Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Article 58

It may not appear natural, but the first day of an offensive through The Gulag Archipelago, in concert with my friend Ed, should find its velocity on a day marred with physical discomfort. I awoke racked with a sprained knee, a fever and an earache, all of which found purchase yesterday at work. A blustery day, but not terribly so. The pain and swelling of the joint was one for trepidation, especially in my vocation. That said, i awoke much later feeling congested but able and began reading.


I had first addressed this trilogy almost a decade ago and abandoned my effort after 70 or so pages. That thesis was challenged, if not overturned, by my reading today. If perfect memory is frozen, unapproachable in mnemonic recall, then the majority of lingering attributes within myself are but grimy slush. For years I had attributed that "absolute truth is privilege of those warm and well fed" to A Day In The Life of Ivan Densiovich, which I must have read just before my abortive turn with the Gulag, this was likely 1994 or 1995. I have since discovered that in my 4 or 5 subsequent readings of Denisovich that such statement is not within its covers. I rediscovered a paraphrase only today, in the third chapter, on p. 101.


The text overall begins impressively in style that speeds along, like an express through dense copses of statistics and Slavic names, maintaining not only velocity but integrity. We arrive initially at the encounter:


That's what the arrest is: it's a blinding flash and a blow which shifts the presently into the past and the impossible into omnipotent actuality. (4)


The chapter ends with muscular prose about Solzhenitsyn's own arrest. A quiet sense of naive hope, spent squatting in the snow and the steaming shit being momentarily forgotten as the real stench of prison air is suddenly upon the protagonist and the reader.


Anonymous B92 said...

As I wind my way through the tales from Mother Russia, I have once again come with that feeling of, life's good. On the worst day of my life or the combination of many of the same, could not come close to the shear miseray that was cast upon or felt by many of the people whom were gobbled up by the Soviet prison system during "the day". Solzhenitsyn was one of the lucky ones, just ponder what percentage he is in being able to even talk about it, let alone write a mammoth of a trilogy that we may all endure.
Good call JF, I'm lovin' it.

7:49 PM  
Blogger jon faith said...

AS was quick enough to state that his experience wasn't as severe as most in the State Security system. He hoped to enlist V. Shalamov (author of Kolyma Tales) to help with his project, but Shalamov was unable, due to health problems. Shalamov was at a Gold camp, his survival is miraculous. As to Solzhenitsyn, I am amazed that he was able to compile all of this data without any "unfortunate accidents."

8:02 AM  

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