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The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia Paperback – November 25, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Its importance cannot be overestimated. . . . This book should be made compulsory reading in Russia today.” ―The Times (London)
“Extraordinary . . . Victims do not always make good witnesses. But thanks to Figes, these survivors overcame their silence and have lifted their voices above a whisper.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“A profound service . . . Figes redeems the gloom by demonstrating compassion for flawed human beings and revealing compelling examples of moral courage and kindness.” ―The Christian Science Monitor
“An extraordinary work of synthesis and insight . . . an awfully good read . . . Figes is both a prodigious researcher and a gifted writer.” ―St. Petersburg Times
“Lucid, thorough, and essential to understanding Stalinist society . . . an exemplary study in mentalits.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Extraordinary.” ―The New Yorker
Top Customer Reviews
I left Soviet Russia at the end of 1988 and had witnessed many events, some of which were described in Orlando Figes' book. I was able to find and read a few books that were prohibited in the USSR. I didn't know the author of The Whisperers, never read his books before, and doubted that a foreign writer would be able to find many unknown details about this gloomy tragic time. Nevertheless, I decided to read it for the sake of curiosity.
I was hugely impressed; the book literally overwhelmed me. The author has done an incredible job interviewing thousands of people - victims of many years of terror. Those people were among the lucky few who managed to survive. I must say that the author recreated the forest while paying attention to each tree.
Telling about the fates of individual people and their families, the author shows what was going on in the Soviet Union behind the Iron Curtain. Living in the USSR over 50 years, I knew and had read a lot, but reading The Whisperers I felt indescribable pain and horror. Fates of hundreds of thousands, even millions of Soviet people were possible to describe with the same four words: falsely accused, arrested and shot. And what was even more horrible, all of this became habitual.
Recalling that not very remote time, I think about one more phenomenon: despite everything that was going on in the country, people wanted to live a normal life.Read more ›
Indeed, it seems at times that the heartbreak will not end, as the author narrates the tragic lives of one family after another, and the reader must force him- or herself to plunge ahead and delve into the ruined lives of dozens and dozens of individuals and families that suffered unendurable heartbreak and tragedy.
Those individuals represent the tens of millions who were swallowed up by Stalin's prison camps, the notorious GULAGs. Many were executed or were simply worked to death, while even those that survived were emotionally, physically, and psychologically shattered.
But then the author provides an uplifting story, a ray of light in this evil history, and his dark spell is temporarily broken, allowing the reader to breath freely once more and to believe that the good in Man outweighs the bad.
This is a difficult book to finish, simply because the human heart and mind can only absorb so much tragedy and suffering. And yet this is a story that should be read by all, simply to remind ourselves of our capability for cruelty and kindness, suffering and forgiveness, condemnation and redemption.
The problem that historians in the 21st century will have writing a history of the Soviet Union will be the lack of conventional sources to learn what life was like. Historians looking at the United States in 1935 will have a whole host of magazines and newspapers that convey what life was like for a segment of the population. Anyone attempting to understand the mindset of the Soviet Union at the same period will be confronted with a sense that the entire population had to have been brain washed.
What Figes has accomplished is to bring to light the lives of the ordinary people who were swept up in Stalin's destruction of his own country in some cases before it is too late. He begins with the late 20s and continues through to the period after Stalin's death. A great deal of the material involves the use of interviews with survivors. There are also diaries from Stalin's victims as well. All in all, this is a work which is likely to have increased significance in the future.
I am certain that this book will be one of the more important works on Soviet history, not only does it provide the casual reader with a sense of what happened in the larger sense, but it also illustrates what life was like for those who found themselves the victims of history.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Wonderful book about real life in Russia during the revolution and WW II. I was amazed at how the
Russian people reacted to their terrible conditions, and still kept going,... Read more
Good scholarship, but it gets very repetitious in it's case studies, and fails to adequately speak to serious trends in the period. Read morePublished 2 months ago by J Michael McDade
I am yet halfway through this book and immensely moved by it. I am unable in one review to express the impact that it has had on me. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Andrew Thornley
Ranks up near the top with Solzenitzen's tales of the Gulag. Consumately researched and not written from the viewpoint of someone
who was personally trapped in the Gulag. Read more
The problem with this book is that the author is really telling the Ukrainian story including his other book Just Send Me word. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Alex Hoag
depressing, but extremely interesting, Russians suffered a great deal under StalinPublished 5 months ago by timmy
Horrifying, beyond depressing, but all true. One of the few books about which I could not thinking, long after finishing it. Read morePublished 7 months ago by MaryB
'I love it' , as the five stars say, is not exactly true. One cannot love a gut-wrenching account of the destruction of human personality, decency and humanity, but one can admire... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Samuel Romilly