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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich [Paperback]

by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Eric Bogosian
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (280 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 4, 2009 0451228146 978-0451228147 Reprint
The first published novel of controversial Nobel Prize winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn- now in trade paperback. First published in 1962, this book is considered one of the most significant works ever to emerge from Soviet Russia. Illuminating a dark chapter in Russian history, it is at once a graphic picture of work camp life and a moving tribute to man's will to prevail over relentless dehumanization, told by "a literary genius whose talent matches that of Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy, [and] Gorky" (Harrison Salisbury, New York Times).

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Editorial Reviews Review

Solzhenitsyn's first book, this economical, relentless novel is one of the most forceful artistic indictments of political oppression in the Stalin-era Soviet Union. The simply told story of a typical, grueling day of the titular character's life in a labor camp in Siberia, is a modern classic of Russian literature and quickly cemented Solzhenitsyn's international reputation upon publication in 1962. It is painfully apparent that Solzhenitsyn himself spent time in the gulags--he was imprisoned for nearly a decade as punishment for making derogatory statements about Stalin in a letter to a friend. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"A masterpiece in the great Russian tradition. There have been many literary sensations since Stalin died. Doctor Zhivago apart, few of them can stand up in their own right as works of art. Ivan Denisovich is different" -- Leonard Schapiro New Statesman "For much of the century that he came to dominate, he was simply Russia's greatest writer" Guardian "Solzhenitsyn's little book on the Soviet camps, One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich, has just been reissued, in a much-improved translation by Harry Willetts. It remains a devastating book - a classical tragedy... Solzhenitsyn is a genius and a hero: Ivan Denisovich stands with Animal Farm." Guardian --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: NAL Trade; Reprint edition (August 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451228146
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451228147
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (280 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
137 of 147 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stimulus to a Searching, Introspective Analysis April 10, 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
"One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" is indeed a powerful book. Were it merely the grim testimonial to life in the Soviet Gulags or a witness to infringed liberties, its force would be staggering. Were it a testimony to the indomitableness of human nature, it would be crushing. As it is, it shatters our perception of man and ourselves as no other book, save Anne Franke`s diary and the testemony of Elie Wiesl, could ever have done.
However, it is more than all the above. "One Day" is actually a searching look at human nature. The biting wind, jagged wire, frigid climate, watery soup, and the warmth provided by an extra pair of mittens or an hour of hard physical labor all find matches in the colorful crowd of characters that parades through this narrative - from the prison guards to the prisoners themselves to the prison director to the turncoat prisoners who sold their integrity for the favor of their oppressors.
This is a book to be read, first of all, for its historical value - a tribute to those who were imprisoned but whose voices were never heard, and a silent plea to commit all our forces to the proposition that such vileness will never reach our liberty-loving shores. No less importantly, this is a book that should prompt us to turn our eyes inward and question ourselves whether, in our own way, we are capable of committing the same atrocities against our fellow man, and whether, if subjected to the same suffering, we would have the strength of character to find as much comfort in a bowl of soup as we do now in the transient, unfounded knowledge that such inhumanity will not touch us.
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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life in a labor camp February 19, 2002
By A.J.
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The entirety of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's short novel "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" takes place on a winter day in 1951 in a Siberian labor camp. The title character, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, has been a prisoner there for the past eight years and has two more to go, provided his sentence isn't extended even longer for no reason at all. As a Soviet soldier in World War II, he was imprisoned after being accused of spying for the Germans, but the novel is concerned more with his daily routine at the camp than with the politics behind his imprisonment.
