THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO, 1918-1956

AN EXPERIMENT IN LITERARY INVESTIGATION (VOLUME ONE)

We have lived through so very much, and almost none of it has been called by its right name." Westerners, of course, already possess mammoth accounts of the Soviet prison system — the "Gulag Archipelago" of interrogation centers, transit camps, slave labor installations, etc. Here it is returned in a voice both different and familiar, a sarcastic, exclamatory, poetic, hyper-Russian voice. Among all the charts of convoys, arrest quotas, grotesque trials and torture, several things stand out. One is Solzhenitsyn's portraits of his fellow prisoners. Another is an account, adumbrated in his novels, of the regime's persecution of Soviet POW's during and after World War II. Finally there is Solzhenitsyn's now thumping anti-Bolshevism. Stalin, he thinks, simply followed "the beaten track"; already in Lenin's time the horrors were planted, he insists, viewing the Civil War and the early 1920's self-righteously rather than historically. The book praises the mildness of the czarist prison system, again disregarding the context. And Solzhenitsyn's moving sympathy for the Russian soldiers who defected to Vlasov's anti-Soviet army is mingled with hints of political approval which have already engendered intricate, sizzling debate. This volume is only one third of the whole work; judgment on the shape and color of Solzhenitsyn's anti-Communism must await the remainder. Meanwhile, "I have come almost to love that monstrous world" of the Archipelago, he says — it was more rial than ordinary secular life.

Pub Date: June 24, 1974

ISBN: 0813332893

Page Count: 676

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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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

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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

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