One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is set in a Soviet labor camp in the 1950s and describes a single day of an ordinary prisoner, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. Its publication was an extraordinary event in Soviet literary history-never before had an account of Stalinist repression been openly distributed.

One of the most chilling novels ever written about the oppression of totalitarian regimes--and the first to open Western eyes to the terrors of Stalin's prison ...

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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is set in a Soviet labor camp in the 1950s and describes a single day of an ordinary prisoner, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. Its publication was an extraordinary event in Soviet literary history-never before had an account of Stalinist repression been openly distributed.

One of the most chilling novels ever written about the oppression of totalitarian regimes--and the first to open Western eyes to the terrors of Stalin's prison camps, this book allowed Solzhenitsyn, who later became Russia's conscience in exile, to challenge the brutal might of the Soviet Union.

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Editorial Reviews

Marc Slonim
He presents the most Karakaesque situations, the most gruesome details in a matter-of-fact manner, without exaggeration or indignation. His is a calm, stylized narrative by an extremely observant and intelligent man.-- Books of the Century; New York Times review, April 1963
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9788087830925
  • Publisher: David Rehak
  • Publication date: 8/16/2013
  • Pages: 94
  • Sales rank: 291,704
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.19 (d)

Meet the Author

ALEKSANDR ISAYEVICH SOLZHENITSYN (11 December 1918 - 3 August 2008) was a Russian writer, dissident and activist. He helped to raise global awareness of the gulag and the Soviet Union's forced labor camp system from 1918 to 1956. While his writings were often suppressed, he wrote several books most notably The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, two of his best-known works. "For the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature", Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970. He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974 but returned to Russia in 1994 after the Soviet system had collapsed.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 139 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 139 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Depicts how the human spirit prevails - for readers that were moved by ONE DAY, I would also recommend A BEAUTIFUL WORLD by Gregg Milligan

    ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH takes readers through life in a Russian prison camp during the days of Stalin. The character and story are based on the author's real-life experience as an unjustly held political prisoner. Beatings, starvation and cruelty were the staples of existence for the prisoners, who carved out their daily life through exhaustive work camp labor in sub-zero temperatures. Driven to the edge of survival, readers witness the subtle means by which the lead character maintains his sense of humanity. From simply hanging on to a secret spoon to eat with that he made himself as a means of small hope, to the end of the book where he shows care for his fellow prisoners - the main character's focus is not on things that were lost, such as his former life of freedom with his wife - but instead on things within the camp that he finds to keep him going, such as a pair of felt boots or a small piece of bread he hides to eat later. Such perspective embodies the courageous qualities of the human spirit.

    For readers who enjoyed this book, I strongly recommend reading an intense journey that chronicles incredible perseverance in the face of adversity - a memoir by Gregg Milligan called A BEAUTIFUL WORLD. As a young boy subjected to severe physical, mental and sexual abuse, Gregg finds ways to keep his hope alive - such as finding a stray dime to purchase a fruit pie from the corner store, taking refuge in a quiet field at the end of the block, and caring for a kitten rejected by its mother. Readers will be struck the pure innocence of a child's heart prevailing in the depths of evil. The love he has for his siblings and even his abusive mother is a testament to its endurance. An unforgettable story, exquisitely written in a searing visual style, A BEAUTIFUL WORLD will ever remain with those that read it.

    The strength and resilience of those that suffer encourages all of us to stay the course, no matter what difficulties in life we may face. Look no further than ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH and A BEAUTIFUL WORLD for proof.

    And in the words of Gregg Milligan, "Few rise above all the decadence done unto them. Those blessed few leave a great influence of a better day filled with clean hope and blossoming opportunities. We are all capable of leaving this mark - no matter what we've been through."

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2012

    Secrets of the Gulags - A True Historical Fiction

    The Russian Gulags were, like the entirety of the USSR, shrouded by the Iron Curtain, preventing all communications for the prisoners really to the outside world. These labor camps were surrounded in secret until Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote and got published One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, a story of historical fiction about a prisoner in a Russian Gulag. This prisoner, Shukhov, gives a story based on the experiences Solzhenitsyn had while imprisoned in a Gulag. Shukhov tells the story from dawn to dusk, highlighting the inhumanities of the labor camp and illuminating that which was once dark to the world.
    The story focuses on major themes such as the dehumanization of prisoners and the lengths necessary to preserve one’s humanity in a truly inhumane environment. Throughout this single day in prison, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, who, along with many other prisoners, has accepted his fate and period of servitude in the labor camp, attempts to survive. The day’s events may seem a bit repetitive; however, this repetition is necessary in order to highlight the severity of key factors opposing Shukhov’s survival, mainly the dehumanizing guards (who refer to the prisoners by code name at certain times, instead of the Soviet brotherly title of “comrade”), the malnutrition forced upon prisoners, and the harsh freezing associated with the environment. Throughout this day-to-day experience, Shukhov must endure, preserving his humanity on the hope of leaving some day. This one day seems rather average, but that seems to have been the author’s intention (to make a day which would serve as a representation of each and every day of imprisonment in the Soviet Gulag).
    The descriptive and detailed style of Solzhenitsyn may seem dull at certain points in the novel; however, in one scene, where Ivan Denisovich Shukhov attempts to pass the guards with a small hacksaw blade in his glove, the level of detail and insight into Shukhov’s mind in this scene was really exciting and brings into concept the Limbo-esque state of existence Shukhov and the other prisoners are imprisoned in. Their fates can change quite rapidly. For example, if Shukhov’s hidden blade had been discovered by the Soviet guard who was frisking him and had just patted his other glove, then Shukhov would have been kept from working and fed even less, which would cause him to be unable to work and hence fade into nothingness and cease to truly exist.
    This book reminded me of Hans Erich Nossack’s The End: Hamburg 1943 in that both stories give the cold-cut facts in a similar style and being in similar time periods. However, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich seems more focused on the physical strides necessary for survival, while The End: Hamburg 1943 seemed to emphasize more the mental ramifications associated with survival in a traumatic environment. Based on my reading experience, I would suggest this work of historic fiction only to those readers who are fans of the genre or of Stalinist USSR history.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2012

