One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Hardcover(Library Binding)

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“Stark . . . the story of how one falsely accused convict and his fellow prisoners survived or perished in an arctic slave labor camp after the war.”—Time

From the icy blast of reveille through the sweet release of sleep, Ivan Denisovich endures. A common carpenter, he is one of millions viciously imprisoned for countless years on baseless charges,sentenced to the waking nightmare of the Soviet work camps in Siberia. Even in the face of degrading hatred, where life is reduced to a bowl of gruel and a rare cigarette, hope and dignity prevail. This powerful novel of fact is a scathing indictment of Communist tyranny, and an eloquent affirmation of the human spirit.

The prodigious works of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, including his acclaimed The Gulag Archipelago, have secured his place in the great tradition of Russian literary giants. Ironically, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is the only one of his works permitted publication in his native land.

Praise for One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

“Cannot fail to arouse bitterness and pain in the heart of the reader. A literary and political event of the first magnitude.”New Statesman

“Both as a political tract and as a literary work, it is in the Doctor Zhivago category.”Washington Post

“Dramatic . . . outspoken . . . graphically detailed . . . a moving human record.”Library Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780606042376
Publisher: San Val, Incorporated
Publication date: 06/01/1979
Series: Signet Bks.
Pages: 139

About the Author

The prodigious works of Alexander Solzheenitsyn incuding his acclaimed The Gulag Archipelago, have secured his place in the great tradition of Russian literary giants. Ironically, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is the only one of his works permitted publication in his native land. As a young man, Alexander Solzhenitsyn studied mathematics, physics, and literature. He served with distinction in the Soviet Army during World War II, but after the war, his criticism of Stalin led to his arrest. Solzhenitsyn spent eight years in labor camps, and was released in 1953. In 1962, with the approval of Soviet Premier Khrushchev, he published One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, an account of life in the Soviet Gulag. He denounced Soviet censorship, and his later books were banned. In 1970 he was awarded the Nobel Prize. Eventually his dissident postures became too much for the Soviet government, and in 1974, Solzhenitsyn was expelled. Throughout the years of his exile, Solzhenitsyn never stopped speaking out against Soviet Communism, and he was eventually permitted to return to his country after the fall of Communism.

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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

By Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, H. T. Willetts

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 1978 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-374-52952-9


THE HAMMER BANGED reveille on the rail outside camp HQ at five o'clock as always. Time to get up. The ragged noise was muffled by ice two fingers thick on the windows and soon died away. Too cold for the warder to go on hammering.

The jangling stopped. Outside, it was still as dark as when Shukhov had gotten up in the night to use the latrine bucket — pitch-black, except for three yellow lights visible from the window, two in the perimeter, one inside the camp.

For some reason they were slow unlocking the hut, and he couldn't hear the usual sound of the orderlies mounting the latrine bucket on poles to carry it out.

Shukhov never overslept. He was always up at the call. That way he had an hour and a half all to himself before work parade — time for a man who knew his way around to earn a bit on the side. He could stitch covers for somebody's mittens from a piece of old lining. Take some rich foreman his felt boots while he was still in his bunk (save him hopping around barefoot, fishing them out of the heap after drying). Rush round the storerooms looking for odd jobs — sweeping up or running errands. Go to the mess to stack bowls and carry them to the washers-up. You'd get something to eat, but there were too many volunteers, swarms of them. And the worst of it was that if there was anything left in a bowl, you couldn't help licking it. Shukhov never for a moment forgot what his first foreman, Kuzyomin, had told him. An old camp wolf, twelve years inside by 1943. One day around the campfire in a forest clearing he told the reinforcements fresh from the front, "It's the law of the taiga here, men. But a man can live here, just like anywhere else. Know who croaks first? The guy who licks out bowls, puts his faith in the sick bay, or squeals to godfather."

He was stretching it a bit there, of course. A stoolie will always get by, whoever else bleeds for him.

Shukhov always got up at once. Not today, though. Hadn't felt right since the night before — had the shivers, and some sort of ache. And hadn't gotten really warm all night. In his sleep he kept fancying he was seriously ill, then feeling a bit better. Kept hoping morning would never come.

But it arrived on time.

Some hope of getting warm with a thick scab of ice on the windows, and white cobwebs of hoarfrost where the walls of the huge hut met the ceiling.

Shukhov still didn't get up. He lay up top on a four-man bunk, with his blanket and jacket over his head, and both feet squeezed into one turned-in sleeve of his quilted jerkin. He couldn't see anything but he knew from the sounds just what was going on in the hut and in his own gang's corner. He heard the orderlies trudging heavily down the corridor with the tub that held eight pails of slops. Light work for the unfit, they call it, but just try getting the thing out without spilling it! And that bump means Gang 75's felt boots are back from the drying room. And here come ours — today's our turn to get our boots dried out. The foreman and his deputy pulled their boots on in silence except for the bunk creaking under them. Now the deputy would be off to the bread-cutting room, and the foreman to see the work assigners at HQ.

He did that every day, but today was different, Shukhov remembered. A fateful day for Gang 104: would they or wouldn't they be shunted from the workshops they'd been building to a new site, the so-called Sotsgorodok. This Sotsgorodok was a bare field knee-deep in snow, and for a start you'd be digging holes, knocking in fence posts, and stringing barbed wire around them to stop yourself running away. After that — get building.

You could count on a month with nowhere to go for a warm, not so much as a dog kennel. You wouldn't even be able to light a fire out in the open — where would the fuel come from? Your only hope would be to dig, dig, dig, for all you were worth.

The foreman went off to try and fix it, looking worried. Maybe he can get some gang a bit slower off the mark dumped out there? You could never do a deal empty-handed, of course. Have to slip the senior work assigner half a kilo of fatback. Maybe a kilo, even.

Might as well give it a try — wander over to sick bay and wangle a day off. Every bone in his body was aching.

Ah, but who's warder on duty today?

Oh, yes. It's Ivan-and-a-half, the thin, lanky sergeant with black eyes. First time you saw him you were terrified, but when you got to know him he was the easiest of the lot — never put you in the hole, never dragged you off to the disciplinary officer. So lie in a bit longer, till it's time for Hut 9 to go to the mess.

The bunk swayed and trembled. Two men getting up at once: Shukhov's neighbor up top, Alyoshka the Baptist, and ex-Captain (second rank) Buynovsky.

The orderlies, oldish men, had carried out both night buckets and were now wrangling over who should fetch the hot water. They bickered like shrewish women. The welder from Gang 20 slung a boot and barked at them: "If you two deadbeats don't shut up, I'll do it for you."

The boot hit a post with a thud, and the old men fell silent.

The deputy foreman of the gang next to them gave a low growl. "Vasily Fyodorich! Those rats in the food store have really screwed us this time. It was four nine-hundreds, now it's only three. Who's got to go short?"

He said it quietly, but the whole gang heard and held its breath. Somebody would find a slice missing that evening.

