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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962)

by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
10,604172448 (4.03)435
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich brilliantly portrays a single day, any day, in the life of a single Russian soldier who was captured by the Germans in 1945 and who managed to escape a few days later. Along with millions of others, this soldier was charged with some sort of political crime, and since it was easier to confess than deny it and die, Ivan Denisovich "confessed" to "high treason" and received a sentence of 10 years in a Siberian labor camp.… (more)
  1. 70
    The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation (Volume One, Parts I-II) by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (editfish)
    editfish: A novella exploring a typical day in the life of a 'slogger' in one of Stalin's prison (Destructive Labor) camps.
  2. 50
    Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler (BGP, chrisharpe)
  3. 40
    Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman (chrisharpe)
  4. 30
    Kolyma Tales by Varlam Shalamov (Eustrabirbeonne)
  5. 20
    Forest of the Gods by Balys Sruoga (satanburger)
    satanburger: the account of a man from the lithuanian intelligentsia who was imprisoned in a concentration camp by the nazis and kept there by the soviets. very dark humour.
  6. 20
    If This Is a Man by Primo Levi (Eustrabirbeonne)
  7. 11
    If This Is a Man; The Truce by Primo Levi (hazzabamboo)
    hazzabamboo: Levi's memoir of Auschwitz is more 'literary', longer and bleaker, but both are gripping and extremely well written.
  8. 00
    The Day Will Pass Away: The Diary of a Gulag Prison Guard: 1935-1936 by Ivan Chistyakov (meggyweg)
  9. 00
    Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite by Suki Kim (bks1953)
  10. 00
    Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a Number by Jacobo Timerman (eromsted)
1960s (118)
Read (57)
Europe (114)

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» See also 435 mentions

English (163)  Spanish (3)  French (2)  Swedish (1)  Hungarian (1)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (172)
Showing 1-5 of 163 (next | show all)
Without affectation; cuts to the quick. ( )
  drbrand | Jun 8, 2020 |
My favorite passage in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is when the titular character sees an older man sit down across from him in the mess hall. The man has clearly been through numerous camps and prisons, and he is described in a few sentences as being worn down, but not broken. As I was reading, I heard the ghosts of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy licking their chops. Had this man featured in one of their tomes, his description would be followed by a 10-page slobberfest over the Russian people or the current state of Russia as a whole or something of that ilk. Instead, Solzhenitsyn simply states, "However, [Ivan] couldn't go on watching the old man - he had other things to do." Take that, verbosity.

The rest of the novel plays out in the same way. There is never anything particularly flowery (In the introduction, Yevgeny Yevtushenko alleges that this is partially due to the translation, but I don't quite buy that) and in a book about life in a Siberian labor camp, that's probably how it should be. The language is all straightforward, and only hiccup for me was the occasional shift in pronouns. After not appearing anywhere in the first half, "we" begins to appear in places that feel awkward or just wrong. I don't know if Solzhenitsyn was alluding to his own experiences as a prisoner when he would drop a "we" but it wasn't consistent enough to work.

Throughout the story, the reader is always waiting for the other shoe to drop on Ivan, but it never does. He gets some extra food, doesn't get busted during the pat-down, and buys some high-quality tobacco without incident. What makes his story heartbreaking is how pitiful his "good day" was and how few days would ever be like this one, and what brings a grain of hope is his attitude, a combination of realism and a determination to survive. He may not go home anytime soon (or ever), but he'll approach tomorrow in the same way he did today, and that will keep him alive.

If you're looking for a reminder of the importance of perspective, check this one out. However, as Yevtushenko points out in the introduction, the influence of Solzhenitsyn's novel in the West was far more political in nature than literary. Throw it on the list, don't expect too much, and don't forget to take off your hat five paces before you reach a guard. ( )
  bgramman | May 9, 2020 |
This was an interesting read. I did not like the writing style, however the topic is interesting to read about. I read it for my English Lit class. It did remind me of Untouchable. ( )
  Linde1 | Apr 30, 2020 |
Harrowing tale of a soviet political prisoner. It has a gruelling description of life in intense cold and miserable conditions. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Mar 25, 2020 |
A harrowing yet beautiful look at 24hrs of life in a Stalinist Russian prison and labour camp. Our central character strives hard to maintain dignity in the face of inhumanity. Seemingly ordinary objects take on great significance in the quest for one's own survival. A bleak and hard hitting read and a cult classic. 142 pages of grim determination.
  DevilStateDan | Feb 11, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 163 (next | show all)
This quiet tale has struck a powerful blow against the return of the horrors of the Stalin system. For Solzhenitsyn's words burn like acid.

» Add other authors (79 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Solzhenitsyn, Alexanderprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hayward, MaxTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hingley, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kalb, Marvin L.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Labedz, LeopoldIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lahtela, MarkkuTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parker, RalphTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shonk, KatherineIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tvardovsky, AlexanderForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valiulina, SanaAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vries, Theun deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Willetts, Harry T.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zelma, GeorgiCover photographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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[Translator's Dedication] To my grandson, Dmitri Ivanovich, with thoughts of the future
First words
As usual, at five o'clock that morning reveille was sounded by the blows of a hammer on a length of rail hanging up near the staff quarters.
Apart from sleep, the only time a prisoner lives for himself is ten minutes in the morning at breakfast, five minutes over dinner, and five at supper.
There was truth in that. Better to growl and submit. If you were stubborn they broke you.
You should rejoice that you're in prison. Here you have time to think about your soul.
When you’re cold, don’t expect sympathy from someone who’s warm.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Please do not combine editions that include other works, or critical companions and study guides (such as Monarch Notes Study Guides) with this original 1962 novel. Thank you.
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141184744, 0141045353

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An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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