    A book for readers with an acquired taste --

    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is very much a book for readers with a specific taste in literature. Being that the book was translated directly from Russian, a lot of what the author might have originally intended to come across a certain way did not translate well and bothered me quite a lot when I was reading. The dialogue between characters was hard to read and did not flow as well as opposed to if it was written in english.
    The book itself focuses mainly on the struggle of man kind as well as the importance of faith in Ivan Denisovich Shukhov's life. As much as I didn't want to be sympathetic towards Ivan and his struggle throughout his day, there was something that wanted me to feel that way only because there was a sort of innocence that I felt was being exuded by the character. Other than that, I didn't really find myself desperate to read more when I would put the book down.
    The climax of the story was somewhat of a letdown while I was reading the book. Being set in a Stalinist Labor camp during an era of many political happenings and struggles, I was pleased with the many historical references while reading the story, especially since the book itself is extremely monotone and somewhat dull in tone. If you are interested in World HIstory and the Stalin Era in the Soviet Union, this book is very much for you! If not, you will be very disappointed and bored.

    It is a very short read and very easy to understand if you can look past the occasional language issues, but this book is not for everyone.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2012

    Lee Epstein Period 5 August 16, 2012 Ivan Denisovich Book Review

    Lee Epstein Period 5 August 16, 2012 Ivan Denisovich Book Review THIS IS
    A SPOILER ALERT! One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander
    Solzhenitsyn, whether the reader enjoys it or not, is a
    thought-provoking novel with a dynamic protagonist and important themes
    to take away. This novel documents what a day would be like as a
    prisoner in Soviet Russia. Solzhenitsyn was a prisoner, and he was
    trying to show his readers what his experience was like. I felt as if a
    lot of the book was not enjoyable, there weren’t clear plot elements
    such as a rising action and a climax, but I truly enjoyed the lessons it
    taught me about my life and about life throughout Soviet Russia. The
    protagonist’s name is Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. I believe that the title
    does not use his last name in the title because Solzhenitsyn wants the
    reader to know that one of the basic struggles of soviet Russia and of
    those camps is finding any sort of independence. It is truly amazing
    that the whole novel documents just one day in Shukhov’s sentence, out
    of the 3,653 days that he serves, and this day proves to be probably the
    most important day of his life. Shukhov goes through a complete
    transformation in one day, and the way he sees some of his fellow
    prisoners changes as well. He starts his day by waking up late, and not
    feeling well. In other words, his day could not have started much worse.
    He was almost punished for waking up late by a mean guard, was not
    allowed to be excused from work for the day, and when he got to
    breakfast, if it can be called that at all by the little amount of food
    they are given, his tasteless stew was cold. One of the big ways he
    changed was not about doing deeds for others, but why he did these
    deeds. In the morning, he would volunteer to do someone’s work or stand
    in line for his gang leader, for the sole purpose of what he would get
    in return. By the end of the day, for the first time in the story, he
    gives a fellow inmate some extra food that Shukhov had because the
    inmate was simply hungry. I found it significant that the person who
    Shukhov gave the food to, Alyoshka, always gives without expecting
    something in return. Shukhov always wondered how Alyoshka could do this,
    but he realizes that giving for the sake of giving feels good inside.
    Ivan Denisovich falls to sleep that night and thinks to himself that
    this day was almost a happy day for the first time in his sentence.
    While there are many other themes about why Shukhov goes to sleep happy
    that night or themes in general, I believe that the motif of giving to
    give is the most significant theme of the novel and he is happy because
    he has learned how to be a generous person.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2012

