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Kolyma Tales

4.32 of 5 stars 4.32  ·  rating details  ·  2,143 ratings  ·  127 reviews
It is estimated that some three million people died in the Soviet forced-labour camps of Kolyma, in the northeastern area of Siberia. Shalamov himself spent seventeen years there, and in these stories he vividly captures the lives of ordinary people caught up in terrible circumstances, whose hopes and plans extended to further than a few hours This new enlarged edition com ...more
Paperback, 508 pages
Published February 1st 1995 by Penguin Classics (first published 1978)
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Crime and Punishment by Fyodor DostoyevskyThe Master and Margarita by Mikhail BulgakovAnna Karenina by Leo TolstoyThe Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan KunderaWar and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
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Community Reviews

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Rowena
Oct 23, 2013 Rowena rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Russian history
Recommended to Rowena by: Vera
This was a tough read but one I am very glad to have read. This was a collection of stories about the conditions in Soviet forced-labour camps during the Stalinist regime. It definitely filled in many of the knowledge gaps I had of what happened in the Siberian gulags. Only someone who spent time in a Siberian labour camp could ever have come up with such a collection of short stories, stories that capture the abysmal conditions of the camps, describe what the camp does to the human psyche (both ...more
Jonfaith
Kolyma Tales was my first used book purchase via Amazon. (I feel obligated to honor our benefactor at every turn now. I even touch my breast when I say Amazon.)

Emerging from a blue period, I truly had no idea how beautiful this harrowing account would be. I don't detect any tension between the sublime and Kolyma. Imre Kertész has taught me well. It is chance, it is human. Survival simply wasn't possible. Those that did emerge, were stripped of something. Kolyma is a protean creation: it is a nov
...more
DoctorM
Powerful, unsettling, triumphant. The best of the Gulag literature--- darker and more precise even than "Ivan Denisovich". Tales of survival, violence, hope, revolt, resistance, love, and death there in the world of the Gulag. Sharp, concise, etched in ice and steel, and with a deep sense of human worth and the human heart. You can't do 20th-c. Russian lit without reading this book. Yes, Solzhenitsyn--- yes: read "First Circle" and "Ivan Denisovich". But read this. Just go get a copy. Shalamov's ...more
[P]
Mar 21, 2015 [P] rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: bitchin
I’ve written before about the idea of an ‘irrational attachment to life,’ which means that no matter how awful, how painful and degrading existence is one cannot forsake it. Not only that but, with a miser’s spirit, one actively clings to it. Of course it is not true of all – otherwise there would never be any suicide – but it is certainly true of many, including me. I had a very difficult childhood, and I would fantasise a lot about getting away, but at no point did I ever not want to be here. ...more
BC
These short stories are the best GULag literature you will ever read. They put "Ivan Denisovich" in context, and are far more depressing and terrifying. The detachment the reader senses in the narrator is a bit disconcerting. He does not use wild language, however deserved it was, to describe suffering; in fact, it appears wildly understated. He is far more matter of fact than he probably had the right to be.

