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The Zone: A Prison Camp Guard's Story

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,046 Ratings  ·  22 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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Feb 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, read-in-2012
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...)

I detected a striking similarity between the camp and the outside, between the prisoners and the guards, bet
Jun 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russia, fiction
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
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
Michel Maas
May 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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."
Adam  McPhee
The names, events and dates given here are all real. I invented only those details that were not essential.

Therefore, any resemblance between the characters in this book and living people is intentional and malicious. And all the fictionalizing was unexpected and accidental.
- The Author

One of the prisoners is a model prisoner, a pilot caught smuggling caviar and stealing parachutes. He subscribes to a prison magazine called 'Towards an Early Release'. His old colleagues fly a route near the pri
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dovlatov's The Suitcase was a major highlight of my recent reading. I see it as the most perfect novel - conceptually brilliant, deft in execution - about exile. He finds some extraordinary poetry in the quotidian, and his dry humor balances hurt and quiet joy brilliantly. He is wise, funny, and deadpan. The Zone is not a work of quite that magnitude, though has clearly been gifted unto us by the same master. It is extremely fragmented (which is not a problem, after all being part of the point) ...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։
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Prosa de calidad y contenido de altura. Muy recomendable.
Moira Downey
Nov 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Наверное самое ценное произведение Довлатова, хотя и и не ценитель его произведений.
Довлатов: "По Солженицыну лагерь - это ад, я же думаю, что ад - это мы сами...". Возможно что он и прав. Во всяком случае из его рассказа это заключение логично. Думаю он показал именно то, что хотел показать... По видимому зона многолика... Он рассказывает о своей жизни надзирателем. Одно пьянство, измены, проституция, зоофилия и т.д. В общем страшно. Не думаю что он преувеличивал. Законы зоны другие.
Oct 09, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Weirdly fragmented, nonlinear and disjointed, with occasional beautiful paragraphs of insight. Humorous but not funny. The dialogues are very realistic, snappy banter with lots of unexplained context left to the reader to piece together. It might have been a masterpiece, if the author could have been arsed to make it a novel or a memoir (I can't guess how much of it is invention), instead of a some letters and a bunch of notes jumbled together. This is more highly praised, but I personally liked ...more
Joey Diamond
Jul 16, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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,
May 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My least favorite Dovlatov, meaning it is wonderful and better than most things I'll read this year.
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.
Nikita Golubov
После Солженицына и Шаламова и правда сложно что-то добавить к теме лагерей, пускай даже в сатирическом ключе. Впрочем, стоит прочитать ради того, чтобы прочувствовать последнее письмо.
Vasil Kolev
Nov 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was somewhat sad, but extremely good. It seems to lose a bit of itself in the translation, but all the feeling is still there.
Alexey Shlykov
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Apr 12, 2017
Vitaliy Rybkin
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Sep 28, 2012
Urmas Jaarman
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May 05, 2016
Vladimir Gurevich
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Jun 28, 2015
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Sep 07, 2016
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Dec 25, 2016
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Nov 11, 2015
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Jul 30, 2015
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Feb 08, 2012
Kirill Kochkin
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May 02, 2013
Евген Евген
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Sep 10, 2013
Arevik Badalyan
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Evgeniy Doksvel
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Feb 20, 2013
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Goodreads Librari...: Incorrect Pub. Date/Title 3 17 Nov 21, 2014 10:00AM  
  • Faithful Ruslan
  • Forever Flowing
  • Happy Moscow
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  • The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin
  • Living Souls
  • Ingenieurs van de ziel
  • Two Captains
  • Grey is the Color of Hope
  • Похороните меня за плинтусом (Похороните меня за плинтусом, #1)
  • The House on the Embankment
  • Generations of Winter
  • The Village
  • The Women's Decameron
  • My Fellow Prisoners
  • The Petty Demon
  • Sakhalin Island
Сергей Довлатов
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 St
More about Sergei Dovlatov...

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“The world was horrible. But life continued. What is more, life’s usual proportions stayed the same. The ratio of good and evil, grief and happiness, remained unchanged.” 3 likes
“The world in which I found myself was horrifying. In that world, people fought with sharpened rasp files, ate dogs, covered their faces with tattoos and sodomized goats. In that world, people killed for a package of tea.” 2 likes
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