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Journey Into the Whirlwind
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Journey Into the Whirlwind

4.34 of 5 stars 4.34  ·  rating details  ·  1,333 ratings  ·  114 reviews
Both witness to and victim of Stalin's reign of terror, a courageous woman tells the story of her harrowing eighteen-year odyssey through Russia's prisons and labor camps. Translated by Paul Stevenson and Max Hayward. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book
ebook, 432 pages
Published November 4th 2002 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 1967)
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After beavering away like a good little boy on a review of Into the Whirlwind, I got so disgusted with the falseness and inadequacy of my response (even more so than usual) that I eventually gave up in despair. Instead, I’ll take this opportunity to elaborate on some comments I made below, since I’m still kind of hung up on the ethics of reading ‘survivor literature’ – a topic of zero interest to anyone who’s not a complete tool like myself. So fair warning.

Despite all my prissy scruples, I thi
Journey into the whirlwind recounts the story of active member of the communist Party for many years, Eugenia Semonovna Ginzburg, who was arrested like many of her fellow citizens during Stalin's reign of terror on trumped up charges of being a Trotskyist terrorist counter-revolutionary and sentenced to prison. This book recounts her many years spent in prison and labour camps.

This is a insightful story and sometimes while reading this book you may sometimes think " This has to be exaggerated so
Nel 1937, quando tutto ebbe inizio, avevo poco più di trent’anni; ora ho di parecchio superato i cinquanta. Diciotto degli anni compresi in questo periodo li ho trascorsi là.

è dove la confina la repressione staliniana (di solito si usa l’espressione “purghe staliniane” che mi pare infinitamente riduttiva) che per Evgenija inizia nel 1937, ma per tanti altri era già iniziata da tempo.

è il carcere duro e il lager, la Kolyma, mitica parola che evoca terrore.

Ma Evgenija non
This was a curious book, I've read several others by Gulag survivors.
But there was an ambiguity in this book that puzzled me to the end.

Starting out, I thought, she thought,
that the entire insanity of the purges was the fault of Stalin.
And that she still believed in communism,

But as I continued through the book,
more and more I began to wonder if she was hiding her real feelings,
perhaps because, while it was possible to denounce Stalin in the 1960's,
it still wasn't possible to denounce comm
Oct 11, 2011 Wayne rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone whose Democracy is under siege by its politicians, radio jocksn tea parties and sarah Palins
Recommended to Wayne by: The Holy Spirit in an Athens bookstore
Discovered while teaching in Athens in 1978 in a treasure of a bookshop, this story has just STUCK in my head!!!

It made me realise that our idealistic ideologies from Democracy to Communism to Christianity to Workers' Unions have to be guarded and defended with rigour since Human Nature being what it is, will hijack it and twist it to its own purposes - usually perverted and hiding behind the original to practise the exact opposite.

Communism had its origins in Early Christianity...just read the
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Into the Whirlwind is really an extraordinary book, I had never heard of Eugenia Ginzburg, and frankly felt very ignorant of the terror unleashed by Stalin during the 1930s. Into the Whirlwind doesn’t always make for easy reading, but for those interested in Russian history it must surely be required reading. In the 1930’s Ginzburg was a loyal communist party member, a university teacher and journalist. A wife and mother, living a life surrounded by people who thought as she did, Eugenia (Jenny) ...more
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In places, Ginzburg's tone seems oddly casual for a memoir with such horrifying subject matter. Maybe this is of-a-piece with her stating several times that prisoners laughed, joked, or were gleeful in certain situations, even prisoners who had been ripped from their families and small children. It's not my place to judge....and I don't fully understand human behavior. It just seems to me that laughter and glee might be hard to come by if you hadn't seen your kids in three years. And Ginzburg do ...more
This was a mind-boggling read (if only it were fiction!) but I found little in the book to appreciate other than the author’s seemingly inexhaustible ability to endure and will to live. The narrative is clumsy and alternates between flashbacks and flashes forward. It’s slow and monotonous, even when describing true torture and horror—and perhaps this pace accurately reflects the experience of life in the various prisons and labor camps she describes. I would recommend reading a bit about the Rus ...more
Colleen Clark
Fascinating. I can't remember where or when I picked this up - it looks used - but I selected it from one of my numerous "to-be-read" stacks to take with me to my annual sojourn to an island in Maine where I have time to read uninterruptedly.