The short stories allow Shalamov to explore many different aspects of the camp environme
...more
Donna
To quote Mr. Rochester, 'How tenacious we are of life.' Here is every trick in the book to hold onto life while being starved, frozen, and worked to death. Yes, it was bleak, but there was also a point where I really saw the wonder of this tenacity. Bread can be a squalid affair but it keeps us in life. History is ugly, especially for those who see its face close up rather than from a long look back.
Lara
May 02, 2009 Lara rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Russian fans, historians
Recommended to Lara by: professor
Disturbing. In some ways, this book is actually better than Solzhenitsyn's stuff. Shalamov writes such short, concise stories that carry so much emotional punch. There is even one story that is only one paragraph long that is more disturbing than an entire novel. I love Shalamov, especially for his aesthetics.
Aaron Arnold
I dare you to find a literary genre more depressing than prison literature – go on, think about it for a bit, I'll wait. Kolyma Tales is a collection of short stories set in the various mines, dormitories, and work camps that made up the vast Siberian "human sewage disposal system" that Alexander Solzhenitsyn so famously chronicled in The Gulag Archipelago. Based on an unimaginable seventeen years of the author's own personal experience with the Gulag system, this is an unforgettably bleak look ...more
εδουάρδος
Ο Βαρλαάμ Σαλάμοφ βίωσε, ως αυτόπτης μάρτυρας, τη ζοφερή αιχμαλωσία στα στρατόπεδα εργασίας της Κολιμά. Στο βιβλίο του παρουσιάζει ωμά, χωρίς καμία ωραιοποίηση, τη ζωή-τραγωδία των άτυχων αντιφρονούντων. Πρόκειται ουσιαστικά για ένα χρονικογράφημα του θανάτου, μια κραυγή απόγνωσης του συγγραφέα, φόρος τιμής στους χιλιάδες ανθρώπους που άφησαν την τελευταία τους πνοή στη παγωμένη γη του Αρκτικού Βορρά, βιώνοντας τις αδυσώπητες παρενέργειες του σταλινικού ολοκληρωτισμού. Ο συγγραφέας κάπου γράφει: ...more
Gauss74
Qualcosa di più di un semplice libro-un'avventura dello spirito.

In una lunghissima sequenza di racconti,l'autore ci accompagna in quell'orrore senza fine che fu la Siberia dei Lager.
Non è un libro facile nè leggero, perchè non ambisce ad intrattenere: suo unico obiettivo è esorcizzare la malvagità umana, che alla Kolyma negli anni trenta ha trovato la sua massima espressione, nel solo modo possibile, il ricordo.

In un'epoca di facili revisionismi, in cui da ogni parte si cerca di inquinare lo
...more
Arhondi
A monument of human endurance and soul in the face of absolute evil, Shalamov's book is a testament of what makes one human. The Gulag, one of the many plagues of the 20th century, a black hole into which people disappear never to come out again - and even if they did, they were but a fraction of their old selves, provides the back drop for this heartbreaking journey of death into life. Apart from providing us with an irrefutable historical document, Shalamov proves to be one of the true masters ...more
Graziano
Tutti i sentimenti umani - l’amore, l’amicizia, l’invidia, l’umanità, la carità, il desiderio di gloria, l’onestà - li avevamo persi insieme alla carne di cui il lungo periodo di fame ci aveva privati. Nell’insignificante strato muscolare che ancora ricopriva le nostre ossa, che ancora ci dava la possibilità di mangiare, di muoverci e respirare e persino di segare tronchi e ammucchiare con una vanga pietre e sabbia nelle carriole, e persino di trascinare quelle carriole lungo la passerella senza ...more
Matt Hlinak
Varlam Shalamov draws from firsthand experience in his depictions of suffering in his work. Unlike Primo Levi, for example, Shalamov chose not to present this suffering in the form of a nonfiction memoir. Instead, like Tim O’Brien and Tadeusz Borowski, he has fictionalized his experiences. I suspect Shalamov shared O’Brien’s belief that fiction can be just as “true” as nonfiction as long as the writer is able to accurately capture the physical details and emotions of the real-life experience.

In
...more
Nick Black
This was pretty brilliant right here. All the goodness of The Gulag Archipelago but about 7,000 pages shorter.

