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Cancer Ward

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  12,271 ratings  ·  605 reviews
Cancer Ward examines the relationship of a group of people in the cancer ward of a provincial Soviet hospital in 1955, two years after Stalin's death. We see them under normal circumstances, and also reexamined at the eleventh hour of illness. Together they represent a remarkable cross-section of contemporary Russian characters and attitudes. The experiences of the central ...more
Paperback, 536 pages
Published November 1st 1991 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1968)
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4.20  · 
Rating details
 ·  12,271 ratings  ·  605 reviews

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Pain in its purest form!

At the time when I first read this, I didn't know much of the Soviet Union, or of writers' fate within that state, or of cancer and its silent, treacherous spread in secret weak spots of the body. I was a young teenager, and had been told that this might be a bit too difficult for me to take from my parents' bookshelf - which constituted a natural invitation to do exactly that of course. The ensuing problem - nightmares I could not talk about, as I had read the book in s
Do I remember the Cold War? You bet I do. I think about it every day. It is as fundamental a part of my upbringing -- as defining of me as Catholicism, American Patriotism, Canadian Anti-Americanism, homophobia, abuse and bisexuality.

It wasn't just something that was happening in the world. In my household, with an American father, a U.S. Coast Guard Veteran (he was a Coastie who was all set to go to Vietnam with U.S. Coast Guard Squadron One -- and wanted to go -- when the U.S. finally pulled o
Henry Avila
Mar 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Scene: Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Central Asia, in the old Soviet Union, two years after the death of the brutal dictator, Stalin (1955). Oleg Kostoglotov is lying on the floor of a provincial hospital, at the entrance to the cancer ward, which is unpromising named , the 13th wing, looking up at the cold ceiling, his dead eyes stare. He can't get admitted until a space is available, but a vacancy will arrive soon, he feels death near. Meanwhile stoic Kostoglotov, a survivor of the infamous Gulag, and ...more
Dana Ilie
Aug 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cancer Ward can be read purely as a literary work, without the reader ever knowing the circumstances in which it was written, without recognizing the larger picture that the book rounds up, of the excruciatingly totalitarian regime under which Russian writers, intellectuals and artists worked, and were finally silenced if they raised their voices against oppression.
Nov 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, favourites
Like the blood transfusion Kostoglotov received from Gangard, I literally felt this book flow through my veins. I was wary of the injection at the beginning, a bit numb in the middle and completely intoxicated toward the end.

In fact, I think this might be the best piece of literature I have come across so far in my life.

First of all - the characters. Despite being confined to the same small space and sharing a common fate, they are very colourful, different from each other and interesting in the
Aug 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cultured, mmix
Cancer Ward … hmmm… Oh, Cancer Ward….

What was I expecting from you? Certainly not a frolicky day in the park… no Maurice Chevalier dance routines. Nope. I can’t say I was duped.

Cancer sucks. Hell, I’m not spouting some fresh angle on an old dictum. Just nod and agree, folks. Most of us have had some dealings with it, some more than others… it’s one of the nastiest things out there… rots you from the inside out, leaves you to dwell on things left unaccomplished and fills your head with messy wo
Nov 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-list
“In the midst of life we are in death.”

The beauty of Cancer Ward is that it illustrates the fact that, quite often, the opposite is true too: even in the midst of death, we can still find so much life. For me, this was by far the most compelling aspect of the novel, that the characters you meet are so vibrantly, tenaciously alive, and that they feel so utterly real. Solzhenitsyn wrote this with his whole heart; his compassion for his characters is undeniable. Overall, an unexpectedly life-affi
Ammara Abid
Exceptional and ingenious piece of writing, "Cancer Ward"
Terribly terrific,
Painstakingly beautiful,
One more, later on, later on.

Keeping the review aside, let me say first, 'Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn' is one of the greatest literary craftsman & he 'Must Be Read'.

Before saying anything else let me confess this man is my another favorite Russian writer.

That's my second book by him (the first was "One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich") and I'm startled by his eloquent description of those h
Aug 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mother-rus
A man of no talent craves long life, yet Epicurus had once observed that a fool, if offered eternity, would not know what to do with it.

Cancer Ward (CW) consciously strives for the epic, readily aware of the distance between itself and the baggy monsters of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and yet sways in the limitations of the material especially in moral terms. Unlike Europe after the Shoah, the Soviet experiment had different questions to ask itself after Stalin's death. Caught almost in the sway of s
I have a fond recollection of reading this book off my parent's bookshelves but I don't think I'll return to it. Flicking through it ,there a dry prose style, the central character looks to be a barely disguised authorial self-portrait. It suffers, even as Cold war condemnation of the Soviet Union, in comparison to The Foundation Pit or Moscow Stations - though admittedly Moscow Stations central message of alcoholism as a means of opting out of everything is not culturally or temporally specific ...more
Biblio Curious
This book is just so human.

