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Old September 26th, 2014, 04:15 AM   #21
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"What good is freedom to you? If you're free, your faith will soon be choked by thorns. Be glad you are in prison." Shukhov senses the truth of these words. Is freedom any longer desired? Thus the theme of freedom is transfigured and defined not by confinement but by the clearness of ones vision; camp survival becomes spiritual survival. Outside the camp, in the cities and villages the citizens go through the motions of a free life with a spiritual numbness.
Some really moving insights here, taking me back thirty years when by divine accident this book saved my soul. It should be required reading for every student of literature, history, or humanity, yet I am glad it is not. It is too special a book for mass consumption, and I'm unsure those who have never experienced constant freezing can fully understand it. On the second page is a mantra I still try to live by:

"Here, men, we live by the law of the taiga. But even
here people manage to live. The ones that don't make it
are those who lick other men's leftovers, those who
count on the doctors to pull them through, and those
who squeal on their buddies."
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Old September 26th, 2014, 08:56 AM   #22

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... It should be required reading for every student of literature, history, or humanity, yet I am glad it is not. ...
I understand that thought completely. Thank you for that. You obviously have a story to tell. I hope you get to share it with us. Maybe something for Historum's journal?
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Old February 24th, 2015, 12:24 AM   #23

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Perhaps this is a topic for a whole new thread!

Is possible that translations might also add to the fabric of a story as well as detract? Clearly it changes it. Surely it cannot be the case that English readers cannot appreciate Solzhenitsyn or Tolstoy or Zola or Voltaire quite as much as native reader!! Can it?
I would say that Solzhenitsyn is hard to read even in Russian (Ivan Denisovitch is an exception).

While I never read Tolstoy in English, I suspect that the translation fails, because when I wanted to use his phrase, "God is love", as a footnote, I came across the official English translation, "where God is, love is". Even the meaning is very different from the original.

This being said, half of "War and Peace", my favorite book of all times, is written in French, Russian aristocracy's language of 1812, so Francophones can enjoy it.

For the ones who want to get acquainted with Russian literature, i would recommend Chekhov. His stories are easy to read, and it would seem to me that he is better translated than our giants Dostoevsky or Tolstoy.
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Old February 24th, 2015, 12:28 AM   #24

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Re. Ivan Denisovitch. What shocked me was that it was his ordinary day, not the bad one. One could only imagine how the bad ones felt.
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Old February 24th, 2015, 03:10 AM   #25
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Re. Ivan Denisovitch. What shocked me was that it was his ordinary day, not the bad one. One could only imagine how the bad ones felt.
You can read in the book of Gustaw Herling Grudziński who was in Gulag and who did write his book 10 years before Solzhenitsyn. Much more complex description of this what really siberian Gulag was.


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Old February 24th, 2015, 04:48 AM   #26

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I would say that Solzhenitsyn is hard to read even in Russian (Ivan Denisovitch is an exception).

While I never read Tolstoy in English, I suspect that the translation fails, because when I wanted to use his phrase, "God is love", as a footnote, I came across the official English translation, "where God is, love is". Even the meaning is very different from the original.

This being said, half of "War and Peace", my favorite book of all times, is written in French, Russian aristocracy's language of 1812, so Francophones can enjoy it.

For the ones who want to get acquainted with Russian literature, i would recommend Chekhov. His stories are easy to read, and it would seem to me that he is better translated than our giants Dostoevsky or Tolstoy.
I have a translation of the ' War and Peace ' by Constance Garnett . Which particular translation were you referring to ? Yes, I have read Chekhov. And that too, a story of his in Marathi, my mother tongue, the language spoken by about 100 million people in the south western state of Maharashtra in India ! And I was a schoolboy when I read it. All I remember about it is that it was about a boy and a Christmas gift he was expecting or something like that.
Have you read Nabokov in Russian and English both and what do you say about his own translation ? I have read his ' Lolita ' and ' Ada ', naturally in English. Did not like ' Lolita '. And that was in 1965 or so , 50 years ago. 'Ada ' was better but now, I do not remember anything about the story except that the hero remembers somebody who could walk on his hands. I read 'Ada ' when I was in a particularly bad point in my life, in 1972, i.e 43 years ago ! I had bought my copy from a Railway book stall in the down and out town of Manmad, a Railway junction in Maharashtra, where I was a trainee officer in the PWD ( Public Works Department ) of the state of Maharashtra.
I sometimes wonder whether the masterpieces of literature and art are seen / appreciated by us in good or bad light, depending on external factors like our state of mind, life and even health !

