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The Zone: A Prison Camp Guard's Story

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  581 ratings  ·  10 reviews
Written in Sergei Dovlatov’s unique voice and unmatched style, The Zone is a satirical novelization of Dovlatov’s time as a prison guard for the Soviet Army in the early 1960s. Snapshots of the prison are juxtaposed with the narrator’s letters to Igor Markovich of Hermitage Press in which he urges Igor to publish the very book we’re reading. As Igor receives portions of th ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published January 17th 2012 by Counterpoint (first published January 1st 1982)
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Alan
I'm not sure how I arrived at ordering this book but the library says it's in, so I'll go and pick it up. I thought a goodreader must have recommended it but I see none of my GR friends have read it. Myabe it was another book by him (most likely a short story collection), but the library only had this one..

excellent - review later (I hope...)
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I detected a striking similarity between the camp and the outside, between the prisoners and the guards, bet
...more
Caroline
The guard narrator drops in on Security Officer Bortashevich, intending to ask what kind of trouble is reputedly brewing in one of the prisoner barracks.

“Gud ivning,” Bortashevich said, “good thing you showed up. I’m wrestling with a philosophical question -- why do we drink? Let’s suppose, as they said earlier, it’s a vestige of capitalism in the mind of the people, a shadow of the past...And, mainly -- the influence fo the West. Even though we really let ourselves go in the East. But that’s al
...more
Jim
We have read fiction by prisoners in the Soviet Gulag system, such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn's A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich or Varlam Shalamov's Kolyma Tales. Now, with Sergei Dovlatov's The Zone, we have a novel about the lives of Soviet Army guards in the 1960s -- written by a man who worked as one himself -- but among criminal rather than political prisoners.

Dovlatov's wry humor informs this set of short stories, which are interspersed by letters from the author to Igor Markovich Yef
...more
Dmitry Klekovkin
Самое угрюмое произведение Довлатова. Ни один персонаж произведения не вызывает симпатию, мало того, не запоминается. Читать его периодически сложно, особенно, когда действующие лица переходят на фени. В этих историях нет положительных героев, все они с гнильцой. Казалось бы, в исправительных учреждениях надзиратели должны наставлять ЗЭКа на путь праведный. Но судя по Довлатову все происходит наоборот. Но все же читать было интересно, хоть и осадочек остался. Тут плакать надо, а не смеяться.
Marat M. Yavrumyan
Վերջն է՝ ինչպես Դովլաթովի մյուս բոլոր ստեղծագործությունները։ Այնքան սուր ու դիպուկ են իրավիճակի նկարագրությունները, Դովլաթովին բնորոշ ցինիզմի ու հումորը ընկալումով, որ ծիծաղը երբեմն խեղդում է։ Դովլաթով կարդալ պետք է միանշանակ ու շա՛տ։
Michel Maas
Hilarious.
This quote sums it all up:
“The world in which I found myself was horrible. Nevertheless, I smiled no less frequently than I do now, and was not sad more often."
Joey Diamond
Ok this is going to sound weird, cos this is a book about a prison camp, but I expected this to be funnier. I came to it from hearing one of Dovlatov's other stories which was, well, kind of funny.

Anyway, I still got a lot out of these messed up fragments, the emigre commentary and Dovlatov's absurdist resignation. How else would you write about a Soviet prison camp anyway?

Also I think this was probably the source material for the Gulag scenes in Muppets Most
Wanted. There is even a prison play,
...more
Moira Downey
In this structurally inventive, often linguistically inscrutable novel, Dovlatov seeks to massage the traditional Russian prison camp novel by using the guards rather than the interned as his narrative focus. Stories of the horrors of camp life are interposed with meditations on the telling of said stories and the toll exacted on one's moral structure by the experiences described. He also takes care to demonstrate the moral fluidity among those being kept and those doing the keeping, and the rea ...more
Alan Fricker
Somehow never quite as good as it felt like it was going to be
Laura Edwards
Re-read this book. I'll stick with the 3 stars. Some parts are really good, others I was rushing through to get to the next section.
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SERGEI DOVLATOV was born in Ufa, Bashkiria (U.S.S.R.), in 1941. He dropped out of the University of Leningrad after two years and was drafted into the army, serving as a guard in high-security prison camps. In 1965 he began to work as a journalist, first in Leningrad and then in Tallinn, Estonia. After a period of intense harassment by the authorities, he emigrated to the United States in 1978. He ...more
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