    A tale of sheer survival and will to carry on, Alexander Solzhe

    A tale of sheer survival and will to carry on, Alexander Solzhenitsyn
    takes the reader on a 24- hour tour of a Soviet prison in the Siberian
    tundra as he follows hardened Russian inmate Ivan Denisovich.
    Solzhenitsyn gives the reader a third-person perspective as well as
    glimpses into Denisovich’s thoughts and feelings. Throughout the novel
    there is a strong feeling of repetitiveness and exhaustion, this allows
    the reader to truly grasp the emotions of the inmates that are being
    held in this prison. I would recommend this work of literature for
    anyone interested in World War II themed history, it gives the audience
    a different point of view of the super power the was the Soviet Union.
    The book starts off with a sluggish mood to it as the prisoners are
    awoken from their warm dreams into a freezing world. From here and until
    they reach the mess hall the writing is repetitive and can be summed up
    in a few words. The repetitiveness of this section gives the reader a
    feeling that can be compared to waking up for school or work early in
    the morning. This can be hard to read through, but as soon as the reader
    is introduced to a few of Denisovich’s fellow inmates the pace changes.
    As new characters are introduced the reader is able to see how
    differently their methods of self-preservation are in contrast to
    Denisovich’s. This is also when Solzhenitsyn allows the reader to hear
    Denisovich’s opinion on the people around him, adding further depth into
    him as a character. The novel continues on and takes the reader to a
    nearly destroyed power plant, where Denisovich and his fellow prisoners
    are forced to build walls to begin restoring the locale. Here,
    Solzhenitsyn gives the audience more insight to the characters as they
    work. Work ethics vary from person to person and again the contrasting
    character traits are seen. Besides their obvious differences all of them
    much cooperate to work towards the final goal, which is building the
    walls for the power plant. This will in turn earn allow them to stay out
    of trouble with the prison officials and they can sleep restfully
    through the night. Finally, night arrives and the groups of inmates
    return to camp HQ, with some unforeseen trouble along the way. The
    action of the novel, again, tunes down as Denisovich dines on his
    well-earned supper of gruel and everyone gets ready for the night.
    Multiple unexpected disturbances wake the prisoners from their sleep
    throughout the night and that is when Denisovich does something that is
    completely out of his character. Overall this novel was an enjoyable
    read, Solzhenitsyn does a very good job of allowing his audience to feel
    as if they were trapped in this prison as well. It does have its slow
    and repetitive parts, but the good outshines the bad by far, I would
    recommend this piece.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2012

    The novel, ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH by Alexander S

    The novel, ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH by Alexander
    Solzhenitsyn is an exquisite piece of literature, which I would highly
    recommend to anyone who is looking for an enjoyable yet mentally
    stimulating read. This book is the story of an average day in the life
    of an unassuming Russian soldier, Ivan Shukhov Denisovich, after he has
    been wrongfully convicted of treason and served about 8 years of his 10
    year sentence in a Russian labor camp. Alexander Solzhenitsyn
    skillfully describes every detail of every moment of every day in order
    for the reader to become engaged with the character and feel his
    struggle. I was instantly hooked from the first moment I started
    reading. Ivan’s goals became my goals, his fears became my fears, and
    his triumphs became my triumphs, I simply felt like I was there in the
    labor camp with Ivan, working with him to survive. I sympathized with
    Ivan because he doesn’t complain about his problems he just accepts his
    misfortunes and focuses on the now, on what he needs to do to survive
    for the next day, no time and energy is wasted on pointless endeavors.
    Ivan is not extraordinary in any typical sense of the word, he is not a
    genius ahead of his time or a monster of a man able to lift 1000 pounds,
    but he has a characteristic that is more useful that anything else and
    that is the ability to find meaning in this place that only wants to
    take everything away from him. That is how he is able to find the will
    to survive through all his struggles. Ivan’s success shows me that
    anyone can overcome any obstacle. This sense of attachment that I
    developed to the character is really what made me enjoy the book so
    much, but not only is it an enjoyable read, it has had a significant
    political impact on the world. This novel is an eye opener, to the
    horrific realities of Soviet Russia and because of the time of its
    publication played a significant role in Russia politics by pushing the
    people of Russia to challenge their government. This novel is a piece of
    history and a worthwhile read, anyone who decides to read this book has
    made a good choice.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2012

    Very interesting, but very slow

    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a novel that takes place in Siberia, in a Soviet labor camp. If you are looking for an action packed book, a comedy, or even a tragedy, this is not the book for you. Although fictional, this story illustrates the cruelty and reality of what happened in the Soviet camps during the 1950’s. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the author, does not exclude a single detail from his novel. As the title states, this piece of literary work is solely about one day in a prisoners life. By writing a book about such a short period of time, Solzhenitsyn demonstrates how much happens around us that is overlooked. One of the themes he enforces is the appreciation of the little things in life. For example, prisoners in the labor camp savor every moment of enjoyment they can. While Solzhenitsyn’s detail is vital in order to convey some of his thoughts, it is detrimental at points. The immense amount of detail put into the novel makes every event happen slowly. As a result of this, there is not much room for character development. For me, this takes away from the novel because it is difficult to relate to characters that are described vaguely. While Solzhenitsyn’s intentions were certainly not to develop an eventful book, I do believe some degree of action should have been incorporated. However, I do see what the author’s goal was. He wanted to portray the brutality and severity of what happened in these camps. Adding unnecessary eventful scenes would only take away from the historical aspect of the novel. *MINOR SPOILER* One theme the author emphasizes is the idea that if you work hard you will be rewarded. I say this because in the novel, Ivan works hard even when everyone else slacks off. He works hard even though he knows he is not getting anything out of it. He works hard even though he knows his hard work is going to the foundation that put him in the labor camp. Ivan is also generous to his fellow inmates. He shares his spoon and knife, which he crafted himself, as well as his bread rations with his companions. As a result of his hard work, Ivan is rewarded with larger bread rations. As a result of his generosity, he is rewarded with kindness and friendship. Ivan understands the situation that he is in and never complains. He is an optimistic man who finds joy in everything he can. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a well written and accurate depiction of what happened in the Soviet labor camps. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in an inspirational, historical novel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2012

