The Gulag Archipelago (Vol. I & II)
This massive book has been sitting on my shelf taunting me for twenty-plus years. Ages ago it was recommended to me (by my art professor, Richard Long) as essential reading in the canon of conservative thought. It was only after having read some lesser (in page length) works about the Russian prison system’mainly, The Darkness at Noon and To Build a Castle—and having watched the excellent satirical T.V. series Comrade Detective, that I have mustered the energy to tackle this. Going into this endeavor I didn’t realize this copy was only two volumes of the seven books of The Gulag Archipelago and, quite frankly, I don’t think I will continue on to the rest. Doubtless this is an important work if history and literature. It is very thorough in its descriptions of the Gulag system… to a fault. Maybe, two dozen nearly identical depictions of an overcrowded cell are more than enough for one book? It is at its best when the narrative focuses on Solzhenitsyn’s personal accounts. However, there are multiple sections dedicated to a history of the various show trials from 1917 up to the 40s. The point being to show that the Gulags weren’t just Stalin’s doing. They had been a part of the Soviet experiment from the get go. Point taken. Lenin and Trotsky were both schmucks too. I think we are all well-aware of the horrors of communism by now (aren’t we?), and this account is just too much for me, as a mostly casual reader, to undertake. Still, worthwhile if you need further convincing that socialism is a dumb idea.