Like anybody who's been in a highly structured and disciplined environment for a long time, Shukhov has developed his own individualized way of living day to day, bending the rules, avoiding punishment, and making life a little more bearable under the circumstances. Temperatures are commonly well below zero and the food is barely nutritional enough to keep the prisoners alive, but Shukhov has adapted well enough to know how to stay warm and make the most out of his meals. On this particular day, Shukhov's squad is forced to work construction; the novel describes how well Shukhov has honed his masonry skills as he expertly lays blocks and mortar building a wall for a building that will be used to hold future prisoners. Life at the camp has made him tough and independent; his only weakness is tobacco, for which he will beg, borrow, or steal.
The novel is based on Solzhenitsyn's own experience as a labor camp prisoner under Stalin's reign, and therefore it has a sincere, natural, brutal quality that not even someone like Orwell could imitate. More than anything, though, it portrays a man whose spirit is strong enough to triumph over the most extreme adversity.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Sickness of Communism May 21, 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
"One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, is one of those books that look deceptive. It isn't that long, and it's a little mass-market paperback that would blow away with the wind. Even the cover design really doesn't convey what lies inside. What we have with this book is a worthy contribution to the annals of Russian literature. Solzhenitsyn finds himself in the ranks of Tolstoy, Turgenev, and Gogol with this gripping tale of the Stalinist Gulag system. Solzhenitsyn went on to write a massive indictment of the Gulag system in a three-volume work called, "The Gulag Archipelago." Solzhenitsyn won a Nobel Prize for Literature and found himself exiled, forcibly, from the Soviet Union for his writings. He returned to Russia after the collapse of Communism.
As the title indicates, the story covers one day in Ivan Denisovich's ten-year prison sentence. Ivan is a peasant who runs afoul of the authorities when the Germans capture him during the war. When he finds his way back to the Soviet camp, the authorities charge him with treason and sentence him to the camps. Denisovich is luckier than many of his fellow convicts; they are serving 25-year sentences. This day is better for Ivan than most; he ends up getting a better work assignment, a member of his squad gets a parcel loaded with food, and Ivan manages to get extra food rations. He even scores some tobacco, his only weakness.
Ivan lives day by day; it is the only way he can survive the camps. What is most shocking about this book is the matter-of-fact way in which the story is told. All of life is reduced to acquiring food and staying warm. Following the rules and avoiding punishment is just as important. Woe to the man who ends up in the guardhouse cells for ten days.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant account of the GULAG experience
Solzhenitsyn captures the futility and hopelessness of Soviet prisoners with shockingly mundane descriptions of the awful living conditions that were forced upon them.
Published 8 hours ago by Nate
5.0 out of 5 stars A snapshot of Soviet work camps
This is not a long book, it is more of a snapshot of the old Soviet style work camps for political or otherwise prisoners. Read more
Published 5 days ago by A. Riffe
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
It is a great book! One of the best nonfiction books I've ever read! Kudos to the author for sharing this experience with the world.
Published 17 days ago by sammy
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic literature
The first time I read this was in July and I almost froze to death. This a classic piece of literature that describes what we all knew was going on, but had never been... Read more
Published 19 days ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars A great book, I don't know why
Nothing really happens in this book, but it still held my attention. It's kind of like when I watch Deadliest Catch, sometimes I just stop for a moment and think, "Why the... Read more
Published 20 days ago by M. Peterson
4.0 out of 5 stars So you're having a bad day?!
Do not go to jail in Russia! Nobel prize. So who's to argue? Don't understand why Kindle couldn't have gotten this a little cheaper.
Published 23 days ago by Doctor Bob
1.0 out of 5 stars A ok book
Very good book but I found it rather boring. I think this book would be good for people crazy about history lol
Published 26 days ago by Kenny Cheung
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing
Solzhenitsyn is a very gifted writer. This is an autobiographical story of a man finding true joy in very difficult, seemingly hopeless circumstances. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Southern California
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice book
Worth to read. A nice book to think about living and surviving. In a day of Ivan, nothing so special, a happy day for him.
Published 1 month ago by Harry Chen
5.0 out of 5 stars A cornerstone of humanity's literary output
Almost novella in length, this story grinds its way through a single day in one man's life. The writing is understated and frank, often almost as if a journalist with a flair for... Read more
Published 2 months ago by adam bronson
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