    A Truly Moving and Insightful Novel

    This novel vividly portrays one day in the life of a Russian prisoner captured unjustly on account of high treason. I found the novel very interesting because it revealed an untold story in the history of Russian brutality. The history of the German concentration camp of this period is well documented and publicized but people remain uninformed of the evils conducted by people on their own people. The setting of the novel is in a Gulag which is a Siberian work camp where mostly Russian prisoners were basically sent to go die. In many ways the novel embodies the struggle between man versus nature in its cruelest form and man’s to cope with fellow men to survive. The novel was very insightful in that it caused me to reevaluate myself in that Ivan, in the face dehumanization and uncertainty of survival, relentlessly treads on to seek his freedom. A normal high school student may be reluctant to complete difficult and extensive homework assignments and blow them off entirely, but when you have something as intrinsic as freedom taken away from you, then you will complete any challenge despite rigor or lack of motivation to regain such a value. Ivan Denisovich Shukhov repeatedly proves this human behavior as he strives for his freedom, tirelessly working with his comrades, building walls of brick and mortar, and forging a brotherhood with his close inmates in squad 104. He battles daily challenges of sickness, cold, and hunger as well as avoiding any unwanted contact with a guard or official. One of the most interesting things about this work was that it was in fact a reflection of the author’s life experience in a Gulag under similar circumstances. What led me to be intrigued further was that the author himself underwent criminal sentences and was exiled from Russia soon after the book was published. The book itself was banned in the Soviet Union until its eventual downfall in 1994. In any case, I urge you to purchase a copy of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich because it will make you realize that no matter whom you are you can be thankful for your life and freedom and that hopefully you will never be exposed to such a difficult life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2012

    An interesting novel *MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS*

    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is an intriguing novel of the challenges a single man must face whilst in a Russian labor camp. The novel depicts the hardships faced by prisoners under the reign of Joseph Stalin, and the pains they must face just to make it through each day. Although the novel starts out slow while the author is really making a point of describing the setting, it really picks up after Solzhenitsyn has finish setting the scene. Alexander Solzhenitsyn takes you through a day in the life of a fairly typical man by the name of Ivan Denisovich. The author goes into detail as the story progresses, and tells of the troubles he experiences in a single day during his time at the labor camp. The prisoners must struggle with their daily tasks, and the author does a great job of making the readers feel sympathy towards them as they go through just one of the many days they are kept there.
    Although the novel is not necessarily a "nail biter", it is quite emotional as you follow the men that are affected by the terrible conditions faced in the Russian labor camps. For those of you who really enjoy historical or political novels, then this short novel will surely keep you entertained. If you are the type of reader who needs to be kept on the edge of his or her seat, then "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" probably is not the right book for you. Although this novel probably wouldn't be my first choice because I would normally find these books to be somewhat of a bore to me, the author managed to keep my (relatively fleeting) attention on the novel. Solzhenitsyn pulls you into the suspense felt by the prisoners as they attempt smuggle items ranging from things such as extra cloth to keep them warm at night and on the fields, to extra food to keep them healthy and able to put up with the amount of work they are forced to do. He helps us to feel the joy Shukhov experiences after he is rewarded for his hard work, and also helps us feel the fear the prisoners experience from the mere thought of "the hole". The author has earned my respect as someone who can not only write a novel that is informative and emotional, but also entertaining and even suspenseful at times.
    Although I am not a huge fan of political novels myself, I would not mind reading another on of Solzhenitsyn's books, because I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and wouldn't mind reading another one of his books and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this novel to anyone interested in political novels or the aftermath of WWII. However, I would not recommend this book to someone who prefers to have a bit more excitement in their readings. As mentioned before, it is not the most exciting book out there. It is however quite informative and very interesting to the few of those who enjoy novels such as this one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2012

    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich tells a story of the hard

    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich tells a story of the hardships of
    Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, a prisoner of a Stalinist labor camp in 1951.
    The reader follows Denisovich through his experience in the camp, and
    witness atrocities that those imprisoned in the camp must bare witness
    to. Within the camp, prisoners are subject to attempts to weaken them
    physically, mentally, as well as emotionally. These attempts include the
    deprivation of nourishment, the attempts at humiliating them, the
    replacing of their names with serial numbers, nude body exams in extreme
    temperatures, an extreme lack of privacy, and other exercises in
    dehumanization. The protagonist exhibits the persistent nature of the
    human being’s desire to survive in his will to go on despite the horrid
    conditions of the world he has been placed into and he refuses to be
    dehumanized at the hand of the prison. His awareness of the prison’s
    attempts leads him to take extra measures to ensure his civility and
    humanity is kept intact as he pursues surviving as a human being in a
    prison designed to dehumanize its prisoners. One thing that really
    stands out about this book is how Alexander Solzhenitsyn describes just
    an ordinary day in the camp and manages to make his audience feel the
    pain and bitterness of the characters as well as the slight happiness
    the characters feel when they experience any kind of luxury, such as
    smoking tobacco, getting new clothes, and sneaking extra portions of
    food. The novel is clearly addressing an older audience, and is likely
    to not be within the interests of younger readers. The book uses
    historical context as a major part of the storytelling, but more
    importantly it uses themes of struggle, cruelty and survival; something
    that tends to repel the younger readers. Even though there are only 139
    pages, I realized that I could not finish it as quickly as I usually do.
    With the story not being very exciting or dramatic, it’s understandable.
    In my opinion, a person must be in the mood to read this kind of book,
    if not it can be a bit difficult to get through certain parts,
    especially in the beginning. Despite this, I believe most people can
    agree that this story is fantastically written. The language really
    captures the hardship and harsh environment experienced in the prison.
    For example, if the cold alone had not been described the way it is, the
    reader wouldn't fully understand how much the environment alone affected
    the prisoners. The way the story is written also allows the audience to
    understand the guards' interactions with the prisoners in a way that
    give the reader the full effect of what is being described. Overall, I
    think the story of Ivan Denisovich is worth reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2012

