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Kolyma Tales

4.35  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,692 Ratings  ·  151 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 July 28th 1994 by Penguin Classics (first published January 1978)
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Oct 23, 2013 Rowena rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 08, 2013 Jonfaith rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mother-rus
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
Mar 18, 2010 DoctorM rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 21, 2015 [P] rated it it was amazing
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
May 31, 2013 εδουάρδος rated it it was amazing
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
May 23, 2016 Sunny rated it it was amazing
stunning book about a convicts 17 years in a Siberian death camp. The author who was In the camp writes some short stories of his time there. Think a day in the life of Ivan denisovic x 100 times worse. In fact Solzhenitsyn held shalamov in very high regard. This book is one of the biggest magnifying glasses into the human psyche that I have ever read. Some incredible truths in this book that feel so out of place in normal society. Some of the most interesting short stories were: shock therapy, ...more
Aaron Arnold
Apr 12, 2012 Aaron Arnold rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 08, 2013 Donna rated it it was amazing
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.
May 02, 2009 Lara rated it it was amazing
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.
Every now and then you read one of those books describing tough circumstances where the reader is almost inevitably forced to think "what would I do in this situation?" Kolyma Tales is most definitely one of those. When you're thinking of Russian prison literature, most people think of Solzhenitsyn. For my money, Shalamov was as good a literary craftsman, but rather than trying to impose an ideology-- which in Solzhenitsyn's case, was a rather nasty Orthodox conservatism-- he seemed more content ...more
Jan 31, 2009 BC rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 29, 2013 Gauss74 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 05, 2012 Arhondi rated it it was amazing
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
Marisol García
Extraordinario. El tipo de libro que se queda con uno para siempre. El horror del gulag descrito en relatos breves, de frases cortas y secas (recuerda a Chejov), sin alardes de heroísmo ni sermones edificantes. Son anécdotas, objetos, personajes que entran y salen en lapsos breves de un continuo que en su caso duró diecisiete años. No entiende uno cómo fue que Shalamov sobrevivió a esto que cuenta, y, sobre todo, en qué espacio íntimo consiguió resguardar la sensibilidad y entereza que luego vol ...more
Man, I need to take a break from the Gulag and the Holocaust. Maybe some post-apocalyptic fiction to cheer me up?
May 01, 2015 Graziano rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-library
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
Jan 28, 2013 Matt Hlinak rated it really liked it
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.

Nick Black
Nov 04, 2013 Nick Black rated it really liked it
Shelves: likely-reread
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
Apr 23, 2013 Bjorn rated it really liked it
Shelves: russia, soviet
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
Jun 08, 2015 Antonia rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
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.
Libro molto doloroso. Sconsigliato a chi non vuole farsi impressionare. La raccolta con tutti i racconti della Kolyma sfiora le 800 pagine: ho letto solo dieci racconti e non ho continuato. Troppo doloroso pensare che sono quasi storie vere. Temo che mi manchi quel coraggio necessario per leggere queste biografie.
Salamov scrive molto bene (secondo me è uno tra i migliori scrittori russi del novecento). Ha uno stile scorrevole ma molto freddo e riesce far sentire l'orrore vissuto personalmente de
Erwin Maack
Oct 28, 2013 Erwin Maack rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 08, 2010 Andrei 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
Oct 19, 2012 Brandy rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 01, 2013 Lora Grigorova rated it it was amazing
Колимски разкази:

“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
Preston Fleming
Nov 20, 2011 Preston Fleming rated it it was amazing
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
David Jijelava
Feb 24, 2016 David Jijelava rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
ჩვეულებრივი, მარტივი ენითაა გადმოცემული ადამიანების საშინელი ტკივილი. ამ წიგნის წაკითხვისას ისე
რეალურად წარმოიდგენ გულაგში არსებულ მდგომარეობას, რომ თითქოს იქ ხარ და ახლოდან ადევნებ ყველაფერს თვალყურს. ის კაცი, შენს გვერდით, სიცივისგან რომ მოკვდა, შეიძლება შენ ყოფილიყავი. ვერანაირი წამება, შიმშილი თუ სიცივე, ვერასოდეს ვეღარ შეგაშინებს. არაფერი არ შეიძლება იყოს ამაზე უარესი. არ იცი, ეს ჯოჯოხეთი რამდენი ხანი შეიძლება გაგრძელდეს. შეიძლება თავის მოკვლაც გადაწყვიტო, მაგრამ არც ესაა იოლად შესასრულებე
Mar 26, 2008 Jon rated it it was amazing
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
Michinio Camorelli
Дааааа... просто слов нет, даже не верится. Точнее, ничего такого не было чего не знал, но когда об этом пишет писатель во такой силы, всё как-то понимается прямо, поднимаюся волосы и слышен стук зубов. Очень редко бывает у меня грустные, злобные, нигилистические мысли, но тут мой разум не устоял. И очень хорошо, что не устоял.

На самом деле, эта книга оптимистическая. В том смысле, что в наших жизнях не может быть случаев, сопоставимых с Шаламовскими... ну очень сильно на это надеюсь. Во первых
Feb 10, 2014 Erik rated it liked it
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
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Goodreads Librari...: Please could you change this cover? 3 32 Jun 12, 2016 05:18PM  
  • Journey into the Whirlwind
  • The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin
  • Forever Flowing
  • Man Is Wolf to Man: Surviving the Gulag
  • The Compromise
  • The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine
  • Hope Against Hope
  • Happy Moscow
  • The Case of Comrade Tulayev
  • Nervous People and Other Satires
  • Memories of the Future
  • The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia
  • Generations of Winter
  • The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, books III-IV
  • The Golovlyov Family
  • The Petty Demon
  • The Queue
  • Moscow to the End of the Line
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 about Varlam Shalamov...

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“Tragedy is not deep and sharp if it can be shared with friend.” 14 likes
“Life repeats Shakespearian themes more often than we think. Did Lady Macbeth, Richard III, and King Claudius exist only in the Middle Ages? Shylock wanted to cut a pound of flesh from the body of the merchant of Venice. Is that a fairy tale?” 10 likes
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