Dostoevsky said about Victor Hugo's The Last Day of a Condemned Man, "Absolutely the most read and truthful of everything that Hugo wrote."

Without being arrogant and just my strong opinion as a reader, Cancer Ward has to be the most human and honest book by Solzhenitsyn. There are scenes where if we look into our heart, we would do or feel the same thing, I'm sure of it. Solzhenitsyn included so many aspects of what makes us human and puts them into a mere few hundre
Judy Vasseur
Jan 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
"Well, what have we here? Another nice little cancer!"

"The hard lump of his tumor—unexpected, meaningless and quite without use—had dragged him in like a fish on a hook and flung him onto this iron bed—a narrow, mean bed, with creaking springs and an apology for a mattress."

Solzhenitsyn writes beautifully about human physical, moral, social, and political conditions; over-layering each consideration one upon the other. His books do not depress me, I find them powerful and hopeful documents to th
Finally, a Russian book that I REALLY liked! This is an extremely well written, slow paced story of the daily life of patients and employees at a cancer ward somewhere in an Asian Soviet republic in 1954, with the soviet mindset, customs, oppression and resignation, coupled with fear of death. Wonderfully interesting!

Moon Rose
Sep 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Moon Rose by: Henry Avila
As the cliche goes, money is the root of all evil, and many would agree that indeed it is. On the contrary, it contradicts the essence of what had become human living since time immemorial. As human living immersed itself voluntarily in the deep dark materiality of existence, as it is beleaguered by the sensual pleasures of physicality. In truth, the want of money is only a direct object. It appears only as the end goal to attain the inexhaustible, human yearning for material happiness . This b ...more
Sean Blake
Mar 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, favourites
Cancer Ward is like all the other greats of Russian literature: Dense, passionate and rewarding. This truly beautiful novel is, to me, the best Russian novel of the twentieth century, and Solzhenitsyn is one of Russia's greatest writers ever to have lived.
Feb 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
سولژنیتسن در کتاب بخش سرطان تلاش می کند وضعیت اسفبار شوروی را توصیف کند. او از زبان شخصیت های داستان به ویژه اولگ از اردوگاه های کار اجباری، خفقان و بی عدالتی ها می گوید. از وضعیتی می گوید که همچون یک غده سرطانی تمامی مردم را به شکل های مختلف در برگرفته است. روسانف به عنوان یکی از حامیان ایدئولوژی حاکم بر شوروی به توجیه سیستم می پردازد و بین او اولگ بارها درگیری لفظی ایجاد می شود. آنچه بارز است این است که افراد از حقیقت گریزان هستند حتی پزشکان بخش سرطان. آن ها می خواهند با خودفریبی و دگرفریبی خو ...more
Aug 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, favorites
I loved this book about life as is and how it should not be. It's a very sad story and somehow the ending left me with broken heart.
Jun 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This work of Russian literature -which is quite epic in scope-deals with many themes.
It is set in a clinic in Soviet ruled Uzbekistan for cancer patients ,in the mid 1950's ,shortly after the death of Joseph Stalin.
It deals with the personal stories and lives of many different characters
There are parallels between the cancer that ravages the bodies of the dying patients and the cancer of Communism that ravaged the once proud Russia.
The hero of the novel is Oleg Kostolgotov who has gone from bein
Sep 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The greyness of the cancer theme (it's set in a cancer ward) is just like a mirroring backdrop for the Soviet Union that it showcases. Vignettes of the lives of patients, doctors, nurses and others; from the high-ranking and staunch Soviet bureaucrat Rusanov to the poor exile Kostoglotov, it breaks their political and ideological positions down to their narrower human concerns and desires, such as the materialism of Rusanov's home that he enjoys, or Kostoglotov's desire for a woman that takes up ...more
Aug 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Remekdjelo. Naići na ovakvu knjigu je kao i naići na biser u školjci. Jedna u tisuću. Svaka stranica priča za sebe koja te tjera na razmišljanje i sagledavanje životnih prioriteta iz sasvim drugih uglova.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn je jedini rus kojeg sam mogao pročitati do kraja a moja ga žena naprosto obožava. Skoro smo i sina nazvali po njemu :)
Horace Derwent



