Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Il primo cerchio

Rate this book
Il titolo del romanzo è ispirato all'Inferno di Dante. Nell'opera di Solženicyn vengono rievocati tre giorni della vita degli ospiti della šaraška ("campo di prigionia leggera") di Marfino, in cui venivano detenuti e lavoravano svariati scienziati e tecnici sovietici arrestati sulla base dell'articolo 58 del Codice penale sovietico durante il periodo staliniano, subito dopo la Seconda guerra mondiale. Diversamente dagli altri campi di prigionia dell'universo dei gulag, i detenuti della šaraška venivano adeguatamente nutriti e godevano di buone condizioni di lavoro. I detenuti lavoravano a progetti tecnici di supporto agli organi di sicurezza dello Stato e per alimentare la crescente paranoia di Stalin. Nel romanzo si evidenzia il dilemma angoscioso dei detenuti che, da una parte, erano ben consapevoli della loro migliore condizione di vita rispetto agli ospiti degli altri gulag; d'altra parte si rendevano conto che con il loro lavoro favorivano la sopravvivenza proprio di quel regime che causava tante sofferenze.

Due volumi di 344+750 pagine.

749 pages, Paperback

First published September 1, 1968

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

411 books3,473 followers
also known as
Alexander Solzenitsyn (English, alternate)
Αλεξάντρ Σολζενίτσιν (Greek)

Works, including One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962) and The Gulag Archipelago (1973-1975), of Soviet writer and dissident Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1970, exposed the brutality of the labor camp system.

This known Russian novelist, dramatist, and historian best helped to make the world aware of the forced Gulag.

Exiled in 1974, he returned to Russia in 1994. Solzhenitsyn fathered of Ignat Solzhenitsyn, a conductor and pianist.


Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
3,696 (46%)
4 stars
2,789 (35%)
3 stars
1,091 (13%)
2 stars
225 (2%)
1 star
100 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 381 reviews
Profile Image for Fergus, Quondam Happy Face.
1,029 reviews17.7k followers
September 5, 2023
An Intense and agonized personal struggle in the midst of a seemingly casual, but in reality cruel and bitter, long confinement.

The end of all personal liberties of any meaningful nature.

Loss of family and the end of all deep and meaningful relationships.

Endless, bortomless anger toward the faceless and nameless totalitarian wraiths that brought you to this place.

Welcome, friends, to the Lighter Side of the Gulag, the Sharaska - a place very dear to Comrade Stalin’s black and evil heart - because here, he puts gifted people to work for free!

THIS is the First Circle.

Remember the uppermost circle of Hell where Dante rather wistfully, and certainly mercifully, puts all the great writers of the Classical Age?

Well, this is the gloomy but barely-bearable hell which its inmates’ former fellow-traveller, but now tormenting arch-demon, Papa Joe, deems fit punishment for those Soviet intellectuals who unwisely think for themselves!

Remember, this was all back in the 1940‘s and 50’s, and ready made behaviour control mechanisms weren‘t yet widely available.

So no, it's really not that bad - no one can stop these guys from thinking aloud here (in studied whispers, of course!). Things like, all you louts are just another brick on the wall! Sotto voce... so the guards don’t overhear (though they usually do anyway).

But the wrongfully-imprisoned but wisecracking and fairly comfortable intellectuals who reside here, very much against their will, are like the denizens of Dante‘s first circle, and us postmoderns, “not unhappy” - to use the euphemism our long-suffering grandparents used to employ.

These inmates have their little tricks of evasion and their little jokes - in spite of their very real icy shivers of paranoia.

It’s a place of subtle but effective resistance, a defiant and sometimes even wildly humorous "NO!" to the repression and madness of the Soviet experiment.

A place, almost, of near-grace!

Near, I say, but never close enough. For these people are REAL human beings with warm hearts - so unlike Stalin and his brutal Party Bosses. Under whose iron heel they writhe in thwarted ingenuousness.

But grace nonetheless happens. It will ALWAYS come to folks with open hearts, like the inmates and this great writer possess. For without a hurt the heart is hollow. Grace happens to those who are open to ALL life throws at them - and bear it with a wincing smile.

Life isn’t lapidary. Its answers aren’t written on stone tablets. Life is FLUID.

And at least back then folks like these had Real Hearts, and Grace was still a viable solution to anguish. Now our hearts are buried under a Maze of disposable and interchangeable plastic and electronic idols. I expect the pandemic will help us see the folly of that approach.

So I just can’t say enough good things about this book.

Back in the Cold War, oddly enough, humanity still had a now-largely-forgotten warmth - that hadn’t yet been squeezed out of us by that Frankenstein’s monster, Behaviourism.

But this wonderful book speaks volumes about the then-optimistic hope - living in the soul of this Nobel laureate - for an end to repression in ANY form against our humanness, be it Nazi, Communist, or postmodernistically and coolly Electronic.

And if you read it, you’ll thank your lucky stars for the personal liberties and joys we STILL enjoy - no matter how much our Age of Anxiety, Cynicism and Disquiet has dampened or spoiled them!

And that thankfulness is in itself the beginnings of Grace.

And the way OUT of our own Sharaskas.
Profile Image for Feliks.
496 reviews
August 16, 2017
It is unfathomable in my mind why Alexandyr Solzhenitsyn is not more widely remarked upon as perhaps the premier novelist of his age. This is a writer against whom a Thomas Pynchon could be measured and even he might fall short. [As for Cormac McC-what? Chuck Pahluki-what? Please..!] But nevermind. The main point I wish to make in this review is this: any society, culture, or timeperiod is most accurately described by the recounting of its worst outrages. Just as with a single man--you assess him best by discovering what he hates--so it is too, with governments. It is their 'black marks' which are the most telling.

We come to know a people best, by learning how they treat their own. Every nation has its museums and treasures, its palaces--but these do not describe national character. Instead, look to the prisons if you wish to see the inner disposition of a culture revealed. This famous insight comes from Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Solzhenitsyn, with his nonfiction juggernauts (vols I & II of 'Gulag Archipelago') is of course, simply towering in this realm. Scathing. There is no one who ever sounded to-the-bottom of a penal system deeper than did this author. But his talent was obviously not limited to documentary reporting. What this novel, 'First Circle' reveals to the first-time reader will be a major surprise, too.

