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Would you listen to Gulag again? Why?
Perhaps parts of it. I will consult a hard copy in order to digest and remember some of the many facts, statistics and quotations cited by the author.
What other book might you compare Gulag to and why?
Holocaust histories. Applebaum's history is based on newly opened archival information.
Would you be willing to try another one of Laural Merlington’s performances?
Not if it's a performance of a Russian-related subject. Her style was over-dramatic in inappropriate places, but worse was her horrendous pronunciation of Russian names, places, and gulag terminology. And it was inconsistently horrendous -- she pronounced the same name two or three different ways -- almost always incorrect.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Way too long for that but in places it was definitely hard to stop. The author livens up her chronological historical survey of the prisons and camps with the fascinating, if dismal, tragedies of individuals.
Any additional comments?
I find other reviewers' negative comments interesting. Applebaum opens her history with an instructive analysis of the contrast between the west’s cultural fascination with Nazi atrocities and its willful ignorance and disregard of Soviet evils. The details of the story are grisly and mind-boggling, but all too true and they deserve attention. The gulag is an important part of 20th century history and it is still relevant in Russia.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful
Anne Applebaum's books are always informative. She is very smug and thin skinned on Twitter. She has a pro-Polish bias. She has a tendency to over hype lesser known Gulag writers at the expense of Solzhenitsyn. That said I will buy every single book she writes.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Russia is synonymous with the gulag, before listening to this book, the only thing I knew about Russia was the little I heard on the news "that place far away that you don't want to be", friends would joke about someone moving to middle of nowhere to live in "some gulag". I really didn't appreciate the true horror of that word before reading this book.
The book however is not just about the gulag, these places have defined Russia itself and its people. There is a saying that "the people get the government they deserve", and this book really brings that to life. These horrific things could not have occurred without the cooperation of the population, its as if a person woke up one day and suddenly decided that it would be a good idea to cut off their own hand for no good reason. The people colluded with the government to criminalize and commit unspeakable acts on themselves.
There is a lot of humor but of course very dark, how could it not be? All of human behavior is laid bare; the often graphically depicted debasing, grisly and degrading conditions that bring out different reactions. Mostly and naturally people will debase themselves and attempt to do that to others around them or commit suicide since these places are so terrible, some can be stoic and bear an extraordinarily frightful set of conditions with apparent nonchalance and indifference, others still are heroic either tragically or successfully. It also shows what happens in a situation with no controls and people start simply behaving with abject depravity.
This is a no-holds barred retelling of a tragic history and it is baffling that some Russians look back at the leaders during this period and put them on a pedestal; in terms of the number of people killed as a direct result it makes Hitler look like a bumbling amateur.
It could be argued that the gulag has had a greater effect in shaping the Russian people than the horrors of Hitler's concentration camps had on the Jews, in the west we just don't really hear much about it other than "its a dreadful place".
Why only four stars? I felt that the book was too long for the material it depicted, it was the laws of diminishing returns as you get towards the end and there was over repetition of themes but I can forgive this because it can be difficult to write a complete work on a topic so massive and yet relatively unknown. Also the value in terms of relieving one's ignorance is absolutely worth the time investment.
If you have any interest in politics, history, human behavior, or want to appreciate some of what has shaped Russia, YOU MUST READ OR LISTEN TO THIS BOOK!
8 of 9 people found this review helpful
A very depressing and yet fascinating book. Very well written, and well read - it didn't feel like a 20+ hours book. Although shame that the lector struggles with the Slavic surnames. There seems to be a small mistake in my version - the Soviet invasion of Poland took place 17th of September, not 7th.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful