Sketches of the Criminal World: Further Kolyma Stories

Sketches of the Criminal World: Further Kolyma Stories


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The astonishing follow-up to 2018's Kolyma Stories.

In 1936, Varlam Shalamov, a journalist and writer, was arrested for counterrevolutionary activities and sent to the Soviet Gulag. He survived fifteen years in the prison camps and returned from the Far North to write one of the masterpieces of twentieth-century literature, an epic array of short fictional tales reflecting the years he spent in the Gulag. Sketches of the Criminal World is the second of two volumes (the first, Kolyma Stories, was published by NYRB Classics in 2018) that together constitute the first complete English translation of Shalamov’s stories and the only one to be based on the authorized Russian text. 

In this second volume, Shalamov sets out to answer the fundamental moral questions that plagued him in the camps where he encountered firsthand the criminal world as a real place, far more evil than Dostoyevsky’s underground: “How does someone stop being human?” and “How are criminals made?” By 1972, when he was writing his last stories, the camps were being demolished, the guard towers and barracks razed. “Did we exist?” Shalamov asks, then answers without hesitation, “I reply, ‘We did.’”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781681373676
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 01/14/2020
Pages: 576
Sales rank: 323,427
Product dimensions: 5.01(w) x 7.99(h) x 1.17(d)

About the Author

Varlam Shalamov (1907–1982) was a Russian writer, journalist, poet, and survivor of the Gulag. NYRB Classics publishes his Kolyma Stories, which, together with Sketches of the Criminal World, comprise the first complete English translation of all of Shalamov’s Kolyma writings.
Donald Rayfield is an emeritus professor of Russian and Georgian at Queen Mary University of London. He translated Nikolai Gogol’s Dead Souls for NYRB Classics.

Alissa Valles is the author of the poetry books Orphan Fire (2008) and Anastylosis (2014), the editor and cotranslator of Zbigniew Herbert’s Collected Poems and Collected Prose, and the translator of Ryszard Krynicki's Our Life Grows for NYRB Poets.

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