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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.


"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: #980,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

90 of 93 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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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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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
No other book will summarize so brilliantly the absurdity of a system in which the quest for the common good was just a trap for the independence and free will of each person. All the events during the novel take place in just one week. Nevertheless during that brief period the author manages to convey the dark existence for millions of citizens of the USSR during the whole Stalinst period, so the overall impression is that the novel drags on for years and years.
The narration of the story takes place in several different fronts which seem to connect at the end, but that never happens. Each character goes on with his life, and the reader is left to wonder what happened. Oddly enough this is part of the beauty of this novel and makes a lot of sense because Solzhenitzyn will stress until the end the lack of right for any person or system to deny a person of its individuality and abrogate for itself the power to guide other's destiny. Threfore, how could he do the same to the members of its novel? So he refuses to place a final point to their development.
To put it more briefly, just read it is a great book.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By MrSherlockHolmes on August 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
Solzhenitsyn has written for the benefit of the rest of us, a work that recreates the madness that was life under Stalin. The First Circle is a story about what happens when the talents of a nation are wasted because those in power happen to be incompetent men (that tends to be generally the case, except New Zealand). At the heart of it, it is a testament to the power of a free market to value resources and direct them to where they are most valued.

Well, no, not really. Solzhenitsyn is not a capitalist at heart and his work does not disparage communism. It is a non-partisan look at a cross section of society that had to suffer the loss of lives, loved ones and youth. It is about their hope in spite of the circumstances surrounding them.

Solzhenitsyn's earlier work _One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich_ made Soviet society realize the genius that was in their midst. The First Circle cements Solzhenitsyn reputation as one of the greats of modern Russian literature. This book deserves to be in your collection.

Trust me, you will not regret reading this. A definite must read!
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