---
Amazon 2008-10-23. I still don't want to buy Anne Applebaum's big book of misery, especially after The Years of Extermination (another totalitarian camp-oriented Pulitzer winner of late) left me feeling not so much educated, or entertained, but more like the contemplative minutes after one realizes the TaB you just pulled warm dregs from had been serving as an ashtray for several hour
...more
Bjorn
Between 1929 and 1953, Varlam Shalamov spent 20 years in Soviet labour camps as a dissident. 16 of those in Kolyma, a region in the most distant part of Siberia that at the time was essentially a prison the size of a large country, half a world away from... anything. When he was released, he started writing about it; short stories based on his and others' experiences. Stories of what it's like to survive for decades in an environment where everything is essentially trying to kill you, by violenc ...more
Erwin Maack
Varlam Shalamov

"Sabeis de algum lugar no mundo onde exista a inteligência"? Jó

Todos nós somos condenados. Condenados a viver em uma prisão, como aquela terceira margem do rio, saídos do nascimento, que não pedimos, e seguindo rumo à morte, tampouco sabendo quando, como e onde ela chegará.

Diante dessa realidade, só nos cabe compreender o percurso, encontrar algum sentido nele. E, para compreendê-lo, só nos restam a perspectiva como método e o homem como fautor. Um tonel sem fundo enquanto não co
...more
Andrey
Dec 08, 2010 Andrey added it
Shelves: fiction
В его слоге, по-моему, чувствуется определенная наивность, как будто бы пишет обычный (но талантливый) зэк, не особо искушенный в литературных делах. Может быть это даже нарочно, в любом случае это не раздражает, а скорее наоборот, трогает.

Кроме всего, мне нравится, как он пишет о блатном мире, о размежевании между ворами и интеллигенцией, сидящей по политической статье (У Солженицына тоже читал об этом) Интересно вообще это явление, что интеллигентское сообщество сохранило себя в лагерных услов
...more
Brandy
It's interesting to think as I begin this entry that one of my central comments on Blok concerned his bleakness, because Shalamov was one of the most emotionally demanding readings I have ever completed. This is not because of dramatic highs and lows, nor of any deep investment in characters who go through surprising and devastating trials. Shalamov's stories about the Stalin-era Kolyma prison camps maintain the perspective of a prisoner or an ex-prisoner reminiscing on perhaps some of the most ...more
Lora Grigorova
Колимски разкази: http://readwithstyle.wordpress.com/20...

“Трудът е въпрос на чест, въпрос на доблест и геройство”

Този комунистически лозунг стои на входа на почти всички трудови лагери. Не, нека ги наречем с истинското им име – на входа на концентрационните лагери в областта Колима, където милиони врагове на комунистическата власт и обикновени престъпници са изпращани с месеци и години. Не за да бъдат наказани и после реабилитирани. Не, те са изпратени там, за да бъдат смазани от бой, за да бъд
...more
Preston Fleming
Though the Soviet Gulag extended across the entire continent, arguably the worst camps were in the Russian Far East, and particularly the gold fields of the Kolyma River basin.

The port city of Magadan was the gateway to Kolyma, with Vladivostok and other ports as way stations.

I visited Magadan, Vladivostok, Vanino, Khabarovsk, Komsomolsk-on-Amur and other cities of the Russian Far East in the early 1990s when they were first opened to Western businessmen.

Our Russian guides showed us the apartmen
...more
Jon
Mar 26, 2008 Jon rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone, russia nerds
Shalamov was a political prisoner in the Soviet GULag system for (I think) 17 years, which "inspired" him to write this collection of short stories filled with equal parts horror, black humor, despair, and absurdity. The comparison with Solzhenitsyn is inevitable due to the subject matter, but I would compare Shalamov's tight prose style to Gogol's or Babel's before Solzhenitsyn's. I am also of the opinion that Shalamov is simply a better writer. He can communicate the absolute terror of life in ...more
Erik
Stark, brutal miniatures written by a man who spent 17 years (!) in the settings and conditions described here so bluntly and painfully. The cruelty and monotony of life in the Kolyma labor camps are enough to elevate the most mundane items (a can of condensed milk, a child's watercolor paintings) to the level of the miraculous; anything that wards off hunger or reminds the condemned of a brighter world beyond their present circumstances is an event to be cherished. Some of these tales were so d ...more
Silvia Pompele
Dietro a ogni tragedia umana rimane il ricordo di come l'abbiamo vissuta.
Non esiste il valore della sofferenza. Esiste l'esaltazione della nostra umanità all'interno di eventi drammatici.
Questo è quello che lascia questo libro meraviglioso
Sam Moss
Easily among the best short stories I have ever read. 'Kolyma Tales' and 'Gulag Archipelago' go together like two halves to a whole.