Shukhov just lay there on the tight-packed sawdust in his mattress. Wish it would make up its mind: either a raging fever or an end to these aches and pains. This is neither one thing nor the other.

While the Baptist was still whispering his prayers, Buynovsky came back from the latrine and joyfully brought the bad news to no one in particular.

"Hang in there, shipmates! It's a good thirty below!"

That did it. Shukhov made up his mind to go to sick bay.

But at that very moment the hand of authority whipped his jerkin and his blanket away. Shukhov threw off the jacket that covered his face and raised himself on one elbow. Down below, with his head on the level of the upper bunk, stood the gaunt Tartar.

Must have come on duty out of turn and sneaked up quietly.

"Shcha-854," the Tartar read out from the white patch on the back of the black jacket. "Three days in the hole, normal working hours."

His unmistakable strangled voice could be heard all over the half-dark hut — not all the light bulbs were burning — where two hundred men slept on fifty bug-ridden bunks. All those who had not yet risen suddenly came to life and began dressing in a hurry.

"What for, citizen warder?" Shukhov asked, with more self-pity in his voice than he really felt.

Normal working hours was only half punishment. You got warm food, and there was no time for brooding. Full punishment was when you weren't taken out to work.

"Didn't get up at the signal, did you? Report to HQ fast." He gave his explanation in a lazy drawl because he and Shukhov and everybody else knew perfectly well what the punishment was for.

The Tartar's hairless, crumpled face was blank. He turned around to look for victims, but whether they were in half darkness or under a light bulb, on lower or upper bed shelves, all of them were stuffing their legs into black padded trousers with number patches on the left knee, or, already dressed, were buttoning themselves up and hurrying toward the door to wait for the Tartar outside.

If Shukhov had done something to deserve it, he wouldn't have minded so much. What upset him was that he was always one of the first up. But it was no good asking the Tartar to let him off, he knew that. He went on begging, for form's sake, standing there in the padded trousers he'd kept on all night (they had a shabby, greasy patch of their own stitched on above the left knee, with the number Shcha-854 traced on it in faded black ink), put on his jerkin (it had two similar numbers on it — one on the chest, one on the back), picked his boots out of the pile on the floor, put on his hat (with another such numbered rag on the front), and followed the Tartar outside.

All the men in Gang 104 saw Shukhov being led out, but nobody said a word: what good would it do, whatever you said? The foreman might have put in a word for him, but he wasn't there. Shukhov himself said nothing to anybody — he didn't want to irritate the Tartar. His messmates would have the sense to save his breakfast.

They went out together.

The mist in the frosty air took your breath away. Two big searchlights from watchtowers in opposite corners crossed beams as they swept the compound. Lights were burning around the periphery, and inside the camp, dotted around in such numbers that they made the stars look dim.

The snow squeaked under the boots of the zeks hurrying about their business — to the latrine, to the storeroom, to the parcel room, to hand in meal they wanted cooked separately. Heads were drawn well down into shoulders, jackets buttoned tight. Their owners were chilled not so much by the frost as by the thought that they would be outside all day in it.

The Tartar marched steadily on in his old greatcoat with grubby blue shoulder tabs. The frost didn't seem to trouble him.

They walked by the high board fence around the BUR (the camp's stone punishment cell), past the barbed-wire fence that protected the camp bakery from the prisoners, past the corner of the staff hut where a frosted length of rail dangled at the end of a thick wire, past the frost-covered thermometer hanging on another post, in a sheltered spot so that it would not fall too low. Shukhov squinted hopefully at the milk-white tube; if it showed forty-one below, they weren't supposed to be marched out to work. But it was nowhere near forty today.

They went into the HQ hut and straight through to the warders' room. It was just as Shukhov had guessed on the way. He wasn't bound for the hole — it was just that the floor of the warders' room needed washing. The Tartar announced that he forgave Shukhov and ordered him to clean it.

Washing the floor was a job for the hut orderly, a zek who wasn't sent out to work. But he had made himself so much at home in the HQ hut that he had access to the offices of the major, the disciplinary officer, and the godfather, made himself useful to them, heard a few things even the warders did not know, so for some time now he'd regarded cleaning floors for mere warders as demeaning. They'd sent for him a time or two, then realized how things stood and started "pulling" one or another of the working prisoners to clean the floor.

The heat from the stove in the warders' room was fierce. Two warders, stripped down to their dirty tunics, were playing checkers, and a third, still wearing his tightly belted sheepskin coat and felt boots, was asleep on a narrow bench.

Shukhov happily thanked the Tartar for forgiving him. "Thank you, citizen warder! I'll never sleep in again."

The rule was simple: Leave as soon as you finish. Now that Shukhov had a job to do, his body seemed to have stopped aching. He took the bucket, and just as he was, without mittens (he'd left them under the pillow in the rush), went out to the well.

Several of the foremen reporting to the PPS had crowded around the post, and one, a youngish man, ex-Hero of the Soviet Union, had shinned up and was rubbing the frost off the thermometer.

Advice reached him from down below.

"Don't breathe on it, man, or it'll go up."

"Go up? In a pig's ear. That doesn't make any difference."

Shukhov's foreman, Tyurin, was not among them. He put his bucket down, worked his hands into opposite sleeves, and watched curiously.

The man up the pole said hoarsely: "Twenty-seven and a half below, the bastard."

He looked harder to make sure, and jumped down.

"Bullshit. It doesn't work properly," somebody said. "Think they'd hang it where we can see it if it did?"

The foremen went their ways and Shukhov trotted to the well. His earflaps were down but not tied under his chin and the frost made his ears ache.

There was such thick ice around the wellhead that the bucket would hardly go into the hole. The rope was as stiff as a pole.

When he got back to the warders' quarters with his steaming bucket, there was no feeling in his hands. He plunged them into the well water and felt a little warmer.

The Tartar was missing, but four others had gathered. Checkers and sleep had been forgotten, and they were discussing how much millet they would be given in January. (There was a shortage of foodstuff in the settlement, but the warders were able to buy extra supplies at discount prices, although they had long ago used up their ration coupons.)

One of them broke off to yell at Shukhov. "Pull the door to, you jerk! There's a draft here!"

Wouldn't be a good idea at all to start the day with his boots wet, and he had no others to change into, even if he could dash over to the hut. Shukhov had seen all sorts of arrangements about footwear during his eight years inside: you might walk around all winter without felt boots, you might never even see a pair of ordinary shoes, just birch-bark clogs or the Chelyabinsk Tractor Factory type — strips off old tires that left tread marks in the snow. But things seemed to have improved lately. Last October he'd tagged along to the clothing store with the deputy foreman and got hold of a pair of stout shoes with hard toe caps and room for two warm foot rags in each. He'd walked around for a whole week as though it was his birthday, making a clatter with his new heels. Then, in December, felt boots had turned up as well: life was a bed of roses, no need to die just yet. So some fiend in the accounts office had whispered in the big man's ear: let them have the felt boots, but only if they hand their shoes in: it's against the rules for a zek to have two pairs at once. So Shukhov had faced a choice: either wear shoes all winter or turn them in and wear felt boots even when it thawed. He'd taken such good care of his nice new shoes, he'd greased them to make them soft ... He'd never missed anything so much in all those eight years. The shoes were all tossed on one big pile — no hope of getting your own pair back when spring came. It was just like the time when they rounded everybody's horses up for the kolkhoz.