For, not only did Solzhenitsyn write the most gripping true-to-life indictments to emerge from his culture; not only was he one of the most gifted historians since WWII--but with works like this, he dominates the sphere of Slavic fiction. It is one of the most penetrating modern novels yet written. Sustained power, force, and discipline are all on display, throughout. Sure, you might say that Solzhenitsyn is an "old-hand" at prison memoirs, going all the way back to, 'One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch'. But--believe me--that was just him 'warming up'. 'First Circle' is a massive, in-depth, intellectual watershed. Solzhenitsyn takes everything he gathered up in 'Gulag Archipelago' and condenses it into literary form.

Ostensibly a story of falsely-incarcerated Russkie intellectuals all struggling against the inexorable prison regime--striving to hang on to their souls--while at the same time, unwilling to admit that they even possess souls...the plot itself is indescribable. It is a novel of imprisonment and solitude, after all; and one might criticize that 'nothing ever happens in it'. But that's an impoverished view of such a work as this. The topics and themes treated here, are boundless. Hope, despair, misery, ambition, abandonment. Everything that tortures man's spirit is to be found here. Solzhenitsyn deals with the cosmic and the microscopic of individual human lives. Smooth, polished, confident, expert prose delivery...the man is completely-in-command-of-his-narrative. Razor-sharp in its vision and imagination.

This book is not in my 'top-ten-works-of-all-time', (world-literature) for nothing. And that's really saying something. To sum up my feelings on the matter: as far as I'm concerned, the name of Solzhenitsyn should be the pre-eminent name in Slavic culture; if not the very foremost name. Certainly in modern times, he stands alone. Doyesteovsky for the 1800s and Solzhenitsyn for the 1900s and that's all you should need.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews46 followers
August 7, 2021
В круге первом = V kruge pervom = The First Circle, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The sharashka prisoners, or zeks, work on technical projects to assist state security agencies and generally pander to Stalin's increasing paranoia.

While most are aware of how much better off they are than "regular" gulag prisoners (some of them having come from gulags themselves), some are also conscious of the overwhelming moral dilemma of working to aid a system that is the cause of so much suffering.

As Lev Rubin is given the task of identifying the voice in the recorded phone call, he examines printed spectrographs of the voice and compares them with recordings of Volodin and five other suspects.

He narrows it down to Volodin and one other suspect, both of whom are arrested.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش سال 1994میلادی

عنوان: پ‍ل‍ه‌ اول‌ دوزخ‌؛ ن‍ویسنده‌ ال‍ک‍س‍ان‍در ای‍س‍ای‍وی‍چ‌ س‍ول‍ژن‍ی‍ت‍س‍ی‍ن‌؛ مت‍رجم از م‍ت‍ن‌ روس‍ی‌: ع‍ب‍اس‌ ره‍ب‍ر؛ ت‍ه‍ران‌: ن‍ش‍ر ق‍وم‍س‌، 1371؛ در 735ص؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان روسیه - سده 20م

پله یا حلقه اول داستان زندانی «گلب نرژین»، ریاضیدان درخشان آن روزهای «شوروی» بوده اند، در سال 1949میلادی، سال پایان یافتن پژوهشهای هسته ای «شوروی»، دیپلمات «اینوکنتی ولودین» با سفارت «ایالات متحده» تماس میگیرد؛ او کوشش میکند برنامه هسته ای «اتحاد جماهیر شوروی» را، با تلفن در اختیار مقامات سفارت «ایالات متحده آمریکا» قرار دهد، اما تماس توسط وزارت امنیت ملی رهگیری، و او با احساس تهدید، تلفن را قطع و ناپدید میشود؛ این رمان خوانشگر را به زندان «شاراسکا» در «روسیه» میبرد؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 15/05/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Jessica.
34 reviews29 followers
February 18, 2007
Not an "easy" read like Solzhenitsyn's A DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH, but intellectually much more rewarding if you can plow through the hundreds of different characters and intersecting plotlines. A wonderfully intimate portrait of Soviet intellectual society from within the elit "First Circle" of the Soviet Gulag. A single five-paged chapter about the lonley hallway patrol of Nikita, the red-headed prison warden told me more about the human condition than most of what I have experienced in my own lifetime. Solzhenitsyn's philosophy, social commentary, and desire to convey the true experience of the camps draws out the writing at times, but a very rewarding book. Pretty much built my senior thesis off the fascinating paradox between physical and intellectual freedom in the Soviet Union....me and my Russian lit, what can I say?
Profile Image for Bettie.
9,989 reviews17 followers
February 13, 2015
"And a great war
must be preceeded
by a great purge"
Description: Set in Moscow during a three-day period in December 1949, The First Circle is the story of the prisoner Gleb Nerzhin, a brilliant mathematician. At the age of thirty-one, Nerzhin has survived the war years on the German front and the postwar years in a succession of Russian prisons and labor camps. His story is interwoven with the stories of a dozen fellow prisoners - each an unforgettable human being - from the prison janitor to the tormented Marxist intellectual who designed the Dnieper dam; of the reigning elite and their conflicted subordinates; and of the women, wretched or privileged, bound to these men. A landmark of Soviet literature, The First Circle is as powerful today as it was when it was first published, nearly thirty years ago.


3* One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
... The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 (Unrated for a reason)
3* Cancer Ward
CR The First Circle
3* Matryona's House And Other Stories
4* We Never Make Mistakes: Two Short Novels
Profile Image for Georgia Scott.
Author 3 books196 followers
December 17, 2022
Airless. You read and know it's futile to hope. Still, you read. It goes on and on. Reminds me of when I first lived in Poland under the communists. There was no hope or sense of the future being better. But... and this is a big but..... there were parties and dancing and plenty of wine (not always good but it flowed).

Comparisons to Tolstoy are very misleading as regards The First Circle. Tolstoy gives us light at times. There's light from a moon, a ballroom, or even in a cavalry charge. Not, Solzhenitsyn. Inside or outside the Soviets' prison walls, there is nothing to ease the misery.

Once, when I made a trip back to the USA in the 1980's I asked a friend if there was anything I could bring back for him. "Some fresh air," he replied. Read The First Circle with an open window. And count your lucky stars when you're finished.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
May 12, 2009
I work with speech understanding: making computers understand what people say. Oddly enough, this is the only novel I know which is centered around that technology. It's very credible, as one would expect from Solzhenitsyn.