Shalamov spares nothing and provides it all with the classic Russian stoicism. His writing style is bare but fillingand he never forces a message or drives a point.

The brutality in some of these stories leaves writers like Chuck Palahniuk, Cormac McCarthy, Hubert Selby Jr. and Donald Ray Pollack in the dust. There is just no comparison.

There are a few duds, and ther
...more
Meesh
A sad and heart wrenching testament of life in labor camps. It takes away humanity and replaces it with the indoctrination of the "criminal code". Desperate is percieved as survival, stealing is viewed as a valuable talent, and the women are shifted in thought to take pride in their prostitution. What I liked most about the book is that [much like red calvary] it is a collection of short stories that contribute to the overarching story of the human being, and his/her internal conflicts to let go ...more
Neil Randall
Of all the books written about the Soviet forced-labour camps (and there are many great ones), for me, Shalamov's 'Kolyma Tales' is the the most powerful. Told in a series of short stories, documenting the inhuman living conditions, the freezing cold, the things prisoners have to do just to survive for another day, or to obtain an extra bread ration, the way some not only rub dirt into wounds to extend a stay in the infirmary, but cut off hands or feet, blind themselves, even, gives a harrowing ...more
Peter Wibaux
I read this book on the back of Anne Applebaum's history of the Gulag. If that book was heavy, this one weighs a ton (even electronically). It took time to read properly, and my review output suffered accordingly.

I'm not a fan of short stories, but these are different. First-off, they're true. Second, they're numerous. Third, they're short. Most short stories are nothing of the kind, and you often feel you'd like to see the good ones grow into a book.

Mr. Popp, one of the last ones, is particular
...more
Antonia
Storied from the most merciless Stalinist repression - the Gulag.
Although brutal, the stories from 'Kolyma Tales' are full of life and struggle, revealing page after page the unimaginable endurance a human being is capable of. Varlam Shalamov is talented narrator, his writing and depiction of savage events is fluent. His profound insights on the prevailing moral decline amongst prisoners manifests as a legacy from the destitution and punishment of ordinary people imposed by the Stalinist regime.
...more
Laetitia
Kolymskije rasskazy / Kolyma tales

Well, reading this book probably cost me the most effort to read a book so far. I read it in Russian, which still is pretty tough sometimes. But despite of that fact, and despite the fact that I had to read the book for an exam (forced reading often is a lot more unpleasant than reading 'for fun'), the fact that I had to read it within a quite short time range (because of my great planning skills), and the fact that this is not a 'nice' book, I really enjoyed re
...more
Marek
Kolyma Tales is a collection of short stories by Russian author Varlam Shalamov. I first read this in college and have read it over again to refresh my memory. The stories are based around prisoners of gulags who suffer through the weather and harsh treatment from those in charge. Never once does he mention Stalin. Brutal, shocking and matter-of-fact, Kolyma Tales will change your life forever.
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63552
Varlam Tikhonovich Shalamov (Russian: Варлам Тихонович Шаламов; June 18, 1907–January 17, 1982), baptized as Varlaam, was a Russian writer, journalist, poet and Gulag survivor.

Alternate spellings of his name:
Chalamov, Varlam
Szałamov, Warłam
Schalamow, Warlam
Shalamov, V. T.
Шаламов, Варлам Тихонович
שלאמוב , ורלאם

...more
More about Varlam Shalamov...
Колымские рассказы. Стихотворения Очерки преступного мира Graphite Durch den Schnee: Erzählungen aus Kolyma 1 Οι βιβλιοθήκες μου

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