Shukhov knew what to do this time: he stepped nimbly out of his felt boots, stood them in a corner, tossed his foot rags after them (his spoon tinkled as it hit the floor — he'd had to get ready for the hole in a hurry, but he still hadn't forgotten his spoon) — and, barefoot, dived at the warders' felt-booted feet, generously splashing the floor around them with water from his floor cloth.

"Hey! Take it easy, you crud," one of them exclaimed, quickly drawing his feet up onto his chair.

"Rice, you say? The rice allowance is different. There's no comparison with millet."

"Why are you using all that water, you idiot? What a way to wash a floor!"

"Never get it clean any other way, citizen warder. The dirt's eaten into the floor."

"Did you never see your old woman clean a floor, you moron?"

Shukhov straightened up, holding the dripping floor cloth. He smiled innocently, showing the gaps left in his teeth by an attack of scurvy he had when he was on his last legs at Ust-Izhma in '43. He'd thought he was done for — a bleeding diarrhea had drained all the strength out of him and he couldn't keep anything in his stomach. Now he only had a slight lisp to remind him of it all.

"They parted my old woman and me in '41, citizen officer. I don't even remember what she looks like."

"That's what they call cleaning a floor. The bastards can't do any damned thing properly, and they don't want to learn. They aren't worth the bread we give them. Feed them on dung, I would."

"Why the hell does it have to be washed every day, anyway? It never has time to get dry. Listen here, 854! Just give it a once-over, don't make it too wet, and get the hell out of here!"

"Rice, man! There's no way you can compare it with millet!"

Shukhov made a quick job of it.

There are two ends to a stick, and there's more than one way of working. If it's for human beings — make sure and do it properly. If it's for the big man — just make it look good.

Any other way, we'd all have turned our toes up long ago, that's for sure.

Shukhov wiped the floorboards, leaving no dry patches, and without stopping to wring it out tossed the rag behind the stove. He pulled his boots on in the doorway, splashed the water out on the path along which the screws walked, and took a shortcut past the bathhouse, past the dark, chilly recreation center toward the mess hut.

He had to get to sick bay while there was still time — he was aching all over again. And he mustn't let the warders catch him outside the mess hut: the camp commandant had given strict orders to pick up stragglers and shove them in the hole.

Funny thing — no big crowd, no queue, outside the mess today. Walk right in.


Excerpted from One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, H. T. Willetts. Copyright © 1978 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Begin Reading,
By Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn,