I'm not sure how much of it is based on his own experiences. The main character, who's serving time in the Gulag, has technical skills. Because of this, he gets assigned to work on a speech recognition project. To be exact, it's not speech recognition per se; it's what we call speaker ID, identifying a person by the sound of their voice. This technology is now quite good, and many of the key ideas were developed at SRI International while I was there, though I wasn't involved in that particular project. The SRI techniques have been commercialized in the Nuance speech recognition platform, which I use all the time. At the time of The First Circle, however, the field was at a very early stage of development.

The team in Solzehenitsyn's book are given a specific task to solve. A compromising phone call has been recorded, and the authorities have narrowed it down to a handful of suspects. They need to determine who it was; not easy, since the person in question was trying to disguise his voice. The engineers work flat out to try and crack the problem. Needless to say, they don't feel too good about it, but what are they supposed to do? If they refuse, they'll be back in hell. Well, they're in hell now, but, as the title suggests, this is the most comfortable part of Stalin's Inferno. Here, they aren't swimming in boiling blood, or, more likely, stuck in the ice lower down. So they do their best, but in the end they're forced to admit defeat. They can eliminate most of the suspects, but they still have two names left, and the machines can't determine which one the recorded voice belongs to.

But their bosses are happy; they simply arrest both guys. After all, this is Stalin's Russia. It must be the grimmest and most profound shaggy dog story ever written.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jason Pettus.
Author 24 books1,324 followers
April 22, 2010
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

As an American who didn't do too much academic reading before opening CCLaP, there are of course numerous entire sections of the literary world that I could stand to learn a whole lot more about; take Russian literature for a good example, not just its beginnings with Pushkin and the like but also its heydey of the late 1800s and early 1900s (the time period of such famed authors as Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov), all the way through to both the sanctioned and underground writers of the Soviet period of the 1920s through '80s. And that's why I was so excited to find out that last fall, Harper Perennial ended up putting out a brand-new edition of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's 1968 In The First Circle (originally known as simply The First Circle, one of the hundreds of details that have been put back in the book for this 2009 edition), because this gave me a good excuse to sit and finally read the thing; after all, Solzhenitsyn is one of the most important writers of the entire Soviet era, essentially the first intellectual to break the news to the Western world of what Stalin's prison camps (or gulags) were actually like, a fact which earned him a Nobel Prize in 1970 even as he was still a Soviet prisoner.

And the irony, of course, is that less than ten years before In The First Circle, he had been able to publish the first of this highly anti-Stalinst work in the actual Soviet Union itself -- namely, 1962's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which is what first gained him an international following; and this was because of Nikita Khrushchev's campaign of de-Stalinization in that country then, which came as news to me when first studying this book, which gives you a good idea of just how much about Russian history I still have to learn. Even though that book went well, Solzhenitsyn knew that the original 96-chapter version of his much more expansive follow-up would never pass the muster of Soviet censors, which is why he voluntarily cut almost a dozen of those chapters from the original In The First Circle before submitting it, and radically changed a dozen more; then when he later became critical of Khrushchev himself and was once more sent back into the camps, it was this trimmed-down version that was snuck out of the country, and published in the West in 1968 to huge infamy. But like many former dissidents, Solzhenitsyn made peace with his homeland again after the fall of communism in the early '90s, moving back there in his old age and for the first time in his life going back comprehensively over his entire oeuvre; and apparently at the end of his life, he decided it was important to get the original 96-chapter version out finally to the public, the project he was working on all the way up to his death in 2008, just a year before the completely uncensored version came out.

For those who don't know, the book is a highly autobiographical look at a special kind of work camp that existed during the "Stalinist Purge," the period of the 1930s and '40s when that Modernist leader and World War Two overseer had several tens of millions of his fellow citizens imprisoned and/or killed in order to keep himself and his supporters in power; because with that many people in the camps, you could of course fill entire prisons with nothing but scientists and artists if you wanted to, which is exactly what Stalinist authorities did, called "sharashkas" and actually more like college dorms than traditional prisons, where intellectuals were treated decently and fed well in exchange for them continuing to work on various cultural and scientific projects, like the space program or nuclear weapons or Bond-style spy devices. This is where the title In The First Circle comes from, in fact, inspired by Dante's concept in The Inferno of there being nine circles of Hell, the first one not actually that terrible and designed for only light sinners; because when all was said and done, except for the lack of free movement, these sharashkas actually weren't all that bad, or at least compared to the nightmarish conditions of the Siberian hard-labor camps, where said intellectuals were shipped off to if refusing to voluntarily work on these state projects. That's a major theme of the book, the philosophical argument over which of these options is better -- to remain ideologically pure yet pay a high price for it, or to do what is simply going to be done by someone else anyway, and in the meanwhile living to fight another day.

And besides this, the thousand-page tome is also of course a highly detailed look at what daily Soviet life was like during the Stalinist years of the late '40s; and in fact that may be the biggest surprise about this manuscript, is that its details regarding the real Soviet Union in those years are so eerily similar to the speculative fancifulness of George Orwell's anti-Stalinist 1984 to not even be funny. Because let's not forget, Orwell wrote 1984 in 1948 (which is how he came up with the title, by simply switching the last two numbers), while Solzhenitsyn's book is set just a year later, during Christmas week of 1949, retroactively backing up many of the most outrageous suppositions of Orwell's original, including the Soviet invention of a "Newspeak" type official new language, designed to be reductive so to literally remove from dictionaries the very words themselves that stood for subversive ideas, as well as the very real endeavor back then to officially erase the very existence of state enemies, including airbrushing them out of old photos and re-writing archived newspaper articles that once mentioned them. If nothing else, this might be the most important lasting legacy of In The First Circle, is that it dutifully chronicles many of the absurdly comedic yet horrifying things that took place during the Stalinist years, shows us just how right we in the West were to be terrified back then by the idea of a Stalinist planet, even if that did lead to some pretty horrible things on their own, like McCarthyism and book burnings.

