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Man Is Wolf to Man: Surviving the Gulag Revised ed. Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520221529
ISBN-10: 0520221524
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In 1941, accidentally rolling a Soviet tank while fording a river was considered a death offense by the Red Army. Unfortunately for young Janusz Bardach, he committed just such an error; lucky for him that an old acquaintance from his hometown in Poland had enough rank and influence to commute the court-martial penalty from death to 10 years hard labor in Siberia. For the next four years, Bardach endured hellish conditions in various labor camps--first a logging camp, then a gold mine in the frozen north. Frigid temperatures, inadequate food and clothing combined with physical and spiritual malaise to bring prisoners first to the edge of despair and then to the brink of suicide. Bardach survived by turning his mind off, by refusing to remember happier times or to anticipate the future. He became, simply, a beast of burden, shuffling through the hours of his slavery until he could fall into the brief oblivion of sleep.

Ironically, it was a near brush with death that proved to be Bardach's salvation. After surviving an explosion, he was sent to a prison hospital where he managed to talk his way into a job as a medical assistant. There he gained both a new lease on life and a future profession. Released from his sentence early, in 1945, Bardach went on to become a surgeon. His memoir, Man Is Wolf to Man, is more than just an account of his sufferings in a Russian labor camp; it is also a meditation on the will to survive in the face of hopelessness, the occasional kindnesses of strangers in unexpected places, and above all, the struggle to remain human under the most inhumane conditions. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

When the Red Army first arrived in the Polish town of Wlodzimierz-Wolynski in 1939, Bardach, a Polish Jew, was overjoyed believing that this army from the brave, new Soviet society was there to fight the Germans. He little dreamed that Poland would be partitioned in accord with the Hitler-Stalin nonaggression pact. After witnessing deportations and gratuitous brutality, Bardach was rather more skeptical by the time he was drafted into the Red Army in 1940. Soon after, he was sentenced to 10 years in a Soviet prison, and it's here in the labyrinthine world of the Soviet gulag that Bardach's gripping but matter-of-fact memoir really begins. Shipped from camp to camp, Bardach ends up as a zek, a prison laborer, at the gold mines of Kolyma in Far Eastern Russia. Along the way, he encounters the random cruelty of Soviet prison life and the almost incomprehensible combination of harsh conditions and constant death that can break the human spirit. But even in these desensitizing conditions, certain individuals retained their humanity, such as Efim Polzun, a fellow Jew and Soviet officer, who got Bardach's sentence commuted, or Dr. Piasetsky, who let Bardach lie his way into a job as a clinic assistant. More than many such memoirs, this volume clearly manifests the constant struggle between maintaining one's life and maintaining one's humanity in inhumane situations. A fascinating history, this compelling memoir is also a story of inner resolve and the will to keep going. It's a worthy companion to such accounts as Alexander Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago and Natalya Ginzburg's Journey into the Whirlwind. 26 b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Revised ed. edition (September 21, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520221524
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520221529
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #852,373 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I grew up in Iowa City around the corner from Dr. Bardach. I delivered his newspaper when I was a kid and used to see him and his wife at local tennis clubs. That's all I knew about him-until I was 30 and my parents were reading his book. When they told me what it was about, I was stunned! I couldn't put the book down. His story is riveting. How on earth does a Polish Jew in WWII go from a hard labor camp in Siberia to being a renowned surgeon at a large teaching hospital in the middle of Iowa? It puts life into perspective and will remind you that anything is possible. Dr. Bardach truly lived the American dream.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of those rare non-fiction books reading more like a gripping novel that's hard to put down. As with most books, it's best if you save the foreword for last. The second chapter is one of the most depressing accounts that you'll ever come across, but it's worth sticking with the story to the end.
The writing and translation is absolutely impeccable. I felt like I personally experienced each of the author's highs and lows in the Gulag as they were related. This is a rare look inside the system that swallowed up so many of the best and brightest people.
It is too bad that Hollywood is so obsessed with the dozen or so screenwriters who lost their jobs in 1950's America to the anti-communist investigations because any one of the many films devoted to their plight would have been better served by profiling just a single member of the millions who perished in the Soviet Gulag.
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Format: Paperback
This book is the most daunting first hand account of the Gulag that I have read. Voices from the Gulag and Through the Whirlwind are also well-written accounts. Man is Wolf caputures the brutal experience with power and eloquence. From a literary standpoint it is a simple read but from a human perspective it is devastating. I had to stop reading on anumber of occasions to keep from being in enveloped by the horror of the book. This book will change your perspective on human nature, WWII and Eastern Europe.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an extraordinary book for several reasons. It torments us with calm descriptions of terrible events, challenges us metaphysically by covertly asking how we might retain our own dignity in the same instances, and still manages to leave us a sense of hope and encouragement that someone could have survived such depravities and remain a sensate human.
Americans have never really appreciated the horrors visited upon the Soviet people by Lenin and completed by Stalin and Beria. Is twenty million dead an accurate number? How about thirty? The numbers are impossible for the mind to register. Dr. Bardach brings one of these experiences vividly into the reader's frame of references. I wondered several times during my reading, with an awful feeling of foreboding terror, whether it could ever happen here.
Dr. Bardack's book is more than simply shocking. I am perfectly convinced that the author, by simple use of understatement, refrained from amplifying his personal set of horrors. His use of contrasting descriptions of beautiful scenes while on route-beaches, forests, mountain steppes-forces us to carefully reassess how men of reason could generate such hostility.
This book is not light reading, yet it is difficult to put down. The writing style is excellent and is a pleasure-if one can describe terror as "pleasure." It is a forceful commentary, an unique historical document, and Dr. Bardach should be congratulated for his willingness to relive and present it to us.
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Format: Paperback
The most important thing that I gained by reading Janusz Bardach's book is that the will to survive is as important as food when it come to survival. More times that he imagined, he survived because he felt that he would, like he had a special angel or just more "good luck" than other people. It doesn't matter if it's true, it only matters that you believe it.

Luck is also helped by brashness and the will to succeed. His story about becoming a medical assistant, though he had absolutely no formal training, reminds me of Solsenitsyn's tale of how he survived the Gulag by lying about having training as a nuclear engineer. It's the ability to adapt that keeps you alive. Goebbels said that if you told a big enough lie enough times, people would begin to believe it. The only way to survive in the Gulag was to lie to yourself and everyone else.

Since so many of the NKVD were corrupt and brutal, the only way to survive in there world was to also appear to be corrupt. Stalin sent so many of the NKVD and those who worked for them to prison, that they were well cared for by their ex-comrades, because they knew they had a good chance of joining them. Who could survive better in a criminal state within a state then a criminal?

This is a story of hope without all the 'hearts and flowers'. It just the true story of what went on, warts and all (lots of warts).
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By A Customer on October 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is devastating in its depictions of the gulag's horrors, the bizarre and fascinating societal elements of the gulag, and the courage of its survivors. Bardach endured hell and then converted his experiences into a work worthy of deep contemplation. Although I read his account about a year ago, certain passages are still extraordinarily vivid in my mind -- an effect that few books can deliver. Bardach's memoir compelled me to read more gulag literature. I rank his remarkable contribution ahead of Ginzburg's Journey Into the Whirlwind and behind only Varlam Shalamov's amazing Kolyma Tales.
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