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August 1914 Paperback – May 15, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This edition of the Nobel laureate's epic novel of Russian history, which was first published in English in 1972 ( LJ 10/15/72), contains all of the text from the original plus additional material written after Solzhenitsyn's exile from the USSR in 1974. "Screen sequences" indicate technical instructions for the shooting of a film.-- MR
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"A grand meditation on history, a masterly re-creation of people and faces caught up in the sweep of time, symbolized by a rolling fiery red wheel. The work is breathtaking in scope . . . Much credit for its power must go to Mr. Willetts's superb translation."--Gary Kern, The New York Times

"It is now clear that [Solzhenitsyn] towers over all his contemporaries, European, American, and Latin American . . . The greatness of Russia is in this novel as it has not been in any work of fiction since the generation of Dostoevski and Tolstoy."--Lionel Abel, The Wall Street Journal

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Product Details

  • Series: Red Wheel (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 896 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Reissue edition (May 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374519994
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374519995
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #580,517 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 94 people found the following review helpful By David Marshall on November 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
The theme of this book is not prison camps: it is nothing more narrow than life itself. And it is almost as rich in characters and stories within stories (here Solzhenitsyn is very like Tolstoy) as life: constancy in love, artistic integrity, the whimspy of fate, literacy in Medieval Novgorod, the prison in the Count of Monte Cristo, snow, how to sew, the law of unintended consequences.
A few major abiding themes run like threads throughout the book, providing unity: First, the life of the "zek," the prisoner in Stalin's camps. Second, loneliness: not just of prisoners longing for a woman or lost loved ones, or of persecuted wives trying to make lives for themselves, but ultimately of each person. Every conversation carries a different meaning for the people involved. The author "gets inside of peoples heads" in an amazing way -- from the janitor Spiridon to the "Best Friend of Counter-Intelligence Operatives," Joseph Stalin himself. Third, and on a deeper level, integrity, both artistic and moral.
Fourth, and I don't know if this was the conscious intent of the author or not, the book reminds us of the unity of Western civilization. Aside from mentions of Tolstoy, Dostoevski, Pushkin, and Lermontov, (which, I might add, also describes the company Solzhenitsyn belongs in, with honor), the book is honeycombed with references to the great thinkers and artists of European civilization -- from the ancient Greeks and the Gospels, to Dante, the Holy Grail, Bach and Beethoven. The Marxist Rubin even quotes Luther. Primarily, no doubt this is a reflection of the fact that the prisoners in the "sharashkas," the top-secret scientific work camps, were educated men, unlike, say, the hero of his shorter novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.
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72 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Robert Wynkoop on August 14, 2003
Format: Paperback
August 1914
Alexander Solzhenitsyn
I remember when my son was little. He would bring me August 1914 and ask me to read it to him. There were no pictures in this book, but he knew that it was a book that I loved. So we would lie on his bed and as I opened the book and read to him about a world he could only discover in a book. Solzhenitsyn is one of my hero?s, a moral voice speaking against the tyranny of Soviet repression. This book about the battle of Tennenberg in August 1914 is not only a brilliant historical novel, but also a critique of the forces that lead to the October Revolution in Russia. Let?s talk about the story, before we continue the review.
The story is about the entrance of Imperial Russia into World War I. War is declared and Russia in its hurry to honor its commitments to France, invades Prussia. Its army under the leadership of General Samsonov is unprepared for war and Russia suffers a humiliating defeat as the army is surrounded and destroyed. The story is told through the eyes of a Colonel Vorotyntsey who alone sees the coming disaster and vainly tries to avert it.
It is a story of an Army that did not understand modern warfare. Samsonov, a cavalry officer, is used to sitting on his horse and viewing the battlefield; this battlefield, however, stretches for hundreds of miles. Communication is non-existent; supplies are scarce. The Germans, however, understood the new technology and were able to listen in on all the Russian communications. Samsonov makes one blunder after another; he is out classed and doesnt know what to do. With his army collapsing around him, he is lost. Lost in a forest, he ends his life with a bullet as he and his staff are attempting to escape the encirclement.
It is a wonderfully written book.
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66 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Bob Manson on April 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
I was first introdced to Solzhenitsyn's works when I was a freshman in high school, far too many years ago in a little town. The book was the Volume 1 of The Gulag Archipelago. It was really an eye-opener for me in so many ways, given that it was the first "really serious" book that I'd read.
I believe that Solzhenitsyn is the best writer of the 20th century, or at least he's the top writer I've read so far (and I've read a lot of books). Maybe that's influenced by my early exposure, but I don't think so; I find his works just as compelling now as I did then.
The First Circle is one of his most "accessible" works (that is, you can just jump in and start reading) and probably one of his best. A very compelling story; his portraits of the various vile creatures of the Soviet government have been shown to be quite accurate, and the way the various plots intertwine and are resolved is wonderful.
The First Circle gives great insight into a culture totally foreign to most US citizens, as the book's a mixture of spy novel, guide to life in a Gulag camp, and brief introduction to Soviet society of the 1950s. A depressing place to be sure, but fascinating. Well worth reading.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Frank Marton on February 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
For lovers of Russian literature and history buffs, this is a terrific book! If you're not a fan of this genre, however, it's going to be ONE TOUGH READ. Solzhenitsyn throws in characters with machine-gun rapidity as well as hundreds of local historical references that will be lost on many folks simply eager to find out about a bit about one of the greatest writers of the century.
That having been said, this one is a winner. Rich description, lovely prose and Solzhenitsyn's obvious love for his homeland are woven into a terrific work that offers deep insights into the Russian view this tumultuous period in their history. For my money, the portion of the book dealing the desperate Russian army and their misguided leaders is Solzhenitsyn at his finest: brutally accurate and never lacking in a deeper understanding of the flawed human beings that made up the events.
This is a must read, but don't make it your first foray into Russian literature or Solzhenitsyn. Try a shorter, less complex work first and then move to this if you like the genre.
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