Last edited by rvsakhadeo; February 24th, 2015 at 05:29 AM.
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Old February 24th, 2015, 05:01 AM   #27

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Duplicate Post.

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Old February 24th, 2015, 05:43 AM   #28

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@arkteia
Would you recommend Lermontov and Mikhail Sholokhov , Gorky ? You know, in India in the past, we used to have Soviet books exhibited at all book exhibitions and I was often tempted to buy ' And quiet flows the Don' but did not buy it. When I was in the Indian Institute of Technology, a premier Engineering college in Mumbai ( aka Bombay ), started with the help of Soviet Union, we saw, the films like the ' Fate of a man ' by Sergei Bondarchuk. and I think I saw the ' Ballad of a Soldier ' but do not remember with certainty.
By the way, I have read ' White Nights ' by Dostoevsky. But I have deliberately not read other gloomy novels of his. Who will like to get gloomier still at one's own cost ?

Last edited by rvsakhadeo; February 24th, 2015 at 05:53 AM.
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Old February 24th, 2015, 08:39 AM   #29

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@arkteia
Would you recommend Lermontov and Mikhail Sholokhov , Gorky ? You know, in India in the past, we used to have Soviet books exhibited at all book exhibitions and I was often tempted to buy ' And quiet flows the Don' but did not buy it. When I was in the Indian Institute of Technology, a premier Engineering college in Mumbai ( aka Bombay ), started with the help of Soviet Union, we saw, the films like the ' Fate of a man ' by Sergei Bondarchuk. and I think I saw the ' Ballad of a Soldier ' but do not remember with certainty.
By the way, I have read ' White Nights ' by Dostoevsky. But I have deliberately not read other gloomy novels of his. Who will like to get gloomier still at one's own cost ?
Do not spend your time on Gorky. Seriously.

Lermontov's prose is very good if translated right. I suspect that it is easier to translate it into French, English has a very different structure. His poetry, while amazing, is probably hard to appreciate in another language.

Sholokhov wrote one good book, "and quietly flows the Don". The rest was opportunistic.

I'd choose Tolstoy over Dostoyevsky any day! Perhaps it has to do with Dostoevsky's illness, or his PTSD (he was standing at the execution place, waiting to be shot, once). Whatever the reason, he does not see many positive traits in mankind. Tolstoy does.
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Old February 24th, 2015, 08:47 AM   #30

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You can read in the book of Gustaw Herling Grudziński who was in Gulag and who did write his book 10 years before Solzhenitsyn. Much more complex description of this what really siberian Gulag was.


A World Apart (book) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Thank you. I shall try to find it. I have looked at the link, but do you think that it might have been translated into Russian? There is similarity between Russian and Polush, perhaps I could appreciate his style better.

Varlam Shalamov's "Kolyma Tales" are amazing, but they were published only in the 90-es, so they are less known than "Ivan Denisovitch".

(BTW - a hard thing to discuss, but still - do you know that with the global warming, the ice in Kolyma has started to melt, and all these corpses of the hapless, unknown Gulag victims, suddenly became visible? In war years, they died in thousands, and were just left in taiga, the guards assumed that the permafrost would take care of them. It did, for decades. Must have been a horrible thing to see them.)

Last edited by arkteia; February 24th, 2015 at 08:50 AM.
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