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Solzhenitsyn, Alexander

soviet political life revolution

(Soviet/Russian, 1918– )

Born in Kislovodsk in the Caucasus and educated at the University of Rostov, in 1945 Solzhenitsyn began eleven years as a political prisoner. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970 and was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974. After living in the United States, he was invited back to Russia in 1994. Begin with A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962), his stark novella of life in a Soviet penal colony. Rich in inventive prison slang, the book shows the unheroic peasant Denisovich surviving inhuman conditions through a fundamental toughness of spirit. Cancer Ward (1968) and The First Circle (1968) are major novels of ideas, dramatizing arguments about the human condition. In the former, Oleg Kostoglotov arrives from a labour camp to be treated for cancer. The First Circle is set among a group of highly educated political prisoners. Of the three main characters, one is released, one is sent to a tougher camp, and the third remains where he is. Focusing chiefly on the Battle of Tannenberg and using a range of experimental techniques, August 1914 (1971) is the first part of The Red Wheel, an unfinished cycle of novels based on the Russian Revolution. It continues with October 1916 (1985), a treatment of wartime conditions among the people of Moscow, and March 1917 (1986), a monumental re-creation of social and political life in Petrograd in the months before the Revolution.

Thomas Mann, Arthur Koestler, Vladimir Nabokov. See RUSSIA  DH

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