In the First Circle: A Novel (The Restored Text)

In the First Circle: A Novel (The Restored Text)

by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn


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The thrilling Cold War masterwork by the Nobel Prize-winning author of The Gulag Archipelago, published in full for the first time

"A great and important book, whose qualities are finally fully available to English-speaking readers.” —Washington Post

Moscow, Christmas Eve, 1949.The Soviet secret police intercept a call made to the American embassy by a Russian diplomat who promises to deliver secrets about the nascent Soviet Atomic Bomb program. On that same day, a brilliant mathematician is locked away inside a Moscow prison that houses the country's brightest minds. He and his fellow prisoners are charged with using their abilities to sleuth out the caller's identity, and they must choose whether to aid Joseph Stalin's repressive state—or refuse and accept transfer to the Siberian Gulag camps . . . and almost certain death.

First written between 1955 and 1958, In the First Circle is Solzhenitsyn's fiction masterpiece. In order to pass through Soviet censors, many essential scenes—including nine full chapters—were cut or altered before it was published in a hastily translated English edition in 1968. Now with the help of the author's most trusted translator, Harry T. Willetts, here for the first time is the complete, definitive English edition of Solzhenitsyn's powerful and magnificent classic.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061479014
Publisher: HarperCollins US
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Pages: 741
Sales rank: 117,017
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

After serving as a decorated captain in the Soviet Army during World War II, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) was sentenced to prison for eight years for criticizing Stalin and the Soviet government in private letters. Solzhenitsyn vaulted from unknown schoolteacher to internationally famous writer in 1962 with the publication of his novella One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich; he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1968. The writer's increasingly vocal opposition to the regime resulted in another arrest, a charge of treason, and expulsion from the USSR in 1974, the year The Gulag Archipelago, his epic history of the Soviet prison system, first appeared in the West. For eighteen years, he and his family lived in Vermont. In 1994 he returned to Russia. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn died at his home in Moscow in 2008.

