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Journey into the Whirlwind

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4.36  ·  Rating details ·  2,684 ratings  ·  202 reviews
Eugenia Ginzburg's critically acclaimed memoir of the harrowing eighteen years she spent in prisons and labor camps under Stalin's rule

By the late 1930s, Eugenia Semyonovna Ginzburg had been a loyal and very active member of the Communist Party for many years. Yet like millions of others who suffered during Stalin's reign of terror, she was arrested—on trumped-up charges o
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Paperback, 418 pages
Published November 4th 2002 by Harvest Books (Harcourt, Inc.) (first published January 1st 1967)
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4.36  · 
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 ·  2,684 ratings  ·  202 reviews


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Ahmad Sharabiani
Journey into the Whirlwind, Evgenia Ginzburg
Journey into the Whirlwind is the English title of the memoir by Eugenia Ginzburg. It was published in English in 1967, some thirty years after the story begins. The two-part book is a highly detailed first-hand account of her life and imprisonment in the Soviet Union during the rule of Joseph Stalin in the 1930s. Although Ginzburg sought to have the manuscript published in the Soviet Union, she was turned down. The manuscript was smuggled out of the c
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Buck
Aug 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
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Jan-Maat
A fantastic and heart rendering book. Evgenia Ginzberg had a comfortable life in the 1920s and into the 1930s in Kazan, For reasons unknown she was arrested in one of the early purges and sentenced to prison. Due to the continuing purges and concomitant necessary changes to accommodate all the people who were imprisoned her solitary confinement was interrupted and she was forced to share a cell (prison wasn't bad - there was a library service), later the two are deported to a labour camp in Sibe ...more
Haaze
Over the last few days Evgenia Ginzburg's autobiography 'Journey into the Whirlwind' has been a constant companion. Her book is one of the more well known biographies describing the insanity of the Stalin era as it follows her descent into a bureaucratic and inhumane machine of torture and imprisonment seemingly designed to devour the strength and humanity of an individual's existence. She starts out as a devoted journalist, communist, spouse and mother of two small children that innocently beco ...more
Dem
Nov 21, 2011 rated it liked it
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
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Zanna
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 500gbw, persephone
At the outset of this memoir I was wondering how it could be so long... how could there be so much to say about the monotony of solitary confinement or the struggle to survive in a labour camp without the account itself becoming tedious? One reason is Jenny's incredible memory. She never talks about her abilities or experiences as exceptional, but a number of episodes in the story reveal her literary knowledge and memory as outstanding. These talents, as well as resourcefulness, good luck, and t ...more
Andreea Lucau
Dec 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I started to read this book without knowing it was an autobiography. After a few chapters I started doing some research about Kazan, Tatarstan, Stalin and the Gulag. It was then that I realized the book was real: people were actually send to labor camp for 10 years after fake trials. Innocent people, whose only fault was being born in the wrong time, were caught 'into the whirlwind' and they could not do anything else but go with the flow.
What impressed me the most about Genia, the women telling
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James
May 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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Lobstergirl
Nov 06, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, russia
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
Suzanne
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Hailed an important work upon it's publication in 1967, Journey into the Whirlwind is Ginzburg's personal account her years in a Soviet prison during the reign of Josef Stalin.

As a teenager I read Solhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, and was stunned at the brutality and inhumane treatment of political prisoners during the Stalin era.  Ginzburg's work brought back all those memories and more.  It's a detailed narrative of how easily a public can be manipulated to turn on their friends and neighbors,
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Frank Stein
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Most prison camp memoirs have a monotonous sameness about them. There are the inevitable discussions of makeshift tools, bone needles, paper shoes, and such. There is the constant yearning for food, water, sleep, and family. There is the surprising ingenuity of prisoners communicating under censorship, such as, in this book, the special prisoners' Morse code tapped through stone walls, or the prisoners' use of song tunes with substitute words to explain to each other about a new warden. This boo ...more
Ali
Apr 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Wayne
Oct 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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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AC
Sep 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russia
Part I (63%), covering her arrest and her period in solitary, is extremely moving and effective. The second part of the book (Part II) is duller and not written as well. I am not sure if these two parts correspond to her two books (presented as one), as kindle does not supply that information.