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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 160 reviews.
EricMilton More than 1 year ago
The Russian Gulags were, like the entirety of the USSR, shrouded by the Iron Curtain, preventing all communications for the prisoners really to the outside world. These labor camps were surrounded in secret until Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote and got published One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, a story of historical fiction about a prisoner in a Russian Gulag. This prisoner, Shukhov, gives a story based on the experiences Solzhenitsyn had while imprisoned in a Gulag. Shukhov tells the story from dawn to dusk, highlighting the inhumanities of the labor camp and illuminating that which was once dark to the world. The story focuses on major themes such as the dehumanization of prisoners and the lengths necessary to preserve one’s humanity in a truly inhumane environment. Throughout this single day in prison, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, who, along with many other prisoners, has accepted his fate and period of servitude in the labor camp, attempts to survive. The day’s events may seem a bit repetitive; however, this repetition is necessary in order to highlight the severity of key factors opposing Shukhov’s survival, mainly the dehumanizing guards (who refer to the prisoners by code name at certain times, instead of the Soviet brotherly title of “comrade”), the malnutrition forced upon prisoners, and the harsh freezing associated with the environment. Throughout this day-to-day experience, Shukhov must endure, preserving his humanity on the hope of leaving some day. This one day seems rather average, but that seems to have been the author’s intention (to make a day which would serve as a representation of each and every day of imprisonment in the Soviet Gulag). *SPOILER ALERT STARTS* The descriptive and detailed style of Solzhenitsyn may seem dull at certain points in the novel; however, in one scene, where Ivan Denisovich Shukhov attempts to pass the guards with a small hacksaw blade in his glove, the level of detail and insight into Shukhov’s mind in this scene was really exciting and brings into concept the Limbo-esque state of existence Shukhov and the other prisoners are imprisoned in. Their fates can change quite rapidly. For example, if Shukhov’s hidden blade had been discovered by the Soviet guard who was frisking him and had just patted his other glove, then Shukhov would have been kept from working and fed even less, which would cause him to be unable to work and hence fade into nothingness and cease to truly exist. *SPOILER ALERT ENDS* This book reminded me of Hans Erich Nossack’s The End: Hamburg 1943 in that both stories give the cold-cut facts in a similar style and being in similar time periods. However, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich seems more focused on the physical strides necessary for survival, while The End: Hamburg 1943 seemed to emphasize more the mental ramifications associated with survival in a traumatic environment. Based on my reading experience, I would suggest this work of historic fiction only to those readers who are fans of the genre or of Stalinist USSR history.
izzygutierrez More than 1 year ago
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is very much a book for readers with a specific taste in literature. Being that the book was translated directly from Russian, a lot of what the author might have originally intended to come across a certain way did not translate well and bothered me quite a lot when I was reading. The dialogue between characters was hard to read and did not flow as well as opposed to if it was written in english. The book itself focuses mainly on the struggle of man kind as well as the importance of faith in Ivan Denisovich Shukhov's life. As much as I didn't want to be sympathetic towards Ivan and his struggle throughout his day, there was something that wanted me to feel that way only because there was a sort of innocence that I felt was being exuded by the character. Other than that, I didn't really find myself desperate to read more when I would put the book down. The climax of the story was somewhat of a letdown while I was reading the book. Being set in a Stalinist Labor camp during an era of many political happenings and struggles, I was pleased with the many historical references while reading the story, especially since the book itself is extremely monotone and somewhat dull in tone. If you are interested in World HIstory and the Stalin Era in the Soviet Union, this book is very much for you! If not, you will be very disappointed and bored. It is a very short read and very easy to understand if you can look past the occasional language issues, but this book is not for everyone.
LEpstein More than 1 year ago
Lee Epstein Period 5 August 16, 2012 Ivan Denisovich Book Review THIS IS A SPOILER ALERT! One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whether the reader enjoys it or not, is a thought-provoking novel with a dynamic protagonist and important themes to take away. This novel documents what a day would be like as a prisoner in Soviet Russia. Solzhenitsyn was a prisoner, and he was trying to show his readers what his experience was like. I felt as if a lot of the book was not enjoyable, there weren’t clear plot elements such as a rising action and a climax, but I truly enjoyed the lessons it taught me about my life and about life throughout Soviet Russia. The protagonist’s name is Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. I believe that the title does not use his last name in the title because Solzhenitsyn wants the reader to know that one of the basic struggles of soviet Russia and of those camps is finding any sort of independence. It is truly amazing that the whole novel documents just one day in Shukhov’s sentence, out of the 3,653 days that he serves, and this day proves to be probably the most important day of his life. Shukhov goes through a complete transformation in one day, and the way he sees some of his fellow prisoners changes as well. He starts his day by waking up late, and not feeling well. In other words, his day could not have started much worse. He was almost punished for waking up late by a mean guard, was not allowed to be excused from work for the day, and when he got to breakfast, if it can be called that at all by the little amount of food they are given, his tasteless stew was cold. One of the big ways he changed was not about doing deeds for others, but why he did these deeds. In the morning, he would volunteer to do someone’s work or stand in line for his gang leader, for the sole purpose of what he would get in return. By the end of the day, for the first time in the story, he gives a fellow inmate some extra food that Shukhov had because the inmate was simply hungry. I found it significant that the person who Shukhov gave the food to, Alyoshka, always gives without expecting something in return. Shukhov always wondered how Alyoshka could do this, but he realizes that giving for the sake of giving feels good inside. Ivan Denisovich falls to sleep that night and thinks to himself that this day was almost a happy day for the first time in his sentence. While there are many other themes about why Shukhov goes to sleep happy that night or themes in general, I believe that the motif of giving to give is the most significant theme of the novel and he is happy because he has learned how to be a generous person.
PauloParente More than 1 year ago
The novel, ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH by Alexander Solzhenitsyn is an exquisite piece of literature, which I would highly recommend to anyone who is looking for an enjoyable yet mentally stimulating read. This book is the story of an average day in the life of an unassuming Russian soldier, Ivan Shukhov Denisovich, after he has been wrongfully convicted of treason and served about 8 years of his 10 year sentence in a Russian labor camp. Alexander Solzhenitsyn skillfully describes every detail of every moment of every day in order for the reader to become engaged with the character and feel his struggle. I was instantly hooked from the first moment I started reading. Ivan’s goals became my goals, his fears became my fears, and his triumphs became my triumphs, I simply felt like I was there in the labor camp with Ivan, working with him to survive. I sympathized with Ivan because he doesn’t complain about his problems he just accepts his misfortunes and focuses on the now, on what he needs to do to survive for the next day, no time and energy is wasted on pointless endeavors. Ivan is not extraordinary in any typical sense of the word, he is not a genius ahead of his time or a monster of a man able to lift 1000 pounds, but he has a characteristic that is more useful that anything else and that is the ability to find meaning in this place that only wants to take everything away from him. That is how he is able to find the will to survive through all his struggles. Ivan’s success shows me that anyone can overcome any obstacle. This sense of attachment that I developed to the character is really what made me enjoy the book so much, but not only is it an enjoyable read, it has had a significant political impact on the world. This novel is an eye opener, to the horrific realities of Soviet Russia and because of the time of its publication played a significant role in Russia politics by pushing the people of Russia to challenge their government. This novel is a piece of history and a worthwhile read, anyone who decides to read this book has made a good choice.
G_R More than 1 year ago