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In the First Circle: A Novel (The Restored Text) 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
mmtwrite More than 1 year ago
"In the First Circle" is the whole story published years ago as "The First Circle." Once again, the reader is brought into the world of the zeks - prisoners of the Soviet Union. One can only weep at the horrors of millions of Russians who were imprisoned, worked to death and starved to death. We get to know very intimately each one of the prisoners in the sharashka and at the end we weep as some of our favorite new friends are carted away to the Gulag Archipelago in a van disguised as a provider of meat for the Soviet citizens. And we weep for Innocenty Volodin, who only tried to save the world from atomic destruction. This version is more difficult to read than the original one that was purged of details for fear or the authorities. In any case, everyone who takes freedom for granted should read one of these.
History_Student More than 1 year ago
This is a terrific read, and has many autobiographical incidents of Solzhynitzen's life. I treasure my copy, and recommend it whenever anyone wants an intense story of the spirit of freedom, even in prison. Good insight into the way totalitarian systems work, particularly the Soviet "experiment".
SShotgun_Rider12 More than 1 year ago
The original title of this book was "The First Circle." This book, entitled "In the First Circle," is the release with the originally censored items added back in. It is about the prisoners in an "upscale" prison near Moscow, where the prisoners are tasked to provide "high tech" tools for espionage with a focus on a telephonic device to intercept phone calls and decode by voice imprint the callers. The prisoners have specific skills gleaned from their records at other prisons. The book provides an excellent insight into life the prison system under Stalin in the USSR. The magnitude of the system with its various levels of punishment is staggering to read about. The chapters about Stalin towards the end of his reign are recent additions and give insight into his narcissism and the fear his regime generated. The book details the impact of the prison system, not just on the prisoners, but also on their wives and families. I found it interesting that many of the prison characters still held to their loyalty to Socialism and hatred of profit under Capitalism even after 25 years in prison. You can hear socialist beliefs echoed in the words of many liberal democrats today. Profit is referred to as greed, for example. I believe Solzhenitsyn hated Socialism and that he was trying to show the irony of prisoners loyally serving hard time but still "being loyal to the cause." I highly recommend this novel to anyone and consider it a literary classic.
shawnd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A 2009 first release of an uncensored complete version of this Solzhenitsyn novel. The introduction's first sentence: "It has taken half a century for English-language readers to receive the definitive text of the best novel by the man who well may be the most famous author of our times." I wouldn't say it's his best novel, but it is broad while holding to a storyline that keeps a reader engaged--and is clearly Solzhenitsyn all the way.The 730+ page book is titled after the least oppressive circle of Dante's Inferno, and indeed portrays the most lax and easy of the Soviet Union's prison camps. Populated with jailed scientists tasked with inventing new technologies to aid the governments arms and espionage race with the West, the prison includes none of the traditional death-inducing grueling conditions of most of the camps, and a reader should not take away the conditions herein as reflective of the experience of the 5-20 million Russians jailed in prison camps/work camps throughout the 20th century.The book follows a novel with a concrete plot, but covers a broad range of topics from philosophy including Epicureanism and Dialectic Materialism, to moral commitments/dilemmas, to religion and government. It strays at times to ensure portrayal of everyone from Stalin himself including his thoughts to a lowly peasant living in the country-side reminiscing of the 19th century ways of living under Tsarist rule.Centering this breadth is a story of one Volodin, state diplomat, who finds himself in possession of a state secret that - if communicated to the West in time - could prevent or delay the USSR in developing nuclear weapons and thus presumably save millions of lives potentially lost in a nuclear conflict. The author toggles back and forth between the State's race to identify the anonymous informant and between a cast of intellectual engineer prisoners led by Gleb Nerzhin, a youngish outdoorsy moral martyr of sorts struggling with his wife's continued lack of means, status, and future, and Lev Rubin, the lead character of prisoners if there is one, a dedicated Marxist, gifted scientist and comedian who ultimately decides Volodin's fate.While the book could use editing, there's no clear way to delete any more than 20 pages or so without carving out the fifty or more points and dilemmas Solzhenitsyn leaves with the reader. A hard, slow read with little pace, the book is a realistic portrayal of perhaps every issue facing the Gulag inhabitant with the least struggles.
xieouyang on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Solzhenitsyn wrote this book in the early 1950s and released a highly censored version in the West in the late 60s (censored by himself in order to get it published in the Soviet Union) under the name "The First Circle." The current version, which expands the original greatly, was published in English last year. I had read the original version in Spanish when it was publihed in 1968.This is probably the best of Solzhenitsyn's writings. It's a gripping novel that carries on the themes for which he is well known and to which he dedicated his life. Respect for the individual, love for one's own country, belief on a higher being or God, human selflessness and sacrifice for a greater good, resiliency of the soul. And, of course, he brings the idiocy of bureaucratic institutions guided by non-sensical rules, particularly those when Russians lived under the Soviet regime. The blind abeyance to those rules by officials and their cruelty towards fellow human beings- who were not considered beings is a common thread throughout the novel. The novel centers on the life of scientist prisoners of the Soviet Gulag system who, because of their scientist status, were imprisoned in what was called a "sharashka"- a research prison. The sharashaka housed all types of scientists- mathematicians, physicists, engineers, etc. and was the best of the Gulags. Life in the sharashkas was better than the other Gulag prisons; for example, prisoners were allowed a visit from a spouse or relative once a year, for an hour at best (imagine that, a whole hour). Scientists in the sharashka were given this preferential treatment in order to get them to produce some invention or scientific contribution which would, in due turn, released under the name of a Soviet official or non-discredited scientist.Although it's a long novel, like many serious Russian novels, and difficult at times because of the large number of characters who are referred variously under different names (e.g., last name, first name, patronymic, and short versions of the first name) I recommend it highly. It's a thoughtful book that reminds one how lucky to live in a free country; and how thankful we should be towards those before us who have sacrificed, and continue to sacrifice, to defend our way of living.
jasonpettus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)As an American who didn't do too much academic reading before opening CCLaP, there are of course numerous entire sections of the literary world that I could stand to learn a whole lot more about; take Russian literature for a good example, not just its beginnings with Pushkin and the like but also its heydey of the late 1800s and early 1900s (the time period of such famed authors as Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov), all the way through to both the sanctioned and underground writers of the Soviet period of the 1920s through '80s. And that's why I was so excited to find out that last fall, Harper Perennial ended up putting out a brand-new edition of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's 1968 In The First Circle (originally known as simply The First Circle, one of the hundreds of details that have been put back in the book for this 2009 edition), because this gave me a good excuse to sit and finally read the thing; after all, Solzhenitsyn is one of the most important writers of the entire Soviet era, essentially the first intellectual to break the news to the Western world of what Stalin's prison camps (or gulags) were actually like, a fact which earned him a Nobel Prize in 1970 even as he was still a Soviet prisoner.And the irony, of course, is that less than ten years before In The First Circle, he had been able to publish the first of this highly anti-Stalinst work in the actual Soviet Union itself -- namely, 1962's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which is what first gained him an international following; and this was because of Nikita Khrushchev's campaign of de-Stalinization in that country then, which came as news to me when first studying this book, which gives you a good idea of just how much about Russian history I still have to learn. Even though that book went well, Solzhenitsyn knew that the original 96-chapter version of his much more expansive follow-up would never pass the muster of Soviet censors, which is why he voluntarily cut almost a dozen of those chapters from the original In The First Circle before submitting it, and radically changed a dozen more; then when he later became critical of Khrushchev himself and was once more sent back into the camps, it was this trimmed-down version that was snuck out of the country, and published in the West in 1968 to huge infamy. But like many former dissidents, Solzhenitsyn made peace with his homeland again after the fall of communism in the early '90s, moving back there in his old age and for the first time in his life going back comprehensively over his entire oeuvre; and apparently at the end of his life, he decided it was important to get the original 96-chapter version out finally to the public, the project he was working on all the way up to his death in 2008, just a year before the completely uncensored version came out.For those who don't know, the book is a highly autobiographical look at a special kind of work camp that existed during the "Stalinist Purge," the period of the 1930s and '40s when that Modernist leader and World War Two overseer had several tens of millions of his fellow citizens imprisoned and/or killed in order to keep himself and his supporters in power; because with that many people in the camps, you could of course fill entire prisons with nothing but scientists and artists if you wanted to, which is exactly what Stalinist authorities did, called "sharashkas" and actually more like college dorms than traditional prisons, where intellectuals were treated decently and fed well in exchange for them continuing to work on various cultural and scientific projects, like the space program or nuclear weapons or Bond-style spy devices. This is where the title In The First Circle comes from, in fact, inspired by Dante's
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read the "original" The First Circle and thought it marvelous,but this one,unexpurgated and uncensored and restored to Solzenitsyn's original design is his masterpiece.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sublimely sublime.