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Within the Whirlwind Paperback – 1989


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Paperback, 1989
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Collins Harvill (1989)
  • ISBN-10: 0002729075
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002729079
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,346,440 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
Eugenia Ginsburg was sentenced to ten years imprisonment in 1937 on a false charge of terrorism at the height of the Stalin purges. In her first book 'Into the whirlwind' she describes her arrest, her interrogation, her mockery of a trial and two years in solitary confinement in prison. She was then transported to Magadan in the far East of Russia to a labour camp, and the first volume ends as she is beginning to cope with the undescribably harsh conditions in the camp.
'Within the whirlwind' describes the next fifteen years until her return and rehabilitation. She describes how her life was saved by gaining work as a nurse in the camp hospital where she met her second husband.
This book leaves the reader astonished how Evgenia could describe her life with such humour and at the same time with such human understanding. All the time, however, the reader is reminded of the inhumanity, lying and deception of the Stalin regime.
At one stage, the vice president of the USA, Henry Wallace, visits the camps, and the prisoners are removed and the guards temporarily take their place and manage to convince the gullible American that the camps are manned by well fed and enthusiastic pioneers.
Eugenia returns to Moscow, her life destroyed, having lost one of her sons. She ends on a note of optimism, that the truth will be told in her native land. She died however in 1977 and never saw her books published in her native land nor the destruction of the communist regime.
This book is now out of print, which is a pity. Everybody interested in Russia should try to get hold of a copy and read it and ponder on the demons that helped produce the country as it is today.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Christiana Washington on March 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book shocked, sickened, and inspired me. I never realized how terrible Stalin's purges were until I read Ginzburg's historically accurate and emotionally compelling memoir. Unforgettable characters, disturbing mental images, and harrowing brutality made up the Soviet Gulag and Ginzburg's book showcases them beautifully! Outstanding memoir!!
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Harry Eagar VINE VOICE on April 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
Eugenia Ginzburg was the first Russian Communist to write extensively about being caught in the "meatgrinder" of Stalin's purges. It took her a long time to figure it out: "We were creatures of our times, of the epoch of magnificent illusions."

"Within the Whirlwind" is the second volume of her memoirs. I have not read the first, but the editors say she pulled her punches then, hoping for publication at home (which didn`t happen). She avers that this volume is only the truth. Not the whole truth, she admits, but nothing but truth.

This seems credible.

At least, her memoir is readable. I forced myself to go 100 pages in Solzhenitsyn's "GULAG Archipelago," but it was unreadable. Ginzburg's memoir is windy but readable, basically a series of vignettes of encounters during 18 years of exile/imprisonment in the Soviet Far East.

Her pen portraits of fellow zeks (political prisoners), free workers, apparatchiks, common criminals and commandants are deft, though there is no way to be sure how realistic they are. Each story has a point, often about little expressions of humanity or courage breaking out in what was otherwise a hellhole.

Like all memoirs of the great slave societies of the 20th century, Ginzberg's is shaped by survivor bias.

Although she spent some time in the more brutal camps -- felling trees where the temperature came to 40 below, on little food -- her background (teacher of literature, musician) got her easier posts most of the time, where she ate somewhat better and had some shelter. Also, she was never beaten or tortured.

The same survivor bias shows in memoirs of prisoners of the Germans and Japanese. The ones who did not get jobs in kitchens or offices seldom survived to write memoirs. (A.J.P.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Meaghan on July 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A solid sequel to Ginzburg's first book, Journey into the Whirlwind. I had been unaware of this second book when I read the first and wondered why the first book had ended so abruptly; now I realize these books are really meant to be two volumes of the same work. I suppose they need not necessarily be read together; there is a three-page section at the beginning of this second book that summarizes the events of the first. But I think reading them together, and in order, certainly enriches the experience.

Here Ginzburg recounts the last few years of her sentence at a series of brutal labor camps in the farthest, remotest corner of northeast Russia. They only called off work if it was -50 degrees Celsius, and the guard claimed the temperature never dropped past -49. Ginzburg was more fortunate than most in that she had some friends with influence and often got better jobs, including at the camp infirmaries and on farms. After her release she was required to remain in Magadan, a remote city on Russia's eastern coast, populated by ex-prisoners and a few free workers who got paid extra for being there. Life gradually improved: she was able to send for her son, whom she hadn't seen since he was a toddler; she married a fellow prisoner; they adopted a little girl; she got a job first in a kindergarten and then as a teacher at a night school for adults. Gradually in the years following Stalin's death, things got much easier for the prisoners and ex-prisoners, and Ginzburg was eventually rehabilitated (that is, exonerated, her record cleared).
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