But this isn't the only thing about In The First Circle to enjoy; there's also the inventive cyclical nature of its very structure, which like Richard Linklater's Slacker is told in a "vertical storytelling" style, where the different main characters of each chapter are introduced causally in the end paragraphs of the previous chapter. So in other words, one chapter might be about a prisoner in an electronics lab inside the camp, who at the end of the chapter has a conversation with the 21-year-old girl who's been hired to oversee them; the next chapter then might be about that girl now at home that evening, ending with her talking to her husband, a mid-level bureaucrat who works in the personal offices of Joseph Stalin, with the next chapter after that perhaps being about Stalin himself, one of the hundreds of both real and fictional people featured in this doorstop of a book. And then of course is the sly humor found throughout, the fascinating details about life inside one of these "intellectual prisons," the history lessons provided through the cynical discussions of the older "zeks," the ones old enough to remember the original 1917 communist revolution and who sit around endlessly debating what's gone wrong in the thirty years since, a big reason they're in the camps to begin with.

Now, just so we're on the same page, let me confess that there are problems as well with In The First Circle; for example, like so many other Russian novelists, Solzhenitsyn tends to be in love with the sound of his own voice, turning what could've been a truly mindblowing 400-page book into a merely important yet highly digressive thousand-page one. Despite its limitations, though, it's a highly rewarding book to actually make one's way through and eventually finish, and I applaud Harper for spending the time, energy and money needed to put out this restored version in the first place, when commercially speaking it is obviously only going to appeal to a small niche audience. This single book alone filled a huge chunk of that gaping hole in my life when it comes to Russian history and culture, and it comes highly recommended to those who are looking to fill such a similar hole in their own lives.
Profile Image for Mike.
1,138 reviews151 followers
June 3, 2018
As a child of the Cold War who spent many years studying our great potential superpower opponent, I found this book just as powerful now as I might have many years ago. The Soviets certainly knew how to efficiently destroy anyone with a sentence to the Gulag. The thought of fighting the Nazis from ‘41-45 only to wind up in the gulag for 10 or 25 years is just horrific to contemplate. This story takes place about 4.5 years after the WWII victory. Many of the “zeks” in the camp have been condemned for no reason other than spite (or envy):

…he was particularly timid these days in front of the authorities. More than anything he dreaded getting a second term. He had seen many prisoners get them during the war years.

Even the way he was first sentenced was absurd. He was imprisoned at the beginning of the war for “anti-Soviet propaganda,” the result of a denunciation cooked up by some neighbors who wanted his apartment and afterward got it. It became clear subsequently that he had not engaged in any such propaganda, though he could have, since he listened to the German radio. Then it turned out that he didn’t listen to the German radio, but he could have listened to it since he had a forbidden radio receiver at home. And when it appeared that he didn’t have any such radio receiver, it was still true that he could have had one since he was a radio engineer by profession. Also, following the denunciation, they found two radio tubes in a box in his apartment.

This story remains relevant today. This is the inevitable destination of socialism and way too many uneducated in the population believe socialism is the way to go. There are reports that China has its own version of the gulag with a very large population. Likely to grow as the Chinese implement their scheme to construct a social media rating for everyone in their country. Too low a score, off to the gulag? Just imagine how pervasive and oppressive the Soviet gulag system would be with the technology of today! Five Red Stars
Profile Image for Jonfaith.
1,888 reviews1,415 followers
December 21, 2012
Somewhere in the Stone Reader documentary, likely its bonus features, a critic named The First Circle as the last novel of the 19th Century. The isolation of Soviet themes was likely exaggerated by the critic but the novel itself doesn't appear to reveal self-awareness: perhaps such would also be a violation of Article 58. I read this in tandem with my wife and what a glorious experience that was. As tragic as this tale of a neutered Hell of sorts remains, it begs so many questions about the nature of penal system in the Soviet Union. Cross-purposes appeared to proliferate with exposure to air. If Guilt was endemic why have them work, espeially around such sensitive areas of expertise? My naievety albeit bruised and riddled will likely cling for my life's extent. I still ponder motives.
Profile Image for Francesco.
170 reviews
January 22, 2023
La saraska, il primo cerchio del sistema carcerario sovietico. Il luogo in cui sperare di finire, ma allo stesso tempo, il luogo dal quale pregare di non andarsene, visto che il più delle volte, se si usciva, si finiva al GULAG. Le giornate alla saraska sono oggettivamente noiose, si lavora anche 12 ore al giorno alla creazione di apparecchi elettrici per far progredire l'Unione avvicinandola all'occidente. Ma in realtà si costruivano apparecchi per usarli per spiare i nemici della Rivoluzione. C'era un problema, qualunque ritardo nella realizzazione di questi apparecchi era visto come un tentativo di sabotaggio, quindi chi era responsabile del guasto veniva accusato di essere un nemico della Rivoluzione e di conseguenza, spedito a calci in qualche GULAG in mezzo al nulla a spaccar pietre e a spalare neve. Differenza principale tra GULAG e Lager nazisti era che potenzialmente pure Molotov poteva diventare uno zek e finire in un GULAG, ma era impossibile se non nelle fantasie più fantasiose che Eichmann o Goering potessero passare per il camino. Il GULAG sovietico poggiava la sua esistenza sulla Katorga zarista, quindi si può dire che è un sistema durato 300 anni. invece il lager nazista è sorto sul momento è stato costruito nel momento stesso in cui serviva... Il Gulag invece sorgeva in strutture già esistenti.
3 reviews1 follower
August 2, 2007
While it is overtly a story of talented engineers and technical types in a "special prison" in the Stalin era Soviet Union, it is an apt allegory of the workplaces in which many of us have, at times, found ourselves.

While typically Solzhenitsyn in style, it is appreciably less "dense" than many of his works. His character development, always very good, is his best ever.

Those in a technical profession will recognize the dilemma and attitudes of the prisoners, as well as the nature of some of the fellow technical types with whom you have worked.

You will also recognize other characters with whom you have worked in the prison functionaries and administrators. Some of these are sympathetic characters who face their own challenges in dealing with their situation in life and work. Others are the clueless and unreflective or even consciously malevolent beasts who have made your work life hell.