    Isaias Jasso Period 5 August 16, 2012 ¿One day in the life of

    Isaias Jasso Period 5 August 16, 2012 “One day in the life of Ivan
    Denisovich” is a story of a man fighting for life one day at a time.
    Ivan Denisovich is the character Alexander Solzhenitsyn portrays himself
    as. This piece of literary fiction is in fact what a man truly went
    through for some part of his life: Alexander Solzhenitsyn spent close to
    ten years in the Soviet Union’s labor camps and wrote the horrific
    truths about the camps in this book. The title itself begins the
    discussion of prisoners battling themselves to maintain their dignity
    and morality. Throughout the book, most call Ivan Denisovich by his last
    name, Shukhov. The author wants to show how when there is a deed of
    great human value, the person is addressed to by their first name and,
    in Ivan’s case, middle name. The last name signifies that the character
    is being addresses to as nothing more than a prisoner or prison
    companion. There are many interpretations to the title alone.
    Alexander Solzhenitsyn also brings about an interesting combination of
    weather and human emotions. The setting in the story is a dark and cold
    vast land where there is little to no hope of escape. When the prisoners
    start to work, still in the dark morning, the work is slow and no one
    wants to work. As the work begins to speed up, and as the sun begins to
    rise higher in the sky, the “zeks” begin to become happier for there is
    more heat: another way Alexander brings the topic of joy into a hopeless
    place. Solzhenitsyn finds interesting ways to give emotions an equal
    weather and comfort counterpart. One of the biggest topics Alexander
    Solzhenitsyn goes into is how the Soviet Union used certain mechanisms
    to control the prisoner: physically, emotionally, and logically. Ivan
    Denisovich is a veteran in the camp life. Shukhov understands the
    importance of food, and so do the guards and camp leaders. Food is the
    biggest manipulator for a prisoner. Without food a prisoner will die
    within days. Food also brings about the topic of self-dignity, only
    those dignified enough will keep to their plates and find ways to
    receive more rations, but there are also those that lost their dignity
    and now scavenge for food, even if it means licking the leftovers of
    someone else. Food also makes people act like raved dogs; hence the
    thought process of the prisoner is nowhere to be found. Alexander also
    talks about how the gulag system will give false hope to the prisoners.
    For example, Ivan expects to be let out of the camp after his sentence
    is done, but he knows that the possibility of him staying another couple
    of years is high. This false hope helps the prisoners want to work to
    survive longer and, hopefully one day, go home, but home wasn’t an
    option, only exile or back to another camp. Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s
    novel, “One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich” has many interpretations
    but one overall message: enjoy all that life gives you, because one day
    you may never have it again.

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  • Posted August 16, 2012

    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a truly influential an

    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a truly influential and strong
    novel by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It centralizes on Ivan Denisovich
    Shukhov’s life and his everyday struggle to overcome and survive the
    mental and physical abuse he faced in the Soviet labor camps in the mid
    1900’s. he was imprisoned because the Soviet government accused him of
    spying for the Germans. The prisoners must survive inhumane conditions,
    such as “two hundred men” sleeping on “fifty bug ridden bunks,” (Page 7)
    working intensely for an entire day in below freezing temperatures, and
    being fed just enough to barely survive. It vividly depicts one of his
    3653 day, or ten-year sentence. SPOILER The story’s major themes are
    how Shukhov must struggle to maintain his dignity and endure the
    injustices of the Soviet government under Stalin’s rule. Both Shukhov
    and the other inmates frequently demonstrate these topics throughout the
    novel. The prisoners are dehumanized and treated like slaves or animals,
    and instead of being referred to by their name they are identified by
    numbers. The novel begins by describing the warder’s intolerance towards
    the prisoners when Shukhov, or “Shcha-854” is punished for taking
    slightly longer to get out of bed and threatened to be sent to “three
    days in the hole.” (Page 7) They are forced to survive on two hundred
    grams of bread per meal and sometimes are served a sickening gruel,
    which they learn to appreciate because they must eat to survive with
    their low daily food rations. Through determination, responsibility,
    teamwork, and optimism, they were able to achieve their goals and finish
    each of their designated duties in the Power Station. Once completed,
    they went to the mess hall where there would be a feeding frenzy of old
    stale bread and soup. However, Shukhov demonstrates his passion by
    staying behind in order to continue working on his job when it was
    unnecessary to do so. Once he joined the others at the chaotic mess
    hall, he saw how it was teeming with starving savages who were “risking
    suffocation for the sake of [their] skilly, [their] lawful entitlement
    of skilly.” (Page 148) Fetyukov, one of the prisoners in Shukhov’s gang,
    was severely beaten for licking the used bowls. Shukhov earns several
    food bonuses for his efforts and his good relations with his gang
    members, enough so that for the first time he is able to give a biscuit
    to his of the prisoners, Alyoshka the Baptist. Throughout the novel a
    clear transformation of Shukhov’s personality is apparent. He has a poor
    attitude in the beginning of the story, but he grew to appreciate what
    he has and not envy others who were given certain benefits, particularly
    those regarding food. After realizing how much food he had while on a
    full stomach, he felt as if “he was really living it up!” (Page 161)
    While “those who always think the other man’s radish is plumper than
    their own might feel envy,” “Shukhov knew what was what and didn’t let
    his belly rumble for other people’s goodies.” (Page 162) He did not
    complain about missing his family, but instead focused on what was
    important and maintained an optimistic view on life. One of the most
    powerful transformations was when he realized he is not jealous of free
    workers. In fact, he wasn’t even sure anymore if it was better to be
    free or a prisoner after learning to appreciate what he had. The most
    prominent moral of this story is to appreciate what you have and to make
    the most out of every situation.

