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A more complete version of the book was published in English in The novel depicts the lives of the occupants of a sharashka a research and development bureau made of gulag inmates located in the Moscow suburbs. This novel is highly autobiographical. Unlike inhabitants of other gulag labor camps , the sharashka zeks were adequately fed and enjoyed good working conditions; however, if they found disfavor with the authorities, they could be instantly shipped to Siberia.

The title is an allusion to Dante 's first circle, or limbo of Hell in The Divine Comedy , [1] wherein the philosophers of Greece , and other virtuous pagans , live in a walled green garden. They are unable to enter Heaven , as they were born before Christ, but enjoy a small space of relative freedom in the heart of Hell.

Innokentii Volodin, a diplomat, makes a telephone call he feels obliged by conscience to make, even though he knows he could be arrested. His call is taped and the NKVD seek to identify who has made the call. The sharashka prisoners, or zeks, work on technical projects to assist state security agencies and generally pander to Stalin's increasing paranoia. While most are aware of how much better off they are than "regular" gulag prisoners some of them having come from gulags themselves , some are also conscious of the overwhelming moral dilemma of working to aid a system that is the cause of so much suffering.

As Lev Rubin is given the task of identifying the voice in the recorded phone call, he examines printed spectrographs of the voice and compares them with recordings of Volodin and five other suspects. He narrows it down to Volodin and one other suspect, both of whom are arrested. By the end of the book, several zeks, including Gleb Nerzhin, the autobiographical hero, choose to stop co-operating, even though their choice means being sent to much harsher camps.

Volodin, initially crushed by the ordeal of his arrest, begins to find encouragement at the end of his first night in prison. The book also briefly depicts several Soviet leaders of the period, including Stalin himself, who is depicted as vain and vengeful, remembering with pleasure the torture of a rival, dreaming of one day becoming emperor of the world, or listening to his subordinate Viktor Abakumov and wondering: " The novel addresses numerous philosophical themes, and through multiple narratives is a powerful argument both for a stoic integrity and humanism.

Like other Solzhenitsyn works, the book illustrates the difficulty of maintaining dignity within a system designed to strip its inhabitants of it. Solzhenitsyn first wrote this book with 96 chapters. He felt he could never get this version published in the USSR, so he produced a "lightened" version of 87 chapters.

In the long version, the diplomat Volodin's phone call chapter 1 was to the US embassy, warning them of a Soviet attempt to get atomic bomb secrets. In the short version this call is to an old family doctor warning him not to share a new medicine with some French doctors he will visit. Another difference, in the long version Sologdin is a Roman Catholic, while in the short version his faith is not described.

This version was first published abroad in A paperback edition, still consisting of 87 chapters was published in , translated from the Russian by Max Hayward, Manya Harari and Michael Glenny.

The complete 96 chapter version with some later revisions was published in Russian by YMCA Press in , and has been published in Russia as part of Solzhenitsyn's complete works.

While it adhered closely