Good, but a bit over-rated
Shelley
This narrative is the true story of life in Soviet prison camps in Siberia in the Stalinist era of purges starting in 1937. The twist is that it is written by a woman, who shows the female's experience was just as harsh as the male's. I am amazed she survived years of brutal treatment.

The Russians were very similar to the Nazis. They sent prisoners to Siberia in large groups crowded into boxcars, with no food and very little water, and in the camps were put to work doing hard manual labor and b
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Karen
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think it's understandable I was trepidatious about reading a memoir about The Great Purge and survival in gulags. It's not heavy, at all, and is written in a very easy...almost chatty style. This book is not a series of horrifying vignettes (although there are many harrowing stories), but really, it is a story of hope, and of touching humanism.
Eve
Mar 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rosemary
May 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: persephone
Eugenia (or Yevgeniya) Ginzburg was a member of the Communist party accused of political crimes along with many thousands of others during Stalin’s purges in the 1930s. She was sentenced to 10 years solitary confinement, the standard sentence for any party member who wasn’t shot, but after two years Stalin must have realised he’d locked up too many people of working age – not only were they not producing, but they had to be fed and guarded – and she and many others were sent to do physical labou ...more
Christina
Despite the bleak content, Ginzburg writes in a beautifully lyrical style; for once, I didn’t wonder if the style was underserved by the translation. The level of detail in Ginzburg’s memoir is unmatched, and she speaks to the importance of communication in order to preserve hope for the prisoners. The memoir does end in a disappointingly abrupt manner, but there is a note at the end by the original English language publisher saying that Ginzburg was working on a second memoir.

I doubt I would ha
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Rita
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the story of a teacher at a University who was sentenced to 10 years hard labor during Stalin's rule for the"crime" of being on the same faculty of a professor denounced for Anti-Party rhetoric. She actually ended up with a 17-year sentence. Her worst years are documented here.
My favorite part was on p.115: "Once, at the end of a stifling hot day, ...we heard a passable baritone singing the Toreador's Aria from 'Carmen' in the following unusual version:
"How many are you, pris'ners up t
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Ruthmarie
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
I found this title among books from my daughters' college texts left behind, and having run out of reading material decided to select a few. This was an eye opener--not that I was unaware of Stalin's purges and the reign of terror holding sway over Soviet lands, but I have not read much prison literature, just literary critical accounts of prison literature and some poems from out of the prisons. The illogic, the arbitrariness, the fear in both prisoner and prison institution is mind-boggling an ...more
Tonya
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
10/5 kinda book. I would recommend it to absolutely every human being. Apparently, "Into the whirlwind", the English version of it, is lacking a lot of material from the original book, and it's a shame.
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
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Katherine
Jul 01, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Beth
Sep 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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Dianne Oliver
Dec 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio-auto-bio
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
David
Dec 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 --
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Melissa
Nov 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Alice
Oct 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: europe
Wow. I've got to remind myself to only read a maximum of one horrible prison-camp memoir per month. The story would be unbelievable if I didn't already know Russian history. But, the author really personalizes the purges, prisons, and work camps. A good book - a terrible story.
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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
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“Let us give thanks to our father, leader, and creator for our happy lives!” “Stankovskaya, to hear your anti-Soviet talk, one can hardly believe that you were a member of a municipal committee!” “Yes, and to hear you people one can hardly believe that you’re not on the prison staff. Why don’t you call the guards now and report this conversation? You might get some clean underwear as a reward, and then you wouldn’t stink so much.” 0 likes
“By way of farewell, I recited Mandelshtam’s † melancholy poem: The horses tread slowly,
The lamps burn low,
And where they are taking me
Only strangers know.”
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