If only it were all so simple! – Reading Log 1

The Gulag Archipelago – Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1973)

The Mission – In an attempt to better keep track of my reading, I have settled on the idea that creating a short a post on the book with which I am currently engaged might prove a productive and useful undertaking. For the last 2 weeks, I have been spending every spare moment utterly transfixed by Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, 1918 – 1956 (1973).

Summary – In this  “experiment in literary investigation,” the Nobel Prize winning Solzhenitsyn details the brutal and truly terrifying realities of life in the Soviet Prison system during the first part of the 20th century.  More than that, he soberly examines the potentiality for corruption and tyrannical cruelty that exists within even the most unassuming and ordinary of souls. For Solzhenitsyn, the workings of Soviet society are a horror show of denunciation, incompetence, betrayal, violence and misery with constantly changing rules and a total disregard for truth.

So shocking a revelation was The Gulag Archipelago that within weeks of its publication, Solzhenitsyn was arrested, deported from the USSR and stripped of his Soviet Citizenship. It would take another 20 years before his final return to Russia in 1994.

Verdict – I have read my fair share of anti-Soviet literature in the past, but the memory of this book will surely haunt me for years to come. I can be certain of that much. As a result, I can’t escape the thought that something very similar to Solzhenitsyn’s deeply disturbing testimony could very possibly be lurking just around the corner for Western Society. However, that is for another day and another article. Who knows who could be reading and preparing their denunciation against me? Until the day that the secret police drag me off for interrogation, I advise you to read this book and learn from it.

Memorable Quote – “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

How about my visitors? Have any of you read this book? What were your thoughts on finishing The Gulag Archipelago? Perhaps you could recommend the perfect book to follow this one.

You can now follow my adventures on Instagram here.


  1. Mick Canning says:

    I read it a long time ago, and was certainly struck by the power of the writing.

  2. cathum says:

    I haven’t read any Solzhenitsyn. Sounds like something to look out for. Nice review.

  3. I have not read the book but I know what you mean by dragging you away. I keep winking into my webcam even when it’s turned off. So they’ll take it easier on me. I’ll read it with great interest when a chance appears.

    1. criticaldispatches says:

      Ha ha, that’s great.

  4. Marvelous quote. I’m not so sure the line between good and true evil is not that simple. I think it’s pretty simple, actually, now that I reflect on it. Playing in gray areas makes for murky, murky.

    1. criticaldispatches says:

      There’s a great book called Ordinary Men which is about a very similar topic but looking at the case of Nazi concentration camp soldiers.

  5. A very good book which opens the pages of history many Russians would prefer to leave unread. Can I also suggest Anatoly Kuznetsov’s ‘Babi Yar’ as another of those stories that many would wish to remain untold? I was deeply affected by this book when I was young.

    1. criticaldispatches says:

      Hi, I will certainly check it out.

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