At the height of Stalin's postwar terror, Innokenty, a young diplomat and scion of a corrupt ruling class, discovers an earlier and more spiritual tradition than that adopted by the October Revolution, the beginning of a process which is Solzhenitsyn's basic theme: the individual's experience of acquiring an immortal soul. Unwisely but generously, ...
At the height of Stalin's postwar terror, Innokenty, a young diplomat and scion of a corrupt ruling class, discovers an earlier and more spiritual tradition than that adopted by the October Revolution, the beginning of a process which is Solzhenitsyn's basic theme: the individual's experience of acquiring an immortal soul. Unwisely but generously, Innokenty helps a friend in danger of arrest, only to be arrested himself and sent to a special prison. This, the archetype of the Gulag, is described with masterful psychological insight. There are no heroes and hardly any villains; oppressors are no less victims then the oppressed. In the great tradition of the Russian novel, The First Circle is both a brooding account of human nature and a scrupulously exact description of a historical period.
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Publishers Weekly, 2009-08-10 This first uncensored translation of what many consider Solzhenitsyn's masterpiece shows the Nobel laureate treading deeply into the logic of Soviet Russia's gulag, if not deeply enough into the minds of his characters. A quest to discover the identity of a rogue Russian diplomat serves as Solzhenitsyn's springboard for a tour of Russia's immense gulag system, slipping from prisoner to jailer to anguished wife (and even detouring through a weary Stalin) to briefly examine the lives of more than 60 significant characters. Each short chapter contributes to a vast mosaic of philosophies and moral dilemmas that, taken together, form a panorama of a Russia gripped by Stalinist terror. Unfortunately, none of the characters steps out from the shadow of the political to become a full-fledged individual; the result is an oddly skewed work, a highly journalistic novel that hits the political and material realities of post-WWII Russia, but that subsumes humanity beneath its ideas. It's more valuable as testimony than as literature, thanks largely to Solzhenitsyn's insight into one of the great abominations of the 20th century. (Oct.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
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