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  • Posted August 16, 2012

    Ivan Denisovich Shuckhov humbles me. A poor, uneducated, Russia

    Ivan Denisovich Shuckhov humbles me. A poor, uneducated, Russian labor
    camp prisoner who struggled in the real world, Shuckhov possess traits
    unlike any other protagonist of a prison/Holocaust novel. His ability
    to adapt and thrive in the harsh Siberian environment that he was
    unjustly put in makes for an eye-opening story. His rare ability to
    acclimate to every situation without complaint and to observe every
    gruesome situation with an optimistic lens characterizes him as the best
    of his breed. One Day in the life of Ivan Denisovich is at time a
    morose tale, yes, but it is also one of the most prominent examples of
    the persistence of mankind. Starving, sleep deprived, and freezing,
    Ivan Denisovich still finds appreciation and comfort in his work,
    basking in the fact that his masonry skills are far superior to those of
    his inmates. This action depicts the pride he has in his work that his
    section of the wall is the straightest and the sturdiest. His outward
    display of emotions are a fantastic example of the state of awe that
    Alexander Solzhenitsyn is constantly placing the reader in; that a man
    tortured and dehumanized on a daily basis can still maintain his dignity
    enough to successfully function and work in camp, and moreover enjoy the
    work he does in camp, is entirely astounding. His attitude in hardship
    reflects the best of mankind and the duration of the human spirit in
    times of struggle. In addition, the Darwinian aspect that is found
    throughout the novel only makes the story that much more real.
    Solzhenitsyn attaches new meaning to the phrase “survival of the
    fittest” as Ivan’s resilience and longevity are tested in the sub-zero
    temperatures of the Siberian wasteland. His malleable character, while
    not relatable to most readers, inflicts a deep found self-awareness and
    appreciation in us and our surroundings. Furthermore, the language is
    concise; written from an illiterate perspective it is a simple read, but
    not necessarily an easy read. Time must be taken in order to do this
    account justice. However, the lens that this novel is written through
    creates rawness within the words. The imagery and detail that is put
    into documenting one day in the life of a Russian labor camp inmate is
    intense to the point where you feel hungry when Ivan is starving, cold
    when he is freezing and weary when he is struggling. As dynamic
    character you sympathize with his hardships and rejoice in his moments
    of triumph in which he is able to beat the system by sneaking a piece of
    hacksaw back into camp. The survival system he has perfected for himself
    over the years is full proof and the optimism he shows at the end of the
    day only further emphasizes the testament he is to civilization and the
    beacon he has become in the bleak world of the political prisoner genre.
    Despite the depressing circumstances that make up this novel, the only
    real tragedy would be not to read it.

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  • Posted August 16, 2012

    Alexander Solzhenitsyn¿s novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denis

    Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is
    the story of one man’s attempt at survival in a tyrannical Siberian
    labor camp. Taking place during the tumultuous World War II,
    Solzhenitsyn explores the tenacity of man, the corruption of a Russian
    society, and the fight for sustainment. Protagonist, Ivan Denisovich
    Shukov, is one of the longest standing members in his squad (the 104th)
    whose hard work ethic and tactics for survival make him go unnoticed at
    times by prison guards. While the novel is told in third person point
    of view it is easy to become lost in the author’s narration and the
    thoughts of Ivan Denisovich. The sudden changes from the author’s
    narration and the thoughts of Denisovich create an uncertainty
    concerning the real motivation behind the character’s actions. Though
    the book does not lack in explanation I found myself having to go back
    and recalling that Solzhenitsyn and Denisovich had different thought
    processes and did not share the same beliefs. The author insists on
    placing small dialects between the prisoners throughout the novel during
    the work hour and lunch. I found these areas to be written in vain
    because it acts as a barrier between the reader and his or her
    understanding of Denisovich. Solzhenitsyn wrote the novel through the
    course of one day: it begins when Denisovich wakes up and ends directly
    after he falls asleep. It is an in depth account of everything
    Denisovich did that day. Personally, I found the book to be slow and
    dull. The author spends too much time explaining events that need no
    explanation such as the way Denisovich puts on his boots or illustrating
    thoroughly the ritual in which prisoners were counted. Furthermore, the
    climax was done in such a way that demanded no excitement making the
    resolution all the more monotonous. I found the element of repetition
    constantly present throughout the novel. Repetition was found when
    Solzhenitsyn would describe the prisoner’s routine such as: getting
    frisked, eating, and looking for tobacco. Though some readers say it was
    written to stress the critical conditions faced by all members of the
    prison I found it to be overdone. I recommend this novel to anyone who
    is fine with following a story that lacks the component of conspiracy
    and suspense. The novel is however an insightful and informative story
    about the struggles faced by the prisoners of a Siberieran work camp.
    The author goes through a lot of trouble to present Denisovich as an
    ordinary man even when faced with conflict. One Day in the Life of
    Ivan Denisovich attempts to present the hardships faced by prisoners in
    a labor camp. Inevitably, its powerful message is blocked by the usage
    of great detail and descriptions. Its lack of thrill could cause people
    to become quickly uninterested.

