Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Friday, May 29, 2009

One day in the life of Shukhov

A fascinating quote about Shakespeare, Emily, and one which helps me to pin down my reaction to One day in the life of Shukhov. Solzhenitsyn, like Shakespeare, is writing about human nature – what we do in extremis, and in both cases, we can perhaps see this best or at least from a different angle when the setting is unfamiliar.

I’d never have chosen this to read, expecting it to be harrowing, and still myself not entirely over my disappointment with Stalinist communism, which has no redeeming features whatsoever and which has tainted the idea of communism fatally, I think. But was glad to read a classic by someone I’ve never read – and it really grew on me as I got into it, to the extent that I wanted to get back to the camp each evening for the next instalment. That’s some achievement. Valerie’s right, I can’t imagine the suffering, but I enjoyed the insights into the reactions of Shukhov and others. And I was amazed by the cunning way in which the authorities manipulated the men so that the prisoners policed themselves and competed with each other to complete work etc. “Who’s the zek’s main enemy? Another zek. I f only they weren’t at loggerhead with one another’ (p 105)