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a novel that takes place in Siberia, in a Soviet labor camp. If you are looking for an action packed book, a comedy, or even a tragedy, this is not the book for you. Although fictional, this story illustrates the cruelty and reality of what happened in the Soviet camps during the 1950’s. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the author, does not exclude a single detail from his novel. As the title states, this piece of literary work is solely about one day in a prisoners life. By writing a book about such a short period of time, Solzhenitsyn demonstrates how much happens around us that is overlooked. One of the themes he enforces is the appreciation of the little things in life. For example, prisoners in the labor camp savor every moment of enjoyment they can. While Solzhenitsyn’s detail is vital in order to convey some of his thoughts, it is detrimental at points. The immense amount of detail put into the novel makes every event happen slowly. As a result of this, there is not much room for character development. For me, this takes away from the novel because it is difficult to relate to characters that are described vaguely. While Solzhenitsyn’s intentions were certainly not to develop an eventful book, I do believe some degree of action should have been incorporated. However, I do see what the author’s goal was. He wanted to portray the brutality and severity of what happened in these camps. Adding unnecessary eventful scenes would only take away from the historical aspect of the novel. *MINOR SPOILER* One theme the author emphasizes is the idea that if you work hard you will be rewarded. I say this because in the novel, Ivan works hard even when everyone else slacks off. He works hard even though he knows he is not getting anything out of it. He works hard even though he knows his hard work is going to the foundation that put him in the labor camp. Ivan is also generous to his fellow inmates. He shares his spoon and knife, which he crafted himself, as well as his bread rations with his companions. As a result of his hard work, Ivan is rewarded with larger bread rations. As a result of his generosity, he is rewarded with kindness and friendship. Ivan understands the situation that he is in and never complains. He is an optimistic man who finds joy in everything he can. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a well written and accurate depiction of what happened in the Soviet labor camps. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in an inspirational, historical novel.
DanielPaez More than 1 year ago
A tale of sheer survival and will to carry on, Alexander Solzhenitsyn takes the reader on a 24- hour tour of a Soviet prison in the Siberian tundra as he follows hardened Russian inmate Ivan Denisovich. Solzhenitsyn gives the reader a third-person perspective as well as glimpses into Denisovich’s thoughts and feelings. Throughout the novel there is a strong feeling of repetitiveness and exhaustion, this allows the reader to truly grasp the emotions of the inmates that are being held in this prison. I would recommend this work of literature for anyone interested in World War II themed history, it gives the audience a different point of view of the super power the was the Soviet Union. The book starts off with a sluggish mood to it as the prisoners are awoken from their warm dreams into a freezing world. From here and until they reach the mess hall the writing is repetitive and can be summed up in a few words. The repetitiveness of this section gives the reader a feeling that can be compared to waking up for school or work early in the morning. This can be hard to read through, but as soon as the reader is introduced to a few of Denisovich’s fellow inmates the pace changes. As new characters are introduced the reader is able to see how differently their methods of self-preservation are in contrast to Denisovich’s. This is also when Solzhenitsyn allows the reader to hear Denisovich’s opinion on the people around him, adding further depth into him as a character. The novel continues on and takes the reader to a nearly destroyed power plant, where Denisovich and his fellow prisoners are forced to build walls to begin restoring the locale. Here, Solzhenitsyn gives the audience more insight to the characters as they work. Work ethics vary from person to person and again the contrasting character traits are seen. Besides their obvious differences all of them much cooperate to work towards the final goal, which is building the walls for the power plant. This will in turn earn allow them to stay out of trouble with the prison officials and they can sleep restfully through the night. Finally, night arrives and the groups of inmates return to camp HQ, with some unforeseen trouble along the way. The action of the novel, again, tunes down as Denisovich dines on his well-earned supper of gruel and everyone gets ready for the night. Multiple unexpected disturbances wake the prisoners from their sleep throughout the night and that is when Denisovich does something that is completely out of his character. Overall this novel was an enjoyable read, Solzhenitsyn does a very good job of allowing his audience to feel as if they were trapped in this prison as well. It does have its slow and repetitive parts, but the good outshines the bad by far, I would recommend this piece.
Bert_Machado More than 1 year ago
This novel vividly portrays one day in the life of a Russian prisoner captured unjustly on account of high treason. I found the novel very interesting because it revealed an untold story in the history of Russian brutality. The history of the German concentration camp of this period is well documented and publicized but people remain uninformed of the evils conducted by people on their own people. The setting of the novel is in a Gulag which is a Siberian work camp where mostly Russian prisoners were basically sent to go die. In many ways the novel embodies the struggle between man versus nature in its cruelest form and man’s to cope with fellow men to survive. The novel was very insightful in that it caused me to reevaluate myself in that Ivan, in the face dehumanization and uncertainty of survival, relentlessly treads on to seek his freedom. A normal high school student may be reluctant to complete difficult and extensive homework assignments and blow them off entirely, but when you have something as intrinsic as freedom taken away from you, then you will complete any challenge despite rigor or lack of motivation to regain such a value. Ivan Denisovich Shukhov repeatedly proves this human behavior as he strives for his freedom, tirelessly working with his comrades, building walls of brick and mortar, and forging a brotherhood with his close inmates in squad 104. He battles daily challenges of sickness, cold, and hunger as well as avoiding any unwanted contact with a guard or official. One of the most interesting things about this work was that it was in fact a reflection of the author’s life experience in a Gulag under similar circumstances. What led me to be intrigued further was that the author himself underwent criminal sentences and was exiled from Russia soon after the book was published. The book itself was banned in the Soviet Union until its eventual downfall in 1994. In any case, I urge you to purchase a copy of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich because it will make you realize that no matter whom you are you can be thankful for your life and freedom and that hopefully you will never be exposed to such a difficult life.
HPelletier More than 1 year ago
*MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!!!!* One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is an intriguing novel of the challenges a single man must face whilst in a Russian labor camp. The novel depicts the hardships faced by prisoners under the reign of Joseph Stalin, and the pains they must face just to make it through each day. Although the novel starts out slow while the author is really making a point of describing the setting, it really picks up after Solzhenitsyn has finish setting the scene. Alexander Solzhenitsyn takes you through a day in the life of a fairly typical man by the name of Ivan Denisovich. The author goes into detail as the story progresses, and tells of the troubles he experiences in a single day during his time at the labor camp. The prisoners must struggle with their daily tasks, and the author does a great job of making the readers feel sympathy towards them as they go through just one of the many days they are kept there. Although the novel is not necessarily a "nail biter", it is quite emotional as you follow the men that are affected by the terrible conditions faced in the Russian labor camps. For those of you who really enjoy historical or political novels, then this short novel will surely keep you entertained. If you are the type of reader who needs to be kept on the edge of his or her seat, then "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" probably is not the right book for you. Although this novel probably wouldn't be my first choice because I would normally find these books to be somewhat of a bore to me, the author managed to keep my (relatively fleeting) attention on the novel. Solzhenitsyn pulls you into the suspense felt by the prisoners as they attempt smuggle items ranging from things such as extra cloth to keep them warm at night and on the fields, to extra food to keep them healthy and able to put up with the amount of work they are forced to do. He helps us to feel the joy Shukhov experiences after he is rewarded for his hard work, and also helps us feel the fear the prisoners experience from the mere thought of "the hole". The author has earned my respect as someone who can not only write a novel that is informative and emotional, but also entertaining and even suspenseful at times. Although I am not a huge fan of political novels myself, I would not mind reading another on of Solzhenitsyn's books, because I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and wouldn't mind reading another one of his books and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this novel to anyone interested in political novels or the aftermath of WWII. However, I would not recommend this book to someone who prefers to have a bit more excitement in their readings. As mentioned before, it is not the most exciting book out there. It is however quite informative and very interesting to the few of those who enjoy novels such as this one.
Kira-M More than 1 year ago