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  • Posted August 16, 2012

    I would recommend the book, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovi

    I would recommend the book, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, to
    readers who desire to become informed and educated about the torment
    that many Russian civilians experienced in the atrocious labor camps.
    However, I would not recommend this novel to a person who wishes to read
    a book about an idealistic persona who fights for his rights and ends up
    making a drastic change in the Russian system. This book is not an
    action book; it is not a cliffhanger and does not create grand suspense
    for the reader. In fact, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, is
    close to if not the opposite of that. It is a rational novel of the
    common day of a Russian prisoner. Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s work of
    fiction, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, shows readers the every
    day struggles and brutality of surviving in a Siberian “special” camp,
    or labor camp. Solzhenitsyn does a marvelous job of showing the
    viciousness of the labor camp without exaggerating or amplifying the
    realistic nature of the labor camp. Ultimately, the truthfulness and
    simplicity of Solzhenitsyn’s writing technique strikes an impact in the
    reader. The book takes place in the 1940’s during the extreme Russian
    winter. The protagonist, Ivan Shukhov Denisovich, is a former Russian
    soldier who was wrongfully found guilty of betrayal. He has completed
    eight of the ten years he was sentenced to at the labor camp.
    Interestingly, Shukhov is neither a hero nor a pessimist. He is a
    regular middle-aged man who has accepted the fate that he will be in the
    labor camp for most likely the rest of his life. The other characters
    help illuminate the stage of acceptance Shukhov has reached. For
    example, Shukhov is not livid, depressed, or suffering from the
    harshness of his life anymore. In fact, one of the reasons Shukhov is
    so good-hearted and compassionate towards his fellow convicts is because
    he understands what they are going through. *SPOILER ALERT* For
    instance, prisoners are allowed to send mail twice a year. Most
    prisoners rush to write to his/her family or loved one, however, Shukhov
    does not get animated to write to his family. He has accepted his life
    at the labor camp to such an extent that he feels as if he does not
    belong to modern day Russian society. He is bewildered that most men
    become carpet painters and make a decent living by barely doing any
    work. He believes that men have to earn the money they receive. * END
    OF SPOILER ALERT* For the most part, One Day in the Life of Ivan
    Denisovich, was enjoyable to read. I would have liked to see a more
    enticing ending to the novel. However considering that Solzhenitsyn was
    trying to be realistic and not idealistic the book was definitely an
    impacting and eye opening novel to the shameful and inhumane pasts of
    Russian history.

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  • Posted August 16, 2012

    A Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich is an interesting, if forgi

    A Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich is an interesting, if forgivably
    slow paced, account of a single day of the titular character’s ten year
    gulag imprisonment. At first, the narrator’s seemingly abrupt changes in
    focus and attention may prove distracting. As the story progresses,
    however, one begins to feel more as though this is simply the natural
    rapid shifts in the concerns of Shukhov, (Ivan), and the story feels
    less as if it is being told and more as if it is simply happening. The
    protagonist has little time to pause and ponder to question his
    circumstances; he lives in the present, as it is the only possible way
    to maintain health and sanity in the camp’s deplorable conditions. At
    one point, Shukhov is reminded that he has nearly completed his
    sentence. The idea brings on a sense of elation in him, but very
    briefly. He quickly suppresses his swelling hopefulness, not allowing
    himself to forget that he is still a prisoner, and still at the mercy
    the “bosses”, who might add another ten years to his sentence if struck
    with the urge. It is intriguing to point out that while the reader may
    be separated from the protagonist by unfathomable distances in terms of
    both geography and time, the story is told in a manner that allows for a
    degree of empathy that transcends physical and temporal barriers. The
    protagonist treats his hardships in a way that declares to the reader,
    “This is a HUMAN being, with HUMAN problems”. The camps awful standards
    of living become just that: standards. However poorly they are treated,
    the workers simply grow accustomed to the conditions, to the point of
    celebrating things that would have likely ruined their day in the free
    world. Shukhov, for example, mentions that when, as a free man, he used
    to feed oats to his horses, he could have never imagined looking forward
    to a ladle-full of those very same oats as if they were a treat. Another
    character, referred to as “the captain” due to his service in the navy,
    adds some interesting contrast. He is new to the camp, and can thus be
    observed as he slowly adjusts to its conditions. He gradually displays
    signs of adjustment, and begins to subconsciously accept his predicament
    as normal, being shown no feasible alternative. Ultimately, what allows
    the work gang to continue despite their plight is the teamwork and
    camaraderie they have forged through their struggles. Their stern yet
    compassionate foreman serves as an anchor for gang 104. Being a prisoner
    and a victim himself, he can relate to his workers, and vice-versa. This
    allows for a sort self-perpetuating motivation within the group, with
    each man motivated by the determination of his peers. Shukhov even shows
    hints of pride in his work, having been a craftsman himself, and
    patiently corrects and assists his fellows as they all work towards a
    common goal.

