In the First Circle: A Novel (The Restored Text)by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, H. T. Willetts
A major literary event 50 years in the making:In the First Circle is the first complete English translation of Nobel Prize–winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s “best novel” (Washington Post). With an introduction by Edward Erickson, this work by the author of The Gulag Archipelago is the story of a brilliant mathematician who finds himself locked in a Moscow prison filled with the country’s brightest minds and must decide whether to aid Stalin’s repressive state.
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Meet 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" 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.
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".
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.