Riveting from start - Dec. 1934 to arrest in Feb 1937. One of the early victims of Stalin's insane "purges." Ginzburg was a professor of literature in Kazan, mother of two and stepmother of one, in her 30's and an avid Party member from day 1. Nonetheless, s
Ginzburg drags the reader with her from a comfortable life through accusation and imprisonment, solitary confinement to Siberian labour camp up to the point of impending death commuted at the end of the book by becoming a nurse. At which point the translation abruptly ends. There is a second part to Ginzburg's autobiography, I believe untranslated, detailing her years as a nurse in the labour camp, relationship with the Doctor (who if I recall correctly was a homeopath and seventh day Adventist) ...more
I've read very little non-fiction that stayed with me for any length of time. This is one I still think about today. Russian history is so completely engrossing to me, it's amazing to me that I got to take an entire class in college on just this country's history, and this is where I read this book.

Just in terms of general prison narrative, this is an amazing find. The details of prison life are really what I remember most about it. How she would tell entire stories from start to finish to her
Dianne Oliver
Always stunning to read the horrors that people endured, this is a well written account of Genia's "crimes" against Stalin, and her 18 years of imprisonment. This was a bit different from other accounts I have read as she describes more than just the state of her own situation. She includes the inner workings of the prison systems- how things were communicated and the way the mind recalls so much information- and some of the politics of her day (of which I am vastly undereducated) as well as the ...more
A horrifying journey into what may have been the most corrupt and repressive regime in human history. While Solzhenitsyn may be more effective in evoking disgust and terror in the reader, Ginzburg's novelistic style and tendencies toward understatement produce an equally effective pathetic appeal. This is a deeply human perspective on an inhuman apparatus, and one that strives to recount not just the nightmares of the GULAG but also the bonds of love and friendship that often flourished between ...more
Deeply disturbing and consciousness-expanding. Ginzburg is gifted with a brilliant memory for detail, and she uses it to startling effect in describing her experience as a prisoner during Stalin's reign.

I think it's valuable to periodically remind one's self that humans are capable of great evil, though I'm not sure what to do with this information other than develop my continually hardening shell of cynicism about governments.

Emotionally, this book made me want to start stockpiling weapons --
I'm so glad this book was assigned for my Soviet Union history class. Mrs. Ginzburg was a woman who showed extraordinary resilience during one of history's most trying times, and I feel privileged to have been able to read her memoirs. The book shows the raw cruelty that humans are capable of, but also juxtaposes it with the immense strength also possible. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to be inspired.
A good description of life under Stalin, bringing to vivid life the knowledge that you never knew when it would be your turn to be arrested, accused of 'crimes', and punished. Evgenia has a very rough time while imprisoned: isolation, starvation, torture, false accusations, and long slow trips into Siberia. But right in the middle of her story, when she is in Siberia about halfway through her sentence, the book ends. There were lots of tantalizing hints in the book such as "...and that was the l ...more
This book is really gripping. Her story is so grim. It has taught me that I need to memorise as much poetry as possible, in case I end up in prison.
Edmond Dantes
18 anni vissuti là...

