Monday, July 4, 2016

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

translated by Max Hayward and Ronald Hingley

By my personal star rating system a five star book represents a book I will read again. Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ by that measurement.

I won’t try to sell you on reading this book, you should already be sold. But I will explain why I enjoy it. I have read this book at least five times since the late sixties. And as you see by my rating, I will read it again. The first time, I read it over night. Like ninety minute movies, two hundred page novels are few and far between these days. There should be more of them so you can enjoy them more often. You can’t read Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon on a lark.

Solzhenitsyn shows us the best of human nature. Denisovich retains the ability to be a man in the worst of situations. He was not a brick layer. But he has learned and mastered that trade during his years in prison. He takes satisfaction in applying that art and in the fact the others in his work gang appreciate his abilities. He has retained his individuality.

In the work gang’s return to their barracks Solzhenitsyn presents the vagaries of life. The definitions of friend or foe, right or wrong are simply cast by changing circumstances.

Could you ask for more from another three hundred pages?

George W. Parker

Note: I have native Russian speaking friends who dislike Solzhenitsyn’s writing style. They say he writes like a news journalist. I don’t feel that in the translation I have. That is why I have noted the translation I own.