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Gulag Archipelago > Week Two

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message 1: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Doskocil (soverview) | 25 comments Made it into the beginning of week 2 last night. I found the description of the family that pulls out photographs of the dead on the anniversary of Stalin's death very powerful, as well as the inclusion of the photographs that Solzhenitsyn has collected. I can look a the photographs and imagine that they're just people, and I was moved.

Also, I thought the first paragraph on 132 was very good. I finally saw a spark of life and emotion from Solzhenitsyn. I understand that he is trying to be more "dispassionate" in order to make the work more credible, but there is a balance there between credibility and impact. If the book is too dispassionate then you lose something.


message 2: by Elizabeth (last edited Sep 08, 2019 11:39AM) (new)

Elizabeth (elizabethintexas) | 22 comments I agree that the text has more impact when Solzhenitsyn reveals his feelings along with his accounts. Interestingly, when I saw your mention of the first paragraph on page 132, I went back to look and found one of the few passages I have marked: "'Stalin belongs to the world Communist movement!' But in my opinion all he belongs to is the Criminal Code." We finally feel Solzhenitsyn's anger, and it is powerful. Until now, he has told us hellacious things from a variety of sources, but primarily has left us to find our own senses of anger, pain, shame, and outrage. I hope he keeps it up, but I'm rather dubious because it seems he has established a pattern. Perhaps the only way he can summon the strength to tell this history is to remove himself emotionally despite the personal details.
I have still been thinking about having a beer with Solzhenitsyn. It strikes me as a really intriguing prospect, and a great beer-thirty topic for our family book club -- which authors would you most and least like to raise a glass with? Anyway, Alexsandr (if I may be so bold since we are having a virtual beer together), was probably arrogant to the point of unpleasantness, but I find I can forgive him. I can't think of a thing in my life that could possibly interest him after his own experiences and the experiences of his compatriots. How could I talk to him about the things that are important to me? Would I speak to him about the joys and frustrations of raising a family in middle class America? Would I express both my sorrow and satisfaction at my empty nest with my children, all successful and healthy, growing more distant and independent? Would I tell him how to make tortillas? How could I do anything but listen?


message 3: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Doskocil (soverview) | 25 comments I just heard an interview with Yakov Smirnoff, a comedian who escaped the Soviet Union in the 70s. He was a comedian in the Soviet Union, but he had to submit all of his material to the government for approval, so he talked about trying to write jokes that the government wouldn't understand, but the audience would, and he told one:

An ant and an elephant got married, and their wedding night was so wonderful that the elephant died, so the ant started complaining, "I got one night of bliss, but now I have to spend the rest of my life digging this grave."


message 4: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth (elizabethintexas) | 22 comments I'm quite familiar with Yakov Smirnoff; he was very popular when I was young and watching late night TV. I was always curious if his was a stage name since Smirnoff was a famous brand of vodka, and now that I have Google, I find that it is indeed an assumed name. Yakov was VERY funny and I really enjoyed him. I am, however, more like the Soviet government than I like to admit. I don't get this joke. Unless it is referring to the few joys and the many burdens of being a citizen in the USSR?


message 5: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Doskocil (soverview) | 25 comments https://youtu.be/usvTKSwv78E

Not sure if goodreads will let me post the link, but it's above. At 30 minutes the interview with Smirnoff starts. Really worth a listen.


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