This is one of the 2 or 3 books that, on any given day, I might describe as my all-time favorite. I have re-read several times.
Profile Image for El.
1,355 reviews502 followers
April 18, 2014
In Dante's The Divine Comedy, the first circle of Hell represents Limbo, where non-Christians reside as they were born before Christ, therefore unbaptized. It's not their fault! But there are no free passes, so sowwy. So they were put in the first circle where they are so close to Heaven, but, derp, not close enough to get in. They have a smidge more freedom than the wieners in the circles below them, but they still can't get Heaven-status because it's all in who you know, and they don't know the right people because they went and were born too early, like a bunch of jag-offs.

(This is a highly simplified version of Hell. Don't go quoting me and stuff.)

In Solzhenitsyn's novel, his characters are prisoners in a special sort of prison, kindsa like Limbo. They are all engineers and nerdy sorts who got busted for stuff like talking on the phone and writing letters ("letters" are those things people used to write before e-mail, btw) about stuff Stalin didn't approve of whose skills benefit Papa Stalin in one way or another.

The story takes place in only three days, though you really wouldn't know it to read this book because a) it's almost 700 pages (and that's not even the uncensored version which was released in 2009), b) Solzhenitsyn includes so much back-story of every character that you don't realize aren't the main focus of the story as a whole, and c) did I mention it's almost 700 pages?

It took me a long time to read because Life, but also because for a long while I had trouble getting into the story. I normally enjoy everything I have read by Solzhenitsyn, but I couldn't help but compare this to his Cancer Ward, probably because I got them around the same time. I thought Cancer Ward was strong all the way through and I cared about the characters. I had difficulty empathizing with all the characters in The First Circle, or maybe because I knew the story spanned three actual days, I thought more should be happening at a quicker pace. I think an early complaint of mine to someone was that it didn't seem like a whole lot was happening, and I worried it would be an entire almost-700 pages of not a whole lot happening.

Stuff does happen, but it's a slowly unfolding story. It's worth it, if Russian novels about GULAGs are your schtick. This one is, like a lot (all?) books written by Solzhenitsyn, autobiographical. Has anyone ever written prison stories as powerfully as Solzhenitsyn?

Now that I am finished, I do wish I had gotten my paws on the uncensored version, because I am a glutton for punishment and now feel like reading the censored version was akin to reading an abridged version of something. Did I just cheat? I fail at reading Russian literature. It all came down to this moment.
Profile Image for Janet.
Author 24 books87.8k followers
February 21, 2012
A huge, multicharacter novel set in postwar Soviet Russia, 1949, when one would think the Russians would have got a break after winning the war, but there was a war that would not be over for another five decades, the war of the Soviet people to stay alive with a certain amount of human security and dignity. This takes place in three days, but it's a massive thing, yet it needs to be read in one big streak, not to get lost in its cast of thousands. It's too bad he's become so reactionary and 'anti-cosmpolitan' ie Great Russian nationalistic. But these works were fierce and real and spoke to the world. I need to reread it--this new translation includes all the camp slang and profanity. When I was learning Russian, back in the early middle ages, they had to assemble a little dictionary when Solzhenitsyn was first published in the west. Even Russian speakers had never seen this kind of profanity. it was called "the Little Book of Russian Profanity", it was small and green, stapled, and you fell out of your seat laughing.
190 reviews37 followers
October 15, 2008
This has to be one of the five best books written in the 20th century.

Solzhenitsyn is able to bring to life with unbelievable clarity and insight (unlike the review I am writing) a few days in a late 1940s Russian gulag located outside of Moscow which is a special prison for engineers. He follows multiple storylines involving the lives of the prisoners, their families, the prison guards and officials, and even the government (Joseph Stalin manages to make a too brief appearance). He also describes in great detail the prison system and the communist bureaucracy that ruled the country at the time.

If you’ve read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, I would say this is like that only on steroids or this is like that meets War and Peace (as it is phenomenally long, uses historical facts and figures, follows multiple characters, and is completely engrossing. The main difference would be that there isn’t much of a plot in The First Circle, though one kind of breaks out after about 150 pages, but it’s not clear that a consistent plot is all that necessary).

Solzhenitsyn excels as a writer in making every character so real and in portraying the nuances and details of Russian prison life (of course his time as a prisoner makes him superbly qualified to do that, but his writing is so concise, descriptive, and simple that he illuminates the Russian prison system like no one else can. Though a lot of credit has to go to the translation I am sure.).

Here’s the deal, if you like Russian literature, this is a 100% must read. If you liked One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch this is a 100% must read. If you haven’t read much Russian literature, start with One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch and if you like it, read this.

This isn’t the easiest book to get through but it is rewarding and it works as both a historical novel a novel on the human condition. So put down the Michael Crichton, put down the Jane Austen, and give this a chance.
Profile Image for La lettrice controcorrente.
494 reviews215 followers
February 11, 2019
Nel primo cerchio  di Aleksandr Solženicyn (Voland) è un romanzo corale ambientato in una sorta di prigione ai piedi di Mosca. E' il 1949 e questi sono i tre giorni di Natale. Sì, avete capito bene, più di 900 pagine per raccontare tre intere giornate. Ma non abbiate paura, non c'è una sola riga noiosa in questo romanzo.

Anche in questo caso, leggere il libro è stato più facile che raccontarlo. I personaggi sono tanti e hanno nomi complicati. Cambiamo spesso scena, vicende apparentemente lontanissime tra loro si susseguono senza un chiaro aggancio - almeno all'inizio, intanto noi piangiamo, ci indigniamo, soffriamo e... incredibilmente sorridiamo. Sì perché Nel primo cerchio siamo imprigionati insieme a scienziati, ingegneri, matematici e studiosi (persino un filologo che vi anticipo già, è il mio personaggio preferito) che vivono la loro avventura dantesca, siamo nel primo girone dell'inferno: e dall'inferno non si fa ritorno. Eppure la penna di Solzenicyn è graffiante, sarcastica... ironica e in alcuni passaggi non possiamo fare a meno di ridere di gusto, in altri il nostro sorriso si spegne nell'amarezza.
RECENSIONE COMPLETA SU: http://www.lalettricecontrocorrente.i...
Profile Image for Blair.
Author 17 books202 followers
December 20, 2017
I read this novel when a student of Russian language and literature back in the day. At the time I realized that Solzhenitsyn was one of the masters of Russian literature, on equal footing with Tolstoy et al.
Solzhenitsyn's great strength (one of them, at any rate) is his portrayal of people striving to maintain their integrity and dignity under a soul-destroying and punitive totalitarian system.
A New York Times review from 1968 describes The First Circle as "an astounding piece of political journalism as well as a literary work of art".
Highly recommend.
Profile Image for JoséMaría BlancoWhite.
305 reviews37 followers
June 21, 2016
Me quedan cada vez menos dudas de que Solzhenitsyn ha sido el mejor escritor que ha dado el siglo XX. ¿Cual es clave? ¿Qué es lo que lo sitúa, en mi opinión, por encima de los demás? Da igual que escriba un historia corta que un relato de cientos de páginas, como este 'Primer Círculo'. La enjundia de sus historias, de las vidas de sus personajes, la densidad de humanidad que se destila de sus diálogos más propios de obras teatrales que de novelas, hacen que el lector no desperdicie ni una página, ni un renglón de cuanto escribe. Todo tiene su interés. Con Solzhenitsyn no es posible la lectura rápida porque él no escribe para los ojos, sino para el corazón; debemos dejar reposar sus palabras en nuestras mentes para entender la profundidad de sentimiento -que no de dificultad intelectual- que conllevan.

