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Journey into the Whirlwind Paperback – November 4, 2002
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In 1989, the Sovremmenik Theatre in Moscow brought Eugenia Ginzburg's autobiography to the stage for the first time. When the curtain came down an emotional audience rose up and applauded for twenty-four minutes. The tragedy of an entire nation had finally been dramatized in one woman's poignant account. 1937, the year that Eugenia Ginzburg was arrested and falsely charged as a Trotskyist terrorist counterrevolutionary, was only the beginning of Stalin's purges. Nearly six million people were arrested on trumped up charges, and millions were executed or perished in prisons and camps. Eugenia Ginzburg, an historian and loyal Communist Party member, chronicles her own terrifying arrest, interrogation, and eighteen-year imprisonment. She speaks with brutal honesty; her ability to recount the minutes and hours of her internment is surpassed only by her extraordinary will to survive. These memoirs are important for those who wish to understand Russian history and for anyone who has ever wondered how they might survive in a maelstrom, facing constant betrayals, overwhelming physical hardship, agonizing loneliness, and a longing for the past. Eugenia Ginzburg shows us "how thin the line is between high principles and blinkered intolerance" and yet she emerges from these pages as a compassionate woman with the "conviction that dignity and honor are not just empty words." -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Rebecca Sullivan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Text: English, Russian (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Ginzburg was (and apparently remained) a loyal and blameless communist, but in 1937 was arrested with the charge of belonging to a terrorist organization. The incident that sparked the accusation was that Ginzburg, a writer and academic, had failed to denounce a Professor Elvov who had made some doctrinal errors in a chapter that he had written in a history of the Bolshevik party. She had failed to point out the errors in a review of the book. (This arrest was part of the political madness that followed the murder of Sergei Kirov.) She was separated from her family. Her husband was also arrested, and later died in his captivity. She was allowed no contact with her two sons. One (Vasily Aksyonov, the writer) was allowed to rejoin her in Siberian exile 11 years later, while the other died of starvation in the Siege of Leningrad. She was not rehabilitated politically and allowed to return from exile until 1955.
I expected the book to be depressing, and it is. Man's inhumanity to man, etc. What I expected less was how inspiring it was also able to be-- the way that humans can find strength and grace from things as simple as a sparrow singing outside the window, memorized poetry, an odd book placed in the prison. One of the most moving anecdotes from the book involves the way that Ginzburg wrote poetry while in prison. With only one sheet of paper available to her, she wrote until the page was full then memorized the text and erased the page to begin again. The spirit, unable to be completely broken.
Highly recommended, both from the historical and human perspective.
"saved" by a doctor who makes her a camp nurse. I wish she had continued on in her tale. This is the first Gulag reminiscence I have read by a woman. Ginzburg writes lucidly and humanely. The woman's voice clearly describes the inhumanity she experiences and sees, but does not cause the reader to turn away from it. She touches on scenarios and moves on. Like Solzhenitzyn, she inserts the names of many fellow prisoners she encountered and frquently
What remains is the humanity of those who suffered through this, and the fact that the jailors got away scott free. No monument exists for the Gulag survivors. The lies these people were told were every way as hideous as the lies of the Nazi regime.
The trip to Kolyma, Magadan and the road of bones is truly memorable.
"During the 18 years of our ordeal, many times I found myself face to face with death, but it was an experience I never got used to. Each time, I felt the same frozen horror and made the same frantic efforts to escape. Each time, my indestructible healthy body found some miraculous way pf preserving the flicker of life from extinction."