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  • Posted August 16, 2012

    A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich - Review

    A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a well written, compelling novel about a man, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, sentenced to 10 years in a “special” work camp in post second world war Russia. Shukhov has already served 8 years of his sentence, and has survived the brutal and inhuman conditions of the camp. He takes things day to day, surviving only one day at a time. This is accentuated by the nature of the novel itself, only telling one day in his life at the camp, because that is how he mainly looks at it.
    Throughout the novel Shukhov faces much adversity, from the unrelenting guards enforcing cruel rules to the constant lack of food and proper nutrition, however, he remains unbreakable in his objective to maintain his dignity and pride in the dehumanizing circumstances he is faced with. For instance, even though he was nearly starving and it was almost 20 below, he never ate any meal with his hat on. He could not bring himself down to that level, where there was very little dignity. Further, Shukhov struggles with the constant battle between faith and survival. Feeding the physical body or feeding the soul and mind. This struggle is depicted through two things; firstly, through Shukhovs fellow inmate Alyosha, who is a dedicated Baptist, and who focuses more on his prayers than his limited food rations, and secondly, through the importance of the bread rations at the work camp, and their essential importance to the inmates, especially to Shukhov.
    This novel, although limited to only one specific day, truly encompasses an era of Russia that was, for a long time very secret. It touches on several universal themes which all readers are able to identify with; the struggle to maintain dignity and pride in situations that are grim and hopeless, as well as the continuous battle for the balance between feeding the soul or feeding the body.
    This is not the sort of book to be read in an afternoon. It is a book that requires, that deserves, time for the reader to contemplate over the deeper meaning that is found within it. It is so rich in context that to try to skim through it is meaningless because, if skimmed, the reader will finish will a brief summary from the tip of the iceberg and will leave it quite disappointed. In order to retain the full content of the novel on all the levels possible, the reader must savour the book slowly, listen to each word said carefully, and analyze the characters actions meticulously. Only then can a reader fully appreciate the extent to which this book reveals not only Shukhovs day, but the universal themes that encompasses it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2013

    I read this in English, so I am hesitant to judge the language.

    I read this in English, so I am hesitant to judge the language. Overall, this is brilliant and, at places, even humorous. Economic and evocative, philosophical and full of the senses, with compact and precise characterizations of the players in this particular camp, barrack, etc. - a portrait of the microcosm that can stand for any Gulag.

    Since I was already familiar with the nuts and bolts, so to speak, of Gulag life from other books and movies (Shalamov's Kolyma Tales", Amis' "House of Meetings" - which I didn't like - Weir's "The Way Back"), I was looking out for the craft aspects of the book: how was it structured, how did Solzhenitsyn get under the reader's skin. The passage of time is important. Our protagonist Shukhanov tracks the passage of sun and then the moon. There are no clocks available to the prisoners, but he always knows what time it is. The workday is excruciatingly long, and one can survive it only by focusing on surviving the smaller chunks and setting small yet life-saving goals: to get one more minute of warmth, to barter a pinch of tobacco, to get a good drying spot for one's boots on the stove, to get a sick note from the doctor, to get out of the barracks last so you can get back in first, to avoid the guards, to conceal a length of wire during a search, to catch out an empty tray in the cafeteria when it changes hands, to gauge when to share with a fellow zek and when to curse and kick him. These bit goals in the "civilian" world may be trifles, but in the Gulag they add up to the overarching goal - to survive your term, be it ten or twenty-five years.

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  • Posted January 10, 2013

    For those who love freedom, and the spirit of survival, this boo

    For those who love freedom, and the spirit of survival, this book is a must-read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2012

    ¿One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich¿ is a great read for any

    “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” is a great read for anybody
    interested not only in Soviet Russian historical literature, but also
    the minute and accurate details of a regular day in a prison camp.
    Solzhenitsyn does an impressive job of literally describing a day in the
    life of Ivan Denisovich (referred to mostly as Shukov). In about 150
    pages, every event – both important and trivial – of Ivan’s day in the
    prison camp is depicted in grand detail to the point of sometimes
    spending two or three pages on something so insignificant as obtaining a
    bowl of soup at dinnertime or the process of building a wall on the
    second floor of a building. Although “One Day in the Life” is a
    relatively smooth read, it does go quite slowly and the storyline is
    hard to understand in some sections. Despite the lethargy of the plot’s
    development, everything mentioned in the storyline is quite accurate, as
    the events described are based off of the author’s own experiences in
    such a camp. Solzhenitsyn is a master of detail, depicting every tiny
    trick and tip Ivan uses to stay alive and make his life in prison
    easier. From sewing and extra piece of bread into his mattress to hide
    for later, to hiding a spoon in his boot, every seemingly
    inconsequential action of Ivan’s throughout the day is mentioned in
    detail. Solzhenitsyn also does a great job of developing themes and
    messages that are intertwined with the plot. Several times throughout
    the story, the importance of self-reliance is emphasized, as well as the
    benefits of collaboration with other inmates. The unfairness of the
    punishments, the poor hygiene of the prisoners, the small amount of food
    they are given, and the harsh conditions in which they work all
    contribute to the underlying message of the book. This story is not a
    political statement based on contradictory viewpoints and opposing
    positions between Soviet and prisoner (although there are some instances
    where these contrasting views are seen, such as when Shukov (Ivan)
    explains to a Soviet guard that he believes that the moon wanes because
    god pulverizes it into millions of stars. This viewpoint conflicts with
    Soviet logic, which entertains the thought that when the moon wanes, it
    is simply not seen). Rather, the political controversy comes from what
    is depicted during one of Ivan’s 3,653 days in the camp. Although I
    personally have mixed feelings towards “One Day in the Life,” I
    recommend this book to any reader who does not mind a slow development
    and is interested in the hardships of Soviet imprisonment.

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