The Gulag Archipelago by Sozhenitsyn

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The Gulag Archipelago by Sozhenitsyn

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Jan 10, 2007, 3:19am

I am going to read the entire book, volumes 1-3 unabridged this year for my own personal reading challenge. I would like any recommendations, comments, helpful suggestions or otherwise from anyone who has read it. I have only just started it, on chapter 2 of the first book so don't give away anything yet! :)
I will say that I love it so far and find Solzhenitsyn's sarcasm engaging :)

Jan 10, 2007, 6:01am

I have read it. I did so as three separate volumes, with time in between each (several years between vols 2 and 3, as I couldn't find a copy for years), so as to make it more bearable. I bought all three in separate secondhand bookshops at different times. I too like his style and the rambling, slightly disjointed style of prose.


Mar 31, 2007, 12:26am

I never made it past the milddle of book 2: the endless catalogue of misery finally got to me and I had to give up. John257hopper's idea of breaking it up is a good one: you could intersperse it with reading other writers on the same thing: try Nedezhda Mandelstam's biography Hope against Hope, the story of her life while her husband was in the Gulag, or Akhmatova's long poem Requiem.

I'm assuming you've already read A day in the life of Ivan Denisovitch and The First Circle which are more fictionalised accounts of Solzhenitsyn's time in the gulag.

You could also read Dostoevsky's The House of the Dead for a 19th century take on the Gulag.

Mar 31, 2007, 11:29am

I read First Circle last year and it is good, based in a sharashka, or scientific labour colony, rather than in the Gulag. The quirky chracteristics of some of the people prevented it from becoming too depressing. Must try Cancer Ward some time, on my TBR list. Have also read One Day of course.

Abr 2, 2007, 1:57am

tomcat, yes I've read A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch but I havent read the others yet. I have copies of them all and they are going to be read but I have about 200 TBR books lol

I've gotten about half way through book 1 of the Gulag and I'm already taking a break and reading a non-fiction The Ancestor'sTale by Richard Dawkins about evolution. It's another huge book and so I'm taking a break from that too right now and not reading anything! lol

Abr 2, 2007, 6:14am

sounds like a nightmare, bookaddict.
Good luck!

7mcgreen311 Primeira Mensagem
Jun 4, 2007, 10:58pm

If you can find it, it would be interesting to switch between Gulag and Invisible Allies so you can get a little back story.

Ago 18, 2007, 11:24am

Re #1, 2: Also made it through Gulag Archipelago, 1-3, spread over a few years. Had the same problem, finding all the books.

That said, it's a very similar experience to The Fatal Shore; horrific but well worth the time and effort to get through; and Solzhenitsyn's sense of humor is what keeps you going. His description of the military exploits of Vlasov is one of the worst laugh-because-you-can't-cry moments in literature anywhere.

Bite the bullet. If you like Russia, this isn't something you can skip.

Jul 30, 2010, 1:37pm

I would say read them all one after the other without any breaks. I took a break at one point (too many books on the go at one time) and lost the momentum. I felt I had to go back to the very beginning and start over. It may be a difficult read but is so worth it. Having that knowledge has enriched my understanding of many other books of that era.

Set 4, 2010, 9:37am

Reading Gulag Archipelago was an odd experience for me. There would be times when I was so horrified by the experiences and descriptions of abuses that I didn't think I'd be able to turn the next page and continue, then there were times I didn't know if I could turn the next page and continue because it would be page after page of mind-numbing facts and case details. I was also a little put off by his need to keep reminding us that all this stuff was really bad, I don't need to be reminded, the facts speak for themselves. All in all, I much prefer Solzhenitsyn's fiction to his non-fiction. Cancer Ward was amazing, next on my Solzhenitsyn list is First Circle.

Set 7, 2010, 9:53am


I tried Cancer Ward a couple of summers ago, but gave up on it. I couldn't get into it and gave up fairly quickly, but intend to try it again at some point. To obviate any guilt I read a Solzhenitsyn novella For the Good of the Cause.

Set 13, 2010, 4:57pm

Aw, don't feel guilty. Not everyone can connect with every book, no matter how good other people say it is. For the life of me, I couldn't get into Dr. Faustus by Mann and everyone I know who has read it touts it as this incredible masterpiece but I simply could NOT garner any enthusiasm for it and gave up.

Set 14, 2010, 3:51pm

Another masterpiece in others' opinion but that I did not get on with (and I know this is a thread digression) was Master and Margarita.

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