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The First Circle (1968)

by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,199285,427 (4.15)1 / 102
Indirectly based on Solzhenitsyn's own experiences of working as a mathematician in a prison research institute, The First Circle is set amongst a group of scientists caught up in the system of prison camps. Forced to work for the secret police, they debate the morality of what they doing but are cruelly aware that failure to co-operate would secure them a worse fate. The title is a reference to the first, and least unpleasant, circle of Hell in Dante's inferno but Solzhenitsyn's characters know that the lower circles of hell are there in the shape of the forced labour camps and that these await them if they make a false step. This searing insight into the dark side of Soviet life in the final years of Stalin's regime is both a brooding account of human nature and a scrupulously exact description of a historical period.… (more)
  1. 10
    The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation (Volume One, Parts I-II) by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (editfish)
    editfish: This novel goes beyond the research of 'Gulag' and looks at life in the Sharaska (Paradise Islands) of the Archipelago.
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» See also 102 mentions

English (21)  Catalan (3)  French (1)  German (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (27)
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
1
  ejmw | Aug 4, 2021 |
This is one of the few books I read I consider life changing. It captures and explains people and society better than any sociology or psychology book I have ever read. Take advantage of this, there is a life's worth of observations by a sharp mind distilled in a book.. ( )
  Paul_S | Dec 23, 2020 |
Soviet Scientists who are politically unreliable live in this prison facility and they are still allowed to work in their labs, but for the Secret Police projects....redemption may be a receding hope. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Jul 20, 2019 |
The epitome of Soviet historical suspense novels. Thorough and engrossing. The Stalin chapters are psychologically biting and very funny.
  beanbrarian | Apr 19, 2019 |
Somewhere in the Stone Reader documentary, likely its bonus features, a critic named The First Circle as the last novel of the 19th Century. The isolation of Soviet themes was likely exaggerated by the critic but the novel itself doesn't appear to reveal self-awareness: perhaps such would also be a violation of Article 58. I read this in tandem with my wife and what a glorious experience that was. As tragic as this tale of a neutered Hell of sorts remains, it begs so many questions about the nature of penal system in the Soviet Union. Cross-purposes appeared to proliferate with exposure to air. If Guilt was endemic why have them work, espeially around such sensitive areas of expertise? My naievety albeit bruised and riddled will likely cling for my life's extent. I still ponder motives. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (26 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Solzhenitsyn, AleksandrAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Glenny, MichaelTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harari, ManyaTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hayward, MaxTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Geier, SwetlanaÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whitney, Thomas P.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The fretted hands of the bronze clock on the shelf stood at five to five.
Le lancette traforate segnavano le cinque e cinque.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Indirectly based on Solzhenitsyn's own experiences of working as a mathematician in a prison research institute, The First Circle is set amongst a group of scientists caught up in the system of prison camps. Forced to work for the secret police, they debate the morality of what they doing but are cruelly aware that failure to co-operate would secure them a worse fate. The title is a reference to the first, and least unpleasant, circle of Hell in Dante's inferno but Solzhenitsyn's characters know that the lower circles of hell are there in the shape of the forced labour camps and that these await them if they make a false step. This searing insight into the dark side of Soviet life in the final years of Stalin's regime is both a brooding account of human nature and a scrupulously exact description of a historical period.

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