la dove si lotta per un pezzo di pane, una minestra acquosa, un posto sul tavolaccio, una pezza per coprsi i piedi dai -50° della Kolyma; sopravvivere all'inferno nell'inferno dei campi di punizione per i condannati ....etc.. tutto questo senza mai perdere l'umanità dell'uomo..
Splendido Romanzo che alterna al racconto delle traversie le riflessioni personali della Ginzburg, simili e assonanti a quelle di Grossman di Vita e Destino e di Tutto scorre.
Pietra Miliare imperdibile
Hannah Ringler
I read this one for a college class. I'm a sucker for memoirs and all-things-Russia, so it is kind of a no-brainer for me...I loved it. This is Ginzburg's true story of how she entered the Soviet gulag system. The storyline is fascinating and she adds in a lot of little details and character quirks which keep you reading faster. What I appreciated most was the artistic value to this book. A lot of memoirs focus around a just-the-facts-ma'am approach, which get across the history and story, but l ...more
Journey into the Whirlwind is the brutal and honest telling of Eugenia Ginzburg's first three to four years of imprisonment under Stalin from 1937-1940 (two years of which were spent in solitary confinement). The writing is wonderful and her bond with the women in which she was sharing great daily misfortunes was truly amazing and heartfelt. Her upbeat attitude, intelligence and outright luck enabled her to live through her horrific state of affairs for no less than eighteen years. However, I wa ...more
Wow, this book was amazing. It was so depressing and yet I am so glad I read it. It is a true account of a woman who fell victim along with thousands of others during Stalin's regime and was sent to prison for eighteen years. I feel like I do not know anything about this history so I enjoyed learning about it through this book. This book, along with "Wild Swans" (a similar book although in China) should be required reading in my opinion. After reading these two books I more fully appreciate our ...more
The woman who is tutoring me in Russian has the original Russian versions of Eugenia's story in two volumes. She suggested I read them. I sought out the English version to give myself a head start. Turns out this edition has only the first 3 years of Ms. Ginzburg's account (my tutor's books are a more complete account). Most of this book focuses on her arrest and trial. It is an excellent supplement to anyone studying the early years of the Soviet Union, including the revolution that led up to i ...more
This was a tough read but it was worth getting through. If I had to choose one word to describe this book it'd be 'surreal'. Not only in terms of the interrogations but the fact that the whole thing happened at all. The senselessness of the purges is striking - so many of the political prisoners still believed in Stalin and in the system even when they were suffering at its hands. It's hard to believe that people thought it was justified, considering how many innocent people got caught up in it ...more
Right, so! This was a very interesting book, as it gives us an intimate look into the purges of the 30s (and demonstrating that they were not exclusive *to* the 30s) and life inside prisons/the gulag system.

However, it's important to be skeptical of sources such as this.

The author was a privileged member inside of the communist party, demonstrated by her intimate friendships with many politically/socially significant people. She's also highly educated, seen by her frequent quoting/referencing of
Arjun Mishra
Throughout the first half of the book, I was blown away and mesmerized by the narrative and action. The primary strength of the book is it is easy to keep a hundred pages in a sitting no problem. Very engrossing. However, it started to go downhill because the memories were basically the same, I did not like the way she arranged the chronology, and the people in the book were really stupid. I am not going to rail against other people in the book (though I really cannot understand how on earth the ...more
Christiane Alsop
I cannot yet put into words what Ginzburg's memoirs mean to me. Instead, here is her account of the importance of literature:
"At home, I had always been looked on as a passionate and indefatigable bookworm; but it was here, in my stone sepulchor, that I really explored for the first time the inmost meaning of what I read. Up till then I had skimmed to surface, enlarging my mind in breadth but not in depth. And after I came out of prison I found I could no longer read as I had done in m cell at
Of all the Soviet gulag narrative histories or survivor's memoirs I've read, this may be the first written by a committed Communist. Plenty were arrested, of course, and like non-party folks, for entirely fictional reasons, but this is the first memoir I've read from one of them.

I liked it because she dwells so long on her time in solitary confinement, because I wasn't familiar with this aspect of the gulag. One good way to describe it is slow-motion torture, yet another way that the Soviet Uni
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Yevgenia Ginzburg (Russian language: Евгения Семёновна Гинзбург) was a Russian historian and writer. Her latinized name Eugenia is frequently used in the West.

Soon after Yevgenia Ginzburg was born into the family of a Jewish pharmacist in Moscow, her family moved to Kazan. In 1920 she entered the social sciences department of Kazan State University, later switching to pedagogy.

She worked as a rabf
More about Evgenia Ginzburg...
Within the Whirlwind

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