Oct 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
So, this is not quite a joyous, fluffy marshmallow, look at the cute puppies, feel good frolic through a meadow. Which, in fairness, the title does go a long way to dispelling any thoughts you might be harbouring on that front! What it is, is a hard hitting allegory about the Soviet Union and the chaos it was in, trying to recuperate after Stalins reign of terror and how difficult it was for some to leave this behind, and for others who were rebelling against the poison. Read literally- it's a l ...more
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perdonatemi, ma amo Solzenicyn. Questa opera per me è un piccolo capolavoro. E' la storia di un uomo restituito alla vita, un deportato che riemerge dalla prigionia staliniana grazie alla morte del dittatore e riesce a vincere inspiegabilmente il cancro. Dimesso dal reparto oncologico che per mesi è stato tutto il suo mondo, graziato dalla provvidenza, o dal caso (per chi non crede), vaga in una città estranea (Tashkent) sradicato da tutto e cerca un amore impossibile nelle persone di un'infermi ...more
Jul 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the allegorical nature of this book.

However, the characterization was what struck me most.

Particularly hat of Dontsova with whom I deeply identified, who fights a disease in others regardless of cost; but is humbled by that self- same illness.

The following two quotes were, for me particularly evocative:

"We are so attached to the earth and yet we are incapable of holding on to it"

"Sometimes I feel quite distinctly that what is inside of me is not all of me. There's something else, subli
There's something sobering about this novel.

Weighing in at over 500 pages and easily the heaviest thing in my bag, Cancer Ward would seem to come to a definite conclusion, be it comforting or disturbing, by its denouement. But Solzhenitsyn offers nothing of the sort. Rather, we must revel in the beautiful ambiguity of this novel, and, in so doing, revel in the often frustrating, poignant, and somber ambiguity of life.

This novel is at once both a metaphorical critique of Soviet Russia as well as
In this novel Solsjenitsyn is above all a Russian writer: lots of characters (patients, doctors, nurses in the cancer ward of a hospital, somewhere in Central Asia, in the mid-50's, in full Soviet era). He takes his time to describe some of these characters in full, and through them he brings up existential, political and social questions. Let's say he offers a mix of Tolstoi and Dostojevski, although he is less whirling and feverish than those two classic models.
The construction of the novel is
Nov 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, favorites
I was slow to pick this one up, "After all," I thought, "how interesting can a book be about a ward full of cancer patients?" The answer is very interesting. This is an excellent book. It is a remarkable contrast to the epic fictional works of his that I've read of his. It is intimate, romantic, personal, and tragic. I heartily recommend this book.
Dina Goluza
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-read, 2017, favorites
Istinski velika knjiga. Kroz pacijente i osoblje odjela za rak odslikava se Rusija (SSSR) u doba Staljina. Pošto je knjiga poluautobiografska, pitala sam se što je fikcija a što stvarnost. Protkana je sa toliko mnogo prelijepih misli o životu, smrti, sreći... Knjiga koja tjera na razmišljanje.
Cancer Ward is a semi-autobiographical novel by Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It was completed in 1966, but perhaps not exactly published the same year, it depends on how you look at it. The novel was distributed in Russia that year in samizdat, and banned there the following year. I have to stop here and go back to the word samizdat. I'm not sure who decided to use that word in the description, but they didn't have me in mind when they did, because I had to go look it up, just in case ...more
Feb 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

يك اثر نهصد صفحه اي از يك نويسنده ي روسي كه حوادث آن در بخش سرطان يك بيمارستان دور افتاده رخ مي دهد، زمان وقوع اثر بعد مرگ استالين بوده و همه ي بيماران علاوه ي غده اي كه در جسم خود دارند، زخم خورده ي حوادث سياسي زمان خود هستند. در اين بيمارستان تبعيدي ها در و صاحبان مقامات دولتي در كنار هم و در شرايط مساوي مجبور به تحمل دوران درمان خود هستند، جراحيهايي كه صورت مي گيريد، اميدهايي كه همراه عضو قطع شده بر باد مي رود و بيماراني كه تنها ارزومند سه سال زندگي براي رسيدن به اهداف خود هستند و حتي پزشكي ك
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Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (Russian: Александр Исаевич Солженицын) was a Soviet and Russian novelist, dramatist, and historian. Through his writings he helped to make the world aware of the Gulag, the Soviet Union's forced labor camp system—particularly The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, two of his best-known works.

Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in L
“A man is happy so long as he chooses to be happy.” 292 likes
“The meaning of earthly existence lies not, as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering but in the development of the soul.” 181 likes
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