Este primer círculo, haciendo referencia al infierno de Dante, es el más alejado del meollo infernal que era la Rusia soviética de Stalin, pero aún alejado del meollo era parte de ese Gulag carcelístico. Decenas de personajes aparecen por escena. Todos ellos tienen parte en ese infierno de cárceles estalinistas. Son dos grupos: los unos que encarcelan y los otros que son encarcelados; y ambos grupos susceptibles de intercambiarse papeles en cualquier momento. Podría quizá haber un tercer grupo, el de los ignorantes o cómplices: aquellos que siendo familiares de los miembros del politburó, las castas privilegiadas del régimen comunista, son mantenidos en la oscuridad en cuanto a las condiciones en que viven la inmensa mayoría de sus compatriotas. Estos 'ignorantes' se tragan el discurso demagógico de sus protectores hasta que se encuentran personalmente con alguna de esas víctimas del régimen, o hasta que ellos mismos pasan a formar parte de esas víctimas: porque nadie está libre de caer en las redes del régimen, solo Stalin, su creador, puede estarlo.

Solzhenitsyn no solo escribe de forma bella y elocuente; escribe con conocimiento enciclopédico de todas las materias que describe y una cultura inusual. Y nunca sin dejar de ser comprensible, porque lo humano lo absorbe todo. Este libro es un cuadro de la sociedad totalitaria soviética al completo, sería como la familia de Carlos IV de Goya. Bello, pero lleno de crítica, de dolor, de sufrimiento personal y patrio. Me atrevo a comparar a Solzenitsyn con Cervantes o Shakespeare. No les iba a la zaga en genio. ¡Qué tres grandes hombres!
Profile Image for Susanna Rautio.
360 reviews21 followers
November 1, 2021
Jos haluat lukea yhteiskunnallisen fiktion klassikon, mikset kokeilisi tätä. Ei kannata pelästyä 87 lukua, 690 sivua ja ilmestymisvuotta 1968. Eikä sitä, että Ensimmäinen piiri on dantelaisittain helvetin esikartano. Eli karsina. Eli vankila.

Ensimmäinen piiri oli uskalias ja yhteiskuntakriittinen kirja. Sitä ei saatu julkaistua Neuvostoliitossa. Eikä ihme. Stalinin hahmosta saa kammon väristyksiä. Turvallisuuspoliisi osastoineen ei esiinny suotuisassa valossa.

Yllätyin todella paljon siitä, että Ensimmäinen piiri oli lopultakin hyvin klassisenoloista venäläiskirjallisuutta. Se on tulvillaan erilaisia hahmoja, syviä tunteita, monia kohtaloita sekä kaihoa ja kaipuuta. Solzhenitsyn kirjoitti älykkäästi ja ihmisen näkökulmasta vaikeasta, mutta itse koetusta, aiheesta.

Erityisen hienosti Solzhenitsyn kuvasi erikoisvankien ja koko vankilayhteisön sosiaalista verkostoa. Dialogit ovat suuressa roolissa. Samoin toivo ja tunteet - melkein sammuneet, mutta helposti roihahtavat.

Kirjan aloittaminen oli vähän hankalaa monimutkaisen asetelman takia. Mutta palkitsi sitkeän lukijan. Näitä traagisia, suomalaisiakin läheltä liippaavia, aikakausia ei yksinkertaisesti kannata unohtaa.
Profile Image for Susan from MD.
96 reviews11 followers
October 4, 2012
I finally finished The First Circle and I found it to be a truly remarkable book. The story plays out over a few days in December 1949 in Moscow. Although I loved One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, I had not read one of the tomes by Solzhenitsyn (e.g., The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 or Cancer Ward). I knew this was set largely in a prison, so was prepared to read about a lot of physical pain, starvation, and so on. What I got was different ... and so much more.

The prisoners in the book were in a special prison for scientists and engineers and, if most of the Soviet prisons were Dante's lower circles of Hell, this prison was the first circle - lacking the horrors of other prisons. The food, while not particularly good, was adequate. The physical conditions, while restrictive and regimented, were somewhat bearable. But the tearing down of these men's spirits and the destruction of lives and families was quite heartbreaking.

It sounds like a “story” and, while the book is fiction and these are characters, this is not just a story or a figment of someone’s imagination. It's like falling down a rabbit hole and trying to understand a bizarre new world. I give this book a 5/5. It was not a fast read, but it was worth the effort and it will stay with me for a long time.
Profile Image for Chana.
1,590 reviews145 followers
May 9, 2014
I admit, I wanted to quit reading it.
#1 It was painful; I felt trapped in the Soviet penal system and political machinery. I wanted out.
#2 It is difficult reading. The book seems endless at 674 pages of small print; dense, emotional, often depressing, very intense, sometimes boring, always heart-breaking.