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich tells a story of the hardships of Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, a prisoner of a Stalinist labor camp in 1951. The reader follows Denisovich through his experience in the camp, and witness atrocities that those imprisoned in the camp must bare witness to. Within the camp, prisoners are subject to attempts to weaken them physically, mentally, as well as emotionally. These attempts include the deprivation of nourishment, the attempts at humiliating them, the replacing of their names with serial numbers, nude body exams in extreme temperatures, an extreme lack of privacy, and other exercises in dehumanization. The protagonist exhibits the persistent nature of the human being’s desire to survive in his will to go on despite the horrid conditions of the world he has been placed into and he refuses to be dehumanized at the hand of the prison. His awareness of the prison’s attempts leads him to take extra measures to ensure his civility and humanity is kept intact as he pursues surviving as a human being in a prison designed to dehumanize its prisoners. One thing that really stands out about this book is how Alexander Solzhenitsyn describes just an ordinary day in the camp and manages to make his audience feel the pain and bitterness of the characters as well as the slight happiness the characters feel when they experience any kind of luxury, such as smoking tobacco, getting new clothes, and sneaking extra portions of food. The novel is clearly addressing an older audience, and is likely to not be within the interests of younger readers. The book uses historical context as a major part of the storytelling, but more importantly it uses themes of struggle, cruelty and survival; something that tends to repel the younger readers. Even though there are only 139 pages, I realized that I could not finish it as quickly as I usually do. With the story not being very exciting or dramatic, it’s understandable. In my opinion, a person must be in the mood to read this kind of book, if not it can be a bit difficult to get through certain parts, especially in the beginning. Despite this, I believe most people can agree that this story is fantastically written. The language really captures the hardship and harsh environment experienced in the prison. For example, if the cold alone had not been described the way it is, the reader wouldn't fully understand how much the environment alone affected the prisoners. The way the story is written also allows the audience to understand the guards' interactions with the prisoners in a way that give the reader the full effect of what is being described. Overall, I think the story of Ivan Denisovich is worth reading.
Emily_Riemer More than 1 year ago
Ivan Denisovich Shuckhov humbles me. A poor, uneducated, Russian labor camp prisoner who struggled in the real world, Shuckhov possess traits unlike any other protagonist of a prison/Holocaust novel. His ability to adapt and thrive in the harsh Siberian environment that he was unjustly put in makes for an eye-opening story. His rare ability to acclimate to every situation without complaint and to observe every gruesome situation with an optimistic lens characterizes him as the best of his breed. One Day in the life of Ivan Denisovich is at time a morose tale, yes, but it is also one of the most prominent examples of the persistence of mankind. Starving, sleep deprived, and freezing, Ivan Denisovich still finds appreciation and comfort in his work, basking in the fact that his masonry skills are far superior to those of his inmates. This action depicts the pride he has in his work that his section of the wall is the straightest and the sturdiest. His outward display of emotions are a fantastic example of the state of awe that Alexander Solzhenitsyn is constantly placing the reader in; that a man tortured and dehumanized on a daily basis can still maintain his dignity enough to successfully function and work in camp, and moreover enjoy the work he does in camp, is entirely astounding. His attitude in hardship reflects the best of mankind and the duration of the human spirit in times of struggle. In addition, the Darwinian aspect that is found throughout the novel only makes the story that much more real. Solzhenitsyn attaches new meaning to the phrase “survival of the fittest” as Ivan’s resilience and longevity are tested in the sub-zero temperatures of the Siberian wasteland. His malleable character, while not relatable to most readers, inflicts a deep found self-awareness and appreciation in us and our surroundings. Furthermore, the language is concise; written from an illiterate perspective it is a simple read, but not necessarily an easy read. Time must be taken in order to do this account justice. However, the lens that this novel is written through creates rawness within the words. The imagery and detail that is put into documenting one day in the life of a Russian labor camp inmate is intense to the point where you feel hungry when Ivan is starving, cold when he is freezing and weary when he is struggling. As dynamic character you sympathize with his hardships and rejoice in his moments of triumph in which he is able to beat the system by sneaking a piece of hacksaw back into camp. The survival system he has perfected for himself over the years is full proof and the optimism he shows at the end of the day only further emphasizes the testament he is to civilization and the beacon he has become in the bleak world of the political prisoner genre. Despite the depressing circumstances that make up this novel, the only real tragedy would be not to read it.
CristinaVal More than 1 year ago
Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is the story of one man’s attempt at survival in a tyrannical Siberian labor camp. Taking place during the tumultuous World War II, Solzhenitsyn explores the tenacity of man, the corruption of a Russian society, and the fight for sustainment. Protagonist, Ivan Denisovich Shukov, is one of the longest standing members in his squad (the 104th) whose hard work ethic and tactics for survival make him go unnoticed at times by prison guards. While the novel is told in third person point of view it is easy to become lost in the author’s narration and the thoughts of Ivan Denisovich. The sudden changes from the author’s narration and the thoughts of Denisovich create an uncertainty concerning the real motivation behind the character’s actions. Though the book does not lack in explanation I found myself having to go back and recalling that Solzhenitsyn and Denisovich had different thought processes and did not share the same beliefs. The author insists on placing small dialects between the prisoners throughout the novel during the work hour and lunch. I found these areas to be written in vain because it acts as a barrier between the reader and his or her understanding of Denisovich. Solzhenitsyn wrote the novel through the course of one day: it begins when Denisovich wakes up and ends directly after he falls asleep. It is an in depth account of everything Denisovich did that day. Personally, I found the book to be slow and dull. The author spends too much time explaining events that need no explanation such as the way Denisovich puts on his boots or illustrating thoroughly the ritual in which prisoners were counted. Furthermore, the climax was done in such a way that demanded no excitement making the resolution all the more monotonous. I found the element of repetition constantly present throughout the novel. Repetition was found when Solzhenitsyn would describe the prisoner’s routine such as: getting frisked, eating, and looking for tobacco. Though some readers say it was written to stress the critical conditions faced by all members of the prison I found it to be overdone. I recommend this novel to anyone who is fine with following a story that lacks the component of conspiracy and suspense. The novel is however an insightful and informative story about the struggles faced by the prisoners of a Siberieran work camp. The author goes through a lot of trouble to present Denisovich as an ordinary man even when faced with conflict. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich attempts to present the hardships faced by prisoners in a labor camp. Inevitably, its powerful message is blocked by the usage of great detail and descriptions. Its lack of thrill could cause people to become quickly uninterested.
Isaias-Jasso More than 1 year ago
Isaias Jasso Period 5 August 16, 2012 “One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich” is a story of a man fighting for life one day at a time. Ivan Denisovich is the character Alexander Solzhenitsyn portrays himself as. This piece of literary fiction is in fact what a man truly went through for some part of his life: Alexander Solzhenitsyn spent close to ten years in the Soviet Union’s labor camps and wrote the horrific truths about the camps in this book. The title itself begins the discussion of prisoners battling themselves to maintain their dignity and morality. Throughout the book, most call Ivan Denisovich by his last name, Shukhov. The author wants to show how when there is a deed of great human value, the person is addressed to by their first name and, in Ivan’s case, middle name. The last name signifies that the character is being addresses to as nothing more than a prisoner or prison companion. There are many interpretations to the title alone. Alexander Solzhenitsyn also brings about an interesting combination of weather and human emotions. The setting in the story is a dark and cold vast land where there is little to no hope of escape. When the prisoners start to work, still in the dark morning, the work is slow and no one wants to work. As the work begins to speed up, and as the sun begins to rise higher in the sky, the “zeks” begin to become happier for there is more heat: another way Alexander brings the topic of joy into a hopeless place. Solzhenitsyn finds interesting ways to give emotions an equal weather and comfort counterpart. One of the biggest topics Alexander Solzhenitsyn goes into is how the Soviet Union used certain mechanisms to control the prisoner: physically, emotionally, and logically. Ivan Denisovich is a veteran in the camp life. Shukhov understands the importance of food, and so do the guards and camp leaders. Food is the biggest manipulator for a prisoner. Without food a prisoner will die within days. Food also brings about the topic of self-dignity, only those dignified enough will keep to their plates and find ways to receive more rations, but there are also those that lost their dignity and now scavenge for food, even if it means licking the leftovers of someone else. Food also makes people act like raved dogs; hence the thought process of the prisoner is nowhere to be found. Alexander also talks about how the gulag system will give false hope to the prisoners. For example, Ivan expects to be let out of the camp after his sentence is done, but he knows that the possibility of him staying another couple of years is high. This false hope helps the prisoners want to work to survive longer and, hopefully one day, go home, but home wasn’t an option, only exile or back to another camp. Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s novel, “One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich” has many interpretations but one overall message: enjoy all that life gives you, because one day you may never have it again.
