THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO, 1918-1956

AN EXPERIMENT IN LITERARY INVESTIGATION (VOLUME THREE)

Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn uses the final volume of his epic account of the Soviet penal camp system—covering the years from World War II to the present—to remind us that the Soviet peoples are not "such slaves as all those studies by liberal historians contemptuously make us out to be." Especially after the war, the Archipelago's inhabitants, the zeks, ceased to accept their fate with resignation. Once a zek himself, Solzhenitsyn bears witness to their escapes and revolts. In 1954, at Kengir, they mutinied for 40 days, using balloons and kites to communicate with the outside, until crushed by assault troops and tanks. Despite the passing of the "Great Deceased" (Stalin), the Archipelago continues, albeit in a reduced form, and so does vigilance: the Party cannot err. Those who staffed the Archipelago in its worst days "sit with other pensioners on social service councils looking out for any lowering of moral standards" and railing against any easing of camp conditions. Solzhenitsyn notes that, in the absence of free public opinion, former warders who feel the need to justify themselves plead they were merely following orders—a defense the USSR rejected at Nuremburg. How, he asks, can a society hope to avoid future abuses if it fails to identify past injustices and punish those responsible? Once more Solzhenitsyn contends that the Archipelago, harsher by far than Tsarist katorga, was founded by Lenin and is essential to the survival of the Soviet regime. This is not a consensus opinion; Roy A. Medvedev and other Eastern and Western historians disagree with Solzhenitsyn's condemnation of Lenin. His work is, in any case, too aggressively polemical to be sound history. But, in a fitting conclusion to the other two volumes, it is a powerful memorial to those who refused to become slaves in a nation gone awry.

Pub Date: May 24, 1978

ISBN: 0813332915

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1978

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more