But having stuck with it, having absorbed this book, I would never give it back. It felt important to me to understand what had been going on in Russia at this time and the experiences the prisoners went through. Solzhenitsyn takes us through the terrible choices that prisoners sometimes have to make in order to survive; in fact the story starts with a Soviet official who tries to warn an old friend of the family that a trap is being set for him. It is the moral choice versus the choice that allows survival. It is also heart breaking to see the betrayal of the true believers in Communism and who work so hard for the ideals only to have it all twisted and before you know it they are accused of something, perhaps thinking against the regime, and arrest follows. It was terrible to see how Russian soldiers who fought so hard during the war were often arrested on their return to Russia. A prisoner was not allowed to see his wife except once a year, supervised. And a wife could not allow anyone to know her husband was a prisoner as she would lose her job, housing and community support. It was awful, and kept more awful by the majority of people choosing survival over helping other people and risking their own life. But the choice would be understandable because the consequences of acting like a human being were disastrous on a personal level. The miracle was that so many prisoners, and even those who were not prisoners, would make a moral choice rather than a practical choice. Often in this book, when I would put myself in a character's shoes I would think, well that is it, there is no reason to go on. But the characters do go on, not like my wimpy self who wanted to give up and kept seeing death as the only way out. So I cried a lot and wanted to leave the book but I didn't and here I am on the other side. This is an emotionally battering book, but it is meant to be, it has to be as it was an emotionally battering time and place.
I highly recommend this book and think everyone should read it.
Profile Image for Martina.
409 reviews31 followers
May 14, 2019
A groundbreaking masterpiece. If I could, I'd give this book 10 stars.

Taking place in roughly 3 days, In the first circle gathers a wide range of loosely or tightly interconnected characters and chronicles their fates. It's truly a "poliphonic" novel, densely packed with so many different people, all of which were fleshed out and truly made me feel for them. Their individual stories pulled on my heartstrings.

Yet Solzhenitsyn doesn't only pack emotional punches; this novel works well on a more intellectual level too. It's cleverly designed as a thriller of sorts, with the final resolution of the "mystery" brilliantly fitting into the atmosphere of the Stallinistic regime. Truly, the paranoia and oppresion of the regime emanate from the pages, regardless of the person we're following. Whether it's the prisoners of the sharashka, their long-suffering wives or members of the higher eschelon, no one is truly safe from the insanity of Stallin's tyranny. Of course, we get brief moments of levity thanks to Solzhenytsin's brilliant irony, which is especially present in the Stallin POV chapter.

This whole work is fascinating - it's a techically well grounded fiction novel, heavily inspired by real-life events and people, which conveys the horror of a regime without coming off as preachy. There are so many brilliant, quote-worthy thoughts inside; at one point, I found myself noting particular sentences and paragraphs from almost every page - and that's something I never do.

I'm absolutely in awe of this novel and I hope I'll be able to find something equal to its strength, clarity and impact.
19 reviews4 followers
July 9, 2020
Ho iniziato subito dopo Canale Mussolini e ho impiegato un po’ per leggere le quasi 1000 pagine di questo libro non perché sia noioso quanto Piuttosto per le numerose possibilità di riflettere. In alcuni punti è ostico e ho avuto bisogno di intervallarlo con altre letture. Tre giorni di vita da prigionieri in una “saraska”, prigioni particolari “inventate” Dalla dittatura staliniana per accogliere i prigionieri utili alla causa che in questi luoghi non lavorano ma progettano. I numerosi personaggi servono all'autore, che ha vissuto un periodo da prigioniero, per descrivere come una dittatura può esercitare il suo controllo sulla persona non solo chiudendola tra quattro mura ma anche imprigionando il suo pensiero. Ottimo libro consigliato.
Profile Image for Susan Hirtz.
67 reviews13 followers
July 22, 2014
This is the finest literary work among all the books A.S. wrote, in my opinion.

Its theme is of human freedom: where it resides in the human spirit, how to preserve it, and the role of creativity in survival have made this book an integral part of my own philosophy of life.

It has many levels but hit me hardest in a deeply spiritual place. It caused me to stop and think about my reason for living, beyond emotion, past relationships, except for the ultimate one, that with self. That is where choice resides. When we have nothing left to lose, choice is still an option.
Profile Image for Carl.
14 reviews25 followers
February 10, 2023
Solzhenitsyn's First Circle is a work of history, which describes the strange and terrible forced intellectual labor system of Stalin, where Stalin compelled engineers and scientists to create technology to be used for war and espionage, and if they refused he sent them to forced physical labor. The title is from Dante's Inferno, where Dante describes 9 levels of hell, with the 9th level as the worst, and the 1st level as almost not hell. It is a book of history and story, and a study of ethics and how difficult it can be do do the right thing.
Profile Image for Pietro Calò.
Author 4 books3 followers
March 4, 2019
Il primo cerchio” è l’intuizione letteraria di Dante che, davanti al dilemma dei Grandi dell’Antichità che più di non adorare Dio non lo conoscevano affatto, s’inventò questo pensionato che sta nell’Inferno ma non lo è, e pur fuori dalla luce divina questi grandi uomini non patiscono le pene degli “zek” (i prigionieri) che popolavano i gulag socialisti.
A Mosca, non lontano dal centro città, è organizzata una di queste “saraska” che ospita 281 zek in gran parte ingegneri e matematici relativamente poco controllati e tutti dediti a lavori e costruzione di aggegi utili allo “sforzo comune” della Patria. È il 1949 e Stalin, presente in prima persona in uno dei capitoletti, inizia a percepire una fine non lontanissima assistito dal fedelissimo cameriere come lui georgiano col quale può liberamente parlare il suo russo fortemente cadenzato.

Come un romanzo di Fleming, la nostra storia introduce un "mistero" che occuperà i due interi volumi: un dirigente del Corpo Diplomatico arrischia una telefonata a un celebre medico moscovita cui suggerisce di non fare ciò che aveva deciso di fare in quanto sorvegliato dalla polizia segreta, la Cecka. La telefonata è intercettata e il Ministero degli Interni nella diretta persona dello spietato Abakumov deve assolutamente dare un volto a quelle parole eversive. Percorrendo con precisione zoliana la piramide e il protocollo burocratico si crea all’interno della saraska un gruppo di lavoro super-segreto che fonde due diversi progetti di lavoro, quello sul Clipper e quello sul Vokoder, per battezzare una scienza, la Fonoscopia, lo studio dei “fono-aspetti”, le minime unità vocali che rendono unica e identificabile qualsiasi voce umana.