Christiana_Vargas More than 1 year ago
I would recommend the book, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, to readers who desire to become informed and educated about the torment that many Russian civilians experienced in the atrocious labor camps. However, I would not recommend this novel to a person who wishes to read a book about an idealistic persona who fights for his rights and ends up making a drastic change in the Russian system. This book is not an action book; it is not a cliffhanger and does not create grand suspense for the reader. In fact, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, is close to if not the opposite of that. It is a rational novel of the common day of a Russian prisoner. Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s work of fiction, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, shows readers the every day struggles and brutality of surviving in a Siberian “special” camp, or labor camp. Solzhenitsyn does a marvelous job of showing the viciousness of the labor camp without exaggerating or amplifying the realistic nature of the labor camp. Ultimately, the truthfulness and simplicity of Solzhenitsyn’s writing technique strikes an impact in the reader. The book takes place in the 1940’s during the extreme Russian winter. The protagonist, Ivan Shukhov Denisovich, is a former Russian soldier who was wrongfully found guilty of betrayal. He has completed eight of the ten years he was sentenced to at the labor camp. Interestingly, Shukhov is neither a hero nor a pessimist. He is a regular middle-aged man who has accepted the fate that he will be in the labor camp for most likely the rest of his life. The other characters help illuminate the stage of acceptance Shukhov has reached. For example, Shukhov is not livid, depressed, or suffering from the harshness of his life anymore. In fact, one of the reasons Shukhov is so good-hearted and compassionate towards his fellow convicts is because he understands what they are going through. *SPOILER ALERT* For instance, prisoners are allowed to send mail twice a year. Most prisoners rush to write to his/her family or loved one, however, Shukhov does not get animated to write to his family. He has accepted his life at the labor camp to such an extent that he feels as if he does not belong to modern day Russian society. He is bewildered that most men become carpet painters and make a decent living by barely doing any work. He believes that men have to earn the money they receive. * END OF SPOILER ALERT* For the most part, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, was enjoyable to read. I would have liked to see a more enticing ending to the novel. However considering that Solzhenitsyn was trying to be realistic and not idealistic the book was definitely an impacting and eye opening novel to the shameful and inhumane pasts of Russian history.
GMagalhaes More than 1 year ago
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a truly influential and strong novel by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It centralizes on Ivan Denisovich Shukhov’s life and his everyday struggle to overcome and survive the mental and physical abuse he faced in the Soviet labor camps in the mid 1900’s. he was imprisoned because the Soviet government accused him of spying for the Germans. The prisoners must survive inhumane conditions, such as “two hundred men” sleeping on “fifty bug ridden bunks,” (Page 7) working intensely for an entire day in below freezing temperatures, and being fed just enough to barely survive. It vividly depicts one of his 3653 day, or ten-year sentence. SPOILER The story’s major themes are how Shukhov must struggle to maintain his dignity and endure the injustices of the Soviet government under Stalin’s rule. Both Shukhov and the other inmates frequently demonstrate these topics throughout the novel. The prisoners are dehumanized and treated like slaves or animals, and instead of being referred to by their name they are identified by numbers. The novel begins by describing the warder’s intolerance towards the prisoners when Shukhov, or “Shcha-854” is punished for taking slightly longer to get out of bed and threatened to be sent to “three days in the hole.” (Page 7) They are forced to survive on two hundred grams of bread per meal and sometimes are served a sickening gruel, which they learn to appreciate because they must eat to survive with their low daily food rations. Through determination, responsibility, teamwork, and optimism, they were able to achieve their goals and finish each of their designated duties in the Power Station. Once completed, they went to the mess hall where there would be a feeding frenzy of old stale bread and soup. However, Shukhov demonstrates his passion by staying behind in order to continue working on his job when it was unnecessary to do so. Once he joined the others at the chaotic mess hall, he saw how it was teeming with starving savages who were “risking suffocation for the sake of [their] skilly, [their] lawful entitlement of skilly.” (Page 148) Fetyukov, one of the prisoners in Shukhov’s gang, was severely beaten for licking the used bowls. Shukhov earns several food bonuses for his efforts and his good relations with his gang members, enough so that for the first time he is able to give a biscuit to his of the prisoners, Alyoshka the Baptist. Throughout the novel a clear transformation of Shukhov’s personality is apparent. He has a poor attitude in the beginning of the story, but he grew to appreciate what he has and not envy others who were given certain benefits, particularly those regarding food. After realizing how much food he had while on a full stomach, he felt as if “he was really living it up!” (Page 161) While “those who always think the other man’s radish is plumper than their own might feel envy,” “Shukhov knew what was what and didn’t let his belly rumble for other people’s goodies.” (Page 162) He did not complain about missing his family, but instead focused on what was important and maintained an optimistic view on life. One of the most powerful transformations was when he realized he is not jealous of free workers. In fact, he wasn’t even sure anymore if it was better to be free or a prisoner after learning to appreciate what he had. The most prominent moral of this story is to appreciate what you have and to make the most out of every situation.
JuanPigurina123 More than 1 year ago
A Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich is an interesting, if forgivably slow paced, account of a single day of the titular character’s ten year gulag imprisonment. At first, the narrator’s seemingly abrupt changes in focus and attention may prove distracting. As the story progresses, however, one begins to feel more as though this is simply the natural rapid shifts in the concerns of Shukhov, (Ivan), and the story feels less as if it is being told and more as if it is simply happening. The protagonist has little time to pause and ponder to question his circumstances; he lives in the present, as it is the only possible way to maintain health and sanity in the camp’s deplorable conditions. At one point, Shukhov is reminded that he has nearly completed his sentence. The idea brings on a sense of elation in him, but very briefly. He quickly suppresses his swelling hopefulness, not allowing himself to forget that he is still a prisoner, and still at the mercy the “bosses”, who might add another ten years to his sentence if struck with the urge. It is intriguing to point out that while the reader may be separated from the protagonist by unfathomable distances in terms of both geography and time, the story is told in a manner that allows for a degree of empathy that transcends physical and temporal barriers. The protagonist treats his hardships in a way that declares to the reader, “This is a HUMAN being, with HUMAN problems”. The camps awful standards of living become just that: standards. However poorly they are treated, the workers simply grow accustomed to the conditions, to the point of celebrating things that would have likely ruined their day in the free world. Shukhov, for example, mentions that when, as a free man, he used to feed oats to his horses, he could have never imagined looking forward to a ladle-full of those very same oats as if they were a treat. Another character, referred to as “the captain” due to his service in the navy, adds some interesting contrast. He is new to the camp, and can thus be observed as he slowly adjusts to its conditions. He gradually displays signs of adjustment, and begins to subconsciously accept his predicament as normal, being shown no feasible alternative. Ultimately, what allows the work gang to continue despite their plight is the teamwork and camaraderie they have forged through their struggles. Their stern yet compassionate foreman serves as an anchor for gang 104. Being a prisoner and a victim himself, he can relate to his workers, and vice-versa. This allows for a sort self-perpetuating motivation within the group, with each man motivated by the determination of his peers. Shukhov even shows hints of pride in his work, having been a craftsman himself, and patiently corrects and assists his fellows as they all work towards a common goal.
