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Kolyma Tales by Varlam Shalamov

Kolyma Tales (1978)

by Varlam Shalamov

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7251512,951 (4.25)39

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English (11)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (1)  Italian (1)  All (15)
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Excellent, excellent book. This puts Alexander Solzhenitsyn almost to shame with the quality of the prose and the forthrightness of the message. 500 pages of short stories about the Siberian camps for political and criminal prisoners told in a way that will utterly amaze even the most stoic of readers. Damn good! ( )
  untraveller | Apr 27, 2017 |
I loved the description in the forward of this book as a "mosaic made of tiny pieces." Each of the stories is a tiny gem, each is peopled with characters who have no idea whether they will be dead or alive the next day. As a character in one story states, "We understood that death was no worse than life, and we feared neither. We were overcome by indifference." These are not people inspired by hope. They do what they have to in order to stay alive one more day, one more hour. There is no moralizing, no lesson stated, no shining example of courage or inspiration. Whatever the action or inaction of any prisoner, each reader must react to the stories in his or her own way.

Highly recommended ( )
  arubabookwoman | Apr 20, 2017 |
Varlam Shalamov (1907-1982) was a Russian writer who was sent to the Gulags and lived to tell the tale. I read about this collection of tales on one of the blogs I read, but I forgot to note which one, and it took me so long to read the book on my kindle, (because I read it only in cafés and waiting rooms and sometimes sitting beside my sleeping father until he woke up) that now all I can do is to thank my anonymous source for the recommendation.

Kolyma Tales isn’t a very cheery choice for the festive season, but it’s surprisingly uplifting. The narrator tells his stories of everyday life in the Gulags, not as Solzhenitsyn did, piling on the harrowing misery as a political act which helped to raise awareness of the Soviet use of the Gulags as a system of repression, but with wry humour and a Chekhovian awareness of the vagaries of human nature. The foreword makes these differences explicit:

Where Solzhenitsyn constructs a single vast panorama, loose and sprawling, Shalamov chooses the most concise of literary forms, the short story, and shapes it consciously and carefully, so that his overall structure is like a mosaic made of tiny pieces. Where Solzhenitsyn writes with anger, sarcasm and bitterness, Shalamov adopts a studiedly dry and neutral tone. Where Solzhenitsyn plunges into his characters’ fates, telling their story from a variety of subjective viewpoints, Shalamov takes strict control of his discourse, usually conducting his narrative from an undivided viewpoint and aiming at complete objectivity. Where Solzhenitsyn is fiercely moralistic and preaches redemption through suffering, Shalamov contents himself with cool aphorisms and asserts that real suffering, such as Kolyma imposed on its inmates, can only demoralize and break the spirit.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2016/12/16/kolyma-tales-by-varlam-shalamov-translated-by-john-glad/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Dec 15, 2016 |
"We had long since given up planning our lives more than a day in advance", 22 October 2016

This review is from: Kolyma Tales (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) (Paperback)
"It was sixty degrees below; after sixty degrees below zero, spit froze in mid-air. Spit had been freezing in mid-air for two weeks."

Fantastically crafted short stories set in the gulags in the far east of Russian Siberia. A world where the intellectual political prisoners are the lowest of the low, 'enemies of the people', unlike the murderers and thieves who get the top jobs and the warmest bunks.
In the permanent cold, the diseased and underfed strive to avoid being sent down the gold mines to almost certain death; strive to get 'easy' jobs, like being sent out into the taiga to collect cedar needles for vitamin C production, or to be sent to hospital - no matter what the price exacted.
Shalamov, who spent seventeen years in Kolyma, tells of every aspect of life: the camp commanders who for fear of breaking rules order a dead horse be burnt rather than used for food; the lice, the loss of interest in anything beyond survival, the casual brutality. Though short, they pack an immense punch - even more than the much better known 'Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich' in my opinion. ( )
  starbox | Oct 22, 2016 |
Shalamov's stories of life in the prison camps of Kolyma -- in the far northeast of Russia, around the Arctic Circle, the region Solzhenitsyn referred to as the Gulag system's "pole of ferocity" -- are as cold and pitiless as the place itself. These would rank as great short stories for their craft alone, but the horrors they relate, and their resigned and unflinching voice put them in a class of their own. ( )
1 vote steve.lane | Nov 28, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Je kunt kniesoren dat de zware en dikke verzamelband, met al zijn doublures en het voorbijgaan aan iedere chronologie, te veel van het goede is; maar niemand is verplicht om de verhalen van A tot Z te lezen. Je kunt opmerken dat uitgeverij De Bezige Bij zo snel mogelijk moet komen met een betaalbare en handzame paperback (waarin dan meteen de meer dan dertig zetfouten gecorrigeerd kunnen worden). Maar het doet allemaal niets af aan het monumentale karakter van deze uitgave. Berichten uit Kolyma is een gedenkteken in woorden voor de miljoenen naamloze slachtoffers van de Goelag. En wat voor woorden!
Het belang van Sjalamovs verzamelde Berichten uit Kolyma kan moeilijk worden overschat. Dat geldt voor het historische belang als een van de weinige uitvoerige getuigenissen van een overlever. En voor het literaire belang als een documentair prozawerk waarin met de allergrootste precisie wordt verhaald hoe mensen leven op de bodem van de hel. Dieren, zo stelt Sjalamov meer dan eens vast, 'zijn uit beter materiaal gemaakt': onder omstandigheden als die in Kolyma sterven ze gewoon. Mensen kun je vernederen, vertrappen, folteren, beroven, afjakkeren, ze zullen zich met alle listen en lagen aan de laatste broodkruimel blijven vastklampen. Tot ook zij door de bodem zakken. De permafrost van Kolyma bewaart de lijken van honderdduizenden gevangenen.
added by Jozefus | editTrouw, Antoine Verbij (Nov 18, 2000)

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Varlam Shalamovprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bloemen, YolandaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Glad, JohnForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Glad, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Håkanson, NilsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nitschke, AnneloreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rapetti, SergioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wiebes, MarjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Berichten uit Kolyma (2000) bevat een groot aantal verhalen die in 1982 in dezelfde vertaling zijn verschenen bij De Arbeiderspers onder de titel Kolyma: verhalen uit de Goelag Archipel. Een selectie van deze verhalen is in 1996 door Bert Bakker heruitgegeven als Verhalen uit Kolyma.
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Book description
"A brilliant literary talent...These tales are a handful of diamonds." - Harrison Salisbury in the Chicago Tribune

It is estimated that some 3 million people died in the Soviet forced-labor camps of kolyma, in the NE area of Siberia. Shalamov himself spent 17 years there, and in these stories he vividly captures the lives of ordinary people caught up in terrible circumstances, their hopes and plans extending no further than a few hours.
This edition combines two collections previously published in the USA as 'Kolyma Tales' and 'Graphite'.
"One of the most awe-inspiring works of literature to have come out of the Gulag...his tales are at once a true historical record and a formidable piece of literary invention" - Sunday Telegraph
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