Come nella migliore tradizione del grande romanzo russo, il pretesto letterario è solo una buona scusa per dipingere una galleria di caratteri nazionali, mettere in forma di schema la diabolica struttura di comando-controllo, raccontare la “vita dei traditori della Patria” e tante altre cosette più interessanti dello smascheramento della spia.
Romanzo corale che segue ascese e cadute di uomini perennemente in bilico, siano essi prigionieri senza futuro o ministri in carica, tutti rassegnati al tocco di campana che arriverà, in una forbice di tempo strettissima che va dal Natale al Capodanno del 1950, un momento di festa che sarà preludio un’altra tristissima storia del dispotismo perché si fa strada in quei giorni una nuova parola d’ordine spregiativa, il Cosmopolitismo che sarà il marchio infame di una nuova purga, quella contro gli Ebrei che fino a quel momento erano considerati i più fedeli soldati del Socialismo e per questo erano arrivati ad occupare i posti più nevralgici dell’apparato e, giunti così in alto, è il momento di buttarli giù (basti solo pensare che dei tre vice di Abakumov, due erano ebrei).

Molti capitoli restano impressi vivamente: quello, già accennato, in cui uno Stalin stanco si trascina tra le polverine magiche per il suo stomaco in subbuglio e il foglio bianco su cui scrivere quelle sue frasi ischemiche e apodittiche che sarebbero state chiamate “Verità”.
Struggente è una faccia a faccia sotto forma di ricordo di gioventù, su una piccola altura della capitale su cui dominava un’antica chiesa ortodossa che sarebbe stata abbattuta da lì a poco. Lui è uno dei vice di Abakumov (nonché l’unico russo) che ha appena ricevuto un ultimatum di 30 giorni per la consegna del famigerato strumento di Verità. Il ministro lo ha insultato e picchiato ma questo è positivo, ha ancora una chance, ancora 30 giorni. Ha ancora qualche speranza e sa bene che essere picchiati dal capo vuole ancora dire che hanno ancora fiducia in lui. Lei è una ragazza non bella ma vivace e intelligente, una universitaria che non farà una grande carriera perché il suo papà è stato arrestato e di conseguenza è marchiata pure lei ed è infine cosciente che quel giovine innamorato la metterà presto in disparte, per non essere a sua volta emarginato o peggio.
Lei cerca di scalfire l’animo di quel ragazzo nonostante tutto buono e intelligente, bello e ambizioso ma che nutre verso il Socialismo una fede ottusa, irragionevole.

Di sapore quasi dostoevskiano è uno degli ultimi capitoli, quello in cui Gleb afferma a gran voce che “non nell’Oceano si annega ma in una misera pozzanghera” sicché accoglie quasi con entusiasmo, come Raskolnikov il suo castigo, la punizione che gli è appena stata affibbiata: la “tappa”, il trasferimento dal primo cerchio della saraska al gulag, l’Inferno vero e proprio. Lui, insieme a nove altri compagni di sventura, è caricato su di un camion mimetizzato con allegre e colorate scritte di “trasporto carni” in tre lingue (russo, inglese e tedesco) e attraversa Mosca nel mentre un giornalista di Liberation, seduto al bar prima di recarsi alla partita di rugby della Dinamo, afferra al volo il suo taccuino a annota entusiasta: “Nonostante le difficoltà del dopo-guerra, a Mosca vedo tantissimi camion che trasportano nei quartieri i beni di prima necessità”.
Profile Image for Perry Whitford.
1,956 reviews63 followers
March 26, 2020
When it comes to writing prison novels there is surely no substitute for experience. Solzhenitsyn knew about them well, gulags and sharashkas both, being one of the hundreds of thousands sent to labour camps as victims of Stalin's paranoia.

Solzhenitsyn has written exhaustively about his eleven years spent at one or the other, with this book focusing on his time in the latter, which was where the intelligentsia were sent to work on state sponsored projects and innovations, and where conditions were comparatively bearable.

Thus the prisoners reside in Dante's "first circle of hell", as opposed to the gulags, which were more akin to the ninth circle.

Over 700 pages Solzhenitsyn provides an unforgettable insight into conditions of the sharashka across the span of just three microscopically observed days, primarily through the eyes of mathematician Gleb Nerzhin who, like the author himself, is imprisoned for nothing more than a perceived insult to Stalin contained within a letter to a friend.

The greatest strength of the book however rests in the multiplicity of perspectives contained, not just that of the prisoners - who are themselves a disparate bunch - but also of the guards, the administrators, wives and daughters. Also, for one haunting chapter, that of Stalin himself on the night of his death.

Due to his uncommon even-handedness and depth of humanity, Solzhenitsyn has created a timeless testament to what it means to those who must both suffer and administer state justice in a country driven by paranoia and arbitrary acts of punishment. Every kind of response is contained within these pages, not just anger and despair.

A masterpiece. I would like to read it again, but I still have three volumes of the Gulag Archipelago to immerse myself in first before I come back to it!
Profile Image for Paul Gaya Ochieng Simeon Juma.
617 reviews36 followers
August 2, 2016
'The First Circle' is a novel to remember. I now understand why the writer is compared to Fyodor Dostoyevsky. A nobel winner himself, the writer has proved that he deserves the title.

The novel takes us into the Sharaska, a Russian prison that houses the most 'dangerous' prisoners in the country. Also known as political prisoners. Among them are Nerzhin, Solodgin, Rubin, Adamson, Bobynin ete. The offenders are referred to as 'zeks'. Most of them are educated and have attained the highest level of penmanship in their profession. They are imprisoned because they don't agree with Stalin's policies and views.

Stalin is portrayed as a paranoid dictator who has no friends besides Hitler. He arrests and imprisons both the guilty and innocent citizens indiscriminately. Prison, as portrayed is a hard place to all of them. They have to work long hours without pay, live together in a filthy place etc. The tyrant is feared by prisoners and guards alike.

Trials at the time are not fair. Prisoners are tried and convicted on hearsay evidence alone. Moreover, they may be tried in absentia without being required to give their side of the story. Afterwards they are separated from their families and their work. They are not allowed to read or write any material while in the prison. Foreign books are also forbidden. All that remains are memories of their past and hope or despair for the uncertain future.

Strength is the only virtue that carries them on. Despite their circumstances, they can afford to laugh and be happy in the company of each other, I would recommend the book to everyone.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 381 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.