Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this at least 35 years ago, and it still at the top of my best books I've ever read list. Solzhenitsyn wrote a riveting tale which deals with his arrest for daring to present a differing view from Russia's prevailing totalitarian regime and his subsequent incarceration in the vast Soviet prison system. Despite the heavy subject matter - the stark chaotic realities of life (and death) in Stalin's Russia and the suffering of the inmates in the Gulag's deplorable prisons - the book is highly readable. Solzhenitsyn's first hand account reads more like a novel than an autobiography. He was able to outlive the rotten system that persecuted him and drove him into prison and exile, and finally wrote about his vindicating return to his homeland. It is an eye opening, poignant, and touching tale which should be read by anyone who thinks government (the State) exists to protect its citizens.

Favorite quotes:

“Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul.”

"the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart -- and through all human hearts. ...And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"

“Every man always has handy a dozen glib little reasons why he is right not to sacrifice himself.”

“It is unthinkable in the twentieth century to fail to distinguish between what constitutes an abominable atrocity that must be prosecuted and what constitutes that "past" which "ought not to be stirred up.”

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