madelinebenn More than 1 year ago
A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a well written, compelling novel about a man, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, sentenced to 10 years in a “special” work camp in post second world war Russia. Shukhov has already served 8 years of his sentence, and has survived the brutal and inhuman conditions of the camp. He takes things day to day, surviving only one day at a time. This is accentuated by the nature of the novel itself, only telling one day in his life at the camp, because that is how he mainly looks at it. Throughout the novel Shukhov faces much adversity, from the unrelenting guards enforcing cruel rules to the constant lack of food and proper nutrition, however, he remains unbreakable in his objective to maintain his dignity and pride in the dehumanizing circumstances he is faced with. For instance, even though he was nearly starving and it was almost 20 below, he never ate any meal with his hat on. He could not bring himself down to that level, where there was very little dignity. Further, Shukhov struggles with the constant battle between faith and survival. Feeding the physical body or feeding the soul and mind. This struggle is depicted through two things; firstly, through Shukhovs fellow inmate Alyosha, who is a dedicated Baptist, and who focuses more on his prayers than his limited food rations, and secondly, through the importance of the bread rations at the work camp, and their essential importance to the inmates, especially to Shukhov. This novel, although limited to only one specific day, truly encompasses an era of Russia that was, for a long time very secret. It touches on several universal themes which all readers are able to identify with; the struggle to maintain dignity and pride in situations that are grim and hopeless, as well as the continuous battle for the balance between feeding the soul or feeding the body. This is not the sort of book to be read in an afternoon. It is a book that requires, that deserves, time for the reader to contemplate over the deeper meaning that is found within it. It is so rich in context that to try to skim through it is meaningless because, if skimmed, the reader will finish will a brief summary from the tip of the iceberg and will leave it quite disappointed. In order to retain the full content of the novel on all the levels possible, the reader must savour the book slowly, listen to each word said carefully, and analyze the characters actions meticulously. Only then can a reader fully appreciate the extent to which this book reveals not only Shukhovs day, but the universal themes that encompasses it.
SarahAnn09 More than 1 year ago
ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH takes readers through life in a Russian prison camp during the days of Stalin. The character and story are based on the author's real-life experience as an unjustly held political prisoner. Beatings, starvation and cruelty were the staples of existence for the prisoners, who carved out their daily life through exhaustive work camp labor in sub-zero temperatures. Driven to the edge of survival, readers witness the subtle means by which the lead character maintains his sense of humanity. From simply hanging on to a secret spoon to eat with that he made himself as a means of small hope, to the end of the book where he shows care for his fellow prisoners - the main character's focus is not on things that were lost, such as his former life of freedom with his wife - but instead on things within the camp that he finds to keep him going, such as a pair of felt boots or a small piece of bread he hides to eat later. Such perspective embodies the courageous qualities of the human spirit. For readers who enjoyed this book, I strongly recommend reading an intense journey that chronicles incredible perseverance in the face of adversity - a memoir by Gregg Milligan called A BEAUTIFUL WORLD. As a young boy subjected to severe physical, mental and sexual abuse, Gregg finds ways to keep his hope alive - such as finding a stray dime to purchase a fruit pie from the corner store, taking refuge in a quiet field at the end of the block, and caring for a kitten rejected by its mother. Readers will be struck the pure innocence of a child's heart prevailing in the depths of evil. The love he has for his siblings and even his abusive mother is a testament to its endurance. An unforgettable story, exquisitely written in a searing visual style, A BEAUTIFUL WORLD will ever remain with those that read it. The strength and resilience of those that suffer encourages all of us to stay the course, no matter what difficulties in life we may face. Look no further than ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH and A BEAUTIFUL WORLD for proof. And in the words of Gregg Milligan, "Few rise above all the decadence done unto them. Those blessed few leave a great influence of a better day filled with clean hope and blossoming opportunities. We are all capable of leaving this mark - no matter what we've been through."
gbill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great concept - a single day in the life of a prisoner in a Soviet gulag - and it's surprising that it was published at all under Khrushchev in 1962. Solzhenitsyn himself was in such a camp under Stalin from 1945 to 1953, and he writes with simplicity and honestly. While forced labor is a harsh and heavy theme, ultimately "One Day" is an uplifting tale of strength and perseverance.
readingaria on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This great novel looks into the Soviet Gulag and the life of Ivan Denisovich, a man sent to the gulag for the crime of escaping the POW camps of the Germans in the Second World War. Solzenhitsyn uses his own experiences from the camps to make this story come alive and he tells the story wonderfully. It is hard to say much about this book because it is so wonderful and yet about such a terrible topic. The ups and downs throughout the day, the ways the prisoners survived, the constant work and the constant tettering on the line between life and death: all of this is portrayed perfectly by Solzenitsyn.This is a great novel and one people should read for so many reasons.
rstanley1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was responsible, more than almost any other except the Bible, adn maybe Lech Walesa's biography of his struggle to free Poland, in shaping my worldview and disdain for godless and tyrannical governments who don't follow the Founders belief in the sanctity of the individual rights bestowed by their Creator.
charlie68 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A quote on the back page says it is the most significant publishing event of the year, the year being 1963. A lot of things have happened between then and now. The world has changed and the Red Menace and Evil Empire have faded into nothingness. While a stark portrayal of prison life it was hardly shocking or well done. Yes the prisons were bad, yes life under Stalin was no bed of roses, but this book didn't capture it. The Gulag Archipelago in its immensity did.
aiufjcf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a somewhat depressing book. It also had some language in it.
HistReader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was uniquely satisfying. As the title advertises, the whole book encapsulates one day in a single chapter story, no surprise there. It is encouraging despite a lack of resolution; there is no winner, no resolve where we learn about Ivan serving his whole term. What was most surprising is that in less than 140 pages the reader is endeared to the protagonist, understands the survival instinct, and builds just as much hope for his release as the main character is resigned to no longer count the days to "freedom." As most hard-scrabble prison camp stories go, I waited several times to eventually read of Ivan Denisovich's being sent to the "cell" for ten days, torture at the hand of the "Wolf," or even his demise. Solzhenitsyn was fully capable of expertly weaving suspense into his tale - drawn from his own experience in one of the ubiquitous labor camps.The author has no problem imparting the repetition of the days; the reader understands there is little difference between the days of labor. Seasons and most Sundays are the only break in the monotony of daily struggle to not be hungry or tired. There is no need to write about a whole ten-year sentence or even a month or week of life in the camp. There were likely no events or stretches of time where special celebrations took place, save for finishing a project, but then each morning everyone was thankful for not being assigned to the Soviet Way of Life Camp. Life was always overshadowed by the fear of being punished for doing something different or not doing anything at all.I began this review by writing how satisfying this book was. The story ended on what could only be a peaceful note; neither happy nor sad. Given the context of life in a labor camp, the ending was no more or less distressing than the total of the book's story. The reader falls asleep with Ivan, content in the fact he did not receive any punishments and anticipating the same will happen when reveille sounds in the arctic Siberian morning.
heidilove on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
on eof my favourite russian novels
Nodosaurus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting story of one day in the life of a prisoner in a Soviet Gulag. It takes place in a cold January, the protagonist has to deal with the cold, guards, and fellow prisoners, he has a ten-year sentence for confessing to being a spy. He confessed to avoid being killed, his crime was being captured by the Nazis and then escaping. The prisoners are pit against each other for rewards of food, but have their own means of support. They have their own economy, and are able to bribe for favor. The book shows Ivan Denisovich'es expectations within his world, the world is portrayed very well with lots of interesting details.