Wednesday, July 17, 2013

one day in the life of Ivan Denisovich

If anybody's still out there, I'm here too. I just thought I'd post my latest book club book review to let you all know I still exist.

  One day in the life of Ivan DenisovichOne day in the life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Before you begin reading, click THIS LINK. How many of you know and love THAT sound? ...It's been a while.

At any rate, if they ever turn One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich into mini-series or TV show, I think they should use that format.

Solzhenitsyn captures the depressing and hopeless monotony of prison life quite well - and in doing so, he captures the same about all life in Soviet Russia - and indeed all Totalitarian States.

It's sad, but there are times even here in America, where I feel burdened by a terrible sense of ennui yet find myself saying, "Yeah... well... what a great day it's been after all." I'm not sure if this is reflective of the human condition, or if the burden would be lifted if our government wasn't constantly spying on us.

(Side-note: The one good thing about PRISM and the NSA spying is that I know deep-down that someone, somewhere is reading my goodreads reviews. If only PRISM would click the "like" button...)

The book is rife with Russian platitudes: "It's easy for someone who is warm to say, 'don't mind the cold.'" "Beat a dog once and you only have to show them the whip." Etc...

And you must have skipped out on 10th grade English if you didn't notice some of Shukhov's irony: "Even Shukhov thought it was funny for somebody to go on working like that and not hear the signal to knock off..." (This just after he'd done the same thing...) Or "He was still no scavenger..." (This just after he "rushed back" to the barracks to try to mooch off another prisoner.)

Solzhenitsyn seems to be pointing out that it's human nature to judge others - even when we have the very same flaw. And that in prison (and maybe in a Totalitarian State) it's comforting to say, "It could be worse... I could be like that guy..." I've heard that in North Korea every year is a LOT better than the last.

In the book, a character is criticizing Prokofiev's Ivan the Terrible and he says, "Too much art is no art at all. Like candy instead of bread!"

One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich is bread. Good, wholesome, hearty bread that will sustain you through the day. The kind of bread that you break in half in order to sew half into your mattress, saving it for later. And when you get back to reading it, you think: "Yeah... today's been a good day after all."

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