Ariel's Reviews > The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, Books I-II

The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
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Nov 20, 11

Read from November 03 to 20, 2011

There are times I have to put this book down, because it is just too much. My hurt hearts, I break out in a sweat, I almost cry-out at the injustice, the twisted logic, the explicit, overt, and mean-spirited politicization of life and the economy that created this massive and unrelenting beast of a prison system in Russia and the Soviet Union. I trucked through 350 pages and felt drained, beaten -- as though I were in the Lubyanka, the Butyrki, Lefortovo! I picked it up several weeks later and read through page 520, and again was worn out by it. The way that the prisons, the punishment, the handing our of "dimes" and "quarters" or "lifers" as though this were the natural course of life for man, as though nothing were unexpected about being tossed away for 1/2 or more of one's life... the casual acceptance of such a punitive system -- what kind of national sickness, madness even, could sustain this?? Everything about this book calls out, shouts out WHERE IS REAL JUSTICE?!! And yet I know its all true. Instinctively. There is such an honesty and such a natural reckoning of men's thoughts and hearts, especially the leadership. The letters from Lenin exhorting his peers and subalterns to revise the criminal code to expand the range of crimes for which one can be shot, to extend the lengths of sentences, to create new intangible -- and impossible to prove -- crimes such as "wrecking," it all rings true. And I know it is. That people would perjure themselves, lie and bear false witness against long-time friends and colleagues, in order to avoid torture or to lessen its severity. To reverse themselves an say anything, and end up believing it even! It is true. That's the sick nature of man. Now, in the last stretch of this book, I hope to get through without wearing myself out with the psychological challenge of this book of hard and painful truth. Excellent book.
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11/03/2011 page 520
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