviet Gulag History. Most importantly, Solzhenitsyn reminds us of what can happen when good people remain silent, when we allow tyrants to reign, when the citizens allow the government to run their lives.

29 of 29 people found this review helpful

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Dr Jordan Peterson

This is probably one of the most brutal books I'll ever consume, an amazing read.

26 of 27 people found this review helpful

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MUST READ

Would you consider the audio edition of The Gulag Archipelago, Volume l to be better than the print version?

I haven't read the print version, but because this is a review for all three volumes, I must point out that I wouldn't have had the stamina to read the three volume work. That said I feel that this should be required reading for American politicians and planners of any sort... Why? because all too often planners get caught up in the dream of creating utopias -- in Solzhenitsyn's staggering work, he tells the stories of those whom were ground up in the gears of a utopia -- or perhaps more appropriately, a real world dystopia. If anyone had an inclination to think that most contemporary dystopian stories wax a little stupid, this massive 3 work volume will make contemporary dystopian fiction impossible to listen to -- and I mean that in a good way. Fact has been said to be stranger than fiction, and in this case much more terrible. Gave me new perspectives on how to look at histories, especially revisionist ones of ancient societies especially given that so little is known to the outside world of those doomed to life in the gulags.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The author, there are no character's per se. I liked the author very much though because he was able to tell his story with an almost poetic (and sometimes humorous/ironic) flare that helped make the horrors he was describing more palatable. Not palatable in the sense of being acceptable, but he helped shield you with such a way that while the horror was never lost on you, you were also unable to look away.

What about Frederick Davidson’s performance did you like?

He captured the irony of the author perfectly. The nuances and inflections also helped convey the character. If I were reading this silently in my head, I think the book might've been too depressing and difficult to complete. That said, there is an abridged version which I plan to purchase for my own home library at some point.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

A real world dystopia.

Any additional comments?

It's difficult at times to get through because sometimes it will make you feel like you're losing faith in humanity, but just when you feel like you're ready to give up -- the author redeems you with his sharp wit and philosophical perceptions that provide hope and also "scale" for the troubles we face in our own lives. After listening to this, I definitely feel I've become more solemn and less neurotic in my own approach and dealings with things that are out of one's hands.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Worth every hour.

Narrator was awesome, I would have been lost in trying to get past names.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Gulag: A Tragedy for Humankind

What made the experience of listening to The Gulag Archipelago, Volume l the most enjoyable?

It was not enjoyable, but informative and consoling in the fact that this tragedy and suffering has been documented.

Would you be willing to try another book from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn? Why or why not?

Yes, he persents a realistic story of certin aspects of the human condition.

Have you listened to any of Frederick Davidson’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No, I haven't listened to him before.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Felt a real compasion for what the people had to endure.

Any additional comments?

I wish I could say that this book ended mankinds's inhumanity to mankind. But we<br/>know it hasn't and need to do what we can to correct this contiued calamity.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Important work

This is an important work, but the writing style takes some getting used to. I am amazed that the Soviet Union lasted as long as it did when the powers treated the citizens so brutally.

Frederick Davidson's sing-song narration gets on my last nerve, but that didn't stop me from getting Volume 2 of this work.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic book, scary subject matter, 9/10 reading

What did you love best about The Gulag Archipelago, Volume l?

I am not really qualified to give a review on the subject matter because it's so vast, but I will say that you can hear someone else reading another audiobook in the background on occasion, which drives me nuts. Still, really good.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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To Listen is to Honor the Innocents

Let's face it, the subject matter is not edifying. I started listening to it as it was a classic. It is hard to listen to, harder to write and incomprehensible to imagine to all but a few. True, it is a bit long and tedious. However, soon you keep on listening as a testament to all of the innocent victims and martyrs of the Soviet Regime. Some people like the narrator, some don't. He has a penchant for long books like War and Peace. I don't think he's distracting.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A Penetrating Critique of Soviet Russia.

What did you love best about The Gulag Archipelago, Volume l?

It's a clear and unsophisticated read.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The interrogators, because, I think that in weaker moments of my life I could see myself making the same mistakes as them. Following ideological authority uncritically and dogmatically tends to lead people to feats of Evil that they could never have imagined doing. If my actions in this situation were the same as any of the interrogator's, I pray that I would be among the ones weeping and gnashing my teeth in obtuse reflection over my horrible actions, and not one of the ones Solzhenistyn speaks about whose "children have grown up and are now enjoying old age."

Which scene was your favorite?

My favorite scene was when Solzhenistyn describes the feeling of comaradery and companionship upon finally being able to join the other prisoners and not having to be alone anymore.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Yes, during the early torture scenes I cringed with the impression of some of the arrested being eaten alive by bedbugs, I also came near to tears when hearing of the torture method involving the mutilation of the male reproductive organs.

Any additional comments?

The negative responses to this book seem entirely unjustified. It's a penetrating and much-needed critique of the bloodiest and most murderous government in the history of the world, and much of this happened as little as 50 years ago.<br/><br/>Did you know that East German guards would shoot at children trying to cross over the Berlin Wall to West Germany? That factoid is not from this particular book, but it is a good example of the horrible atrocities of the Soviet System that this book penetratingly criticizes.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful