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I find this book to be much like like life itself. It is difficult. It is a slog. There is much that is tedious (It is even exhaustive to passively listen to while one does other things like drive across country or the dishes). But it is also many other things. It can be oddly beautiful. At times there are moments when Solzhenistsyn stops, breaks from the narrative history that he is relaying, and gives exquisite moments to the reader. They are beautiful and heartbreaking and make it all worthwhile. I know no other work like it. Like anything that is worthwhile, it takes work. It is not easy. But it is highly rewarding. I did not always enjoy the book while i was listening to it, but I was very happy I did listen to it, when I was finished with the work
50 of 50 people found this review helpful
This is the latest in a string of books I’ve read about the early years of Soviet communism. I continue to be dumb struck with the cruelty and inhumanity of Lenin and Stalin. I just can’t get my mind around how many millions Stalin killed. Between his purges, his Gulags and the starvation of the Ukraine he killed more innocent people than Hitler, yet the world chose to ignore his crimes and in this century there are those who still hold him up as an example of a great leader.
Solzhenitsyn catalogs the gulag experience. He talks about how efficient the machine was in consuming human life in Russia. Even when the Soviets were about to lose WWII to the Germans he continued to kill and purge, destroy and starve his people. Cruelty without bounds in the name of an economic theory is outlined by Solzhenitsyn. Simply putting the day to day life of a “Polital” caught in the machine designed to chew them up and destroy them was his objective. I think he achieved this end. This is a powerful account of a man’s surviving a trip through hell in all of its vivid detail. Dante missed this level of hell.
There are no possible ends that could be perversely rationalized that would justify this cruelty. One would have a more simple time explaining the ethnic cleansing of the American Indians from the United States than you will justifying Lenin’s or Stalin’s purges and activities.
“The Gulag Archipelago” is an important literary work. This is a powerful part of world history and we are lucky that Solzhenitsyn risked his life to bring it to us. We are lucky that his friends were also willing to risk their lives to contribute to and to protect the work. Solzhenitsyn compiled stories of many of his fellow “58s” and he weaves those into what seems to give the reader a complete picture of Soviet Gulag History. Most importantly, Solzhenitsyn reminds us of what can happen when good people remain silent, when we allow tyrants to reign, when the citizens allow the government to run their lives.
39 of 39 people found this review helpful