Flashback Friday review from 13th September, 2010
The Gulag Archipelago is not a book I think you can really read for pleasure. It’s heavy, heavy stuff, and it is — to the best of anyone’s ability — non-fiction. It contains a lot of stark truths about Russia — Stalin’s Russia, and after — and the conditions in the camps. We know plenty about the camps in Germany, and yet even now, decades after this book was published, I knew little about this.
I could as easily shelve it as ‘horror’ as I could ‘non-fiction’ or ‘history’.
Despite that, it’s not unrelenting. There’s hope — the very fact that I read this says there’s hope: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s been heard. And there’s a kind of dark humour, on nearly every page, in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s analysis of events and of people.
Definitely worth reading, if you can brace yourself for it. I read an abridged translation, but the author worked with the translator/abridger on it, as far as I can gather, so it could be more cohesive and easier to read than the original volumes. Even just dipping in and out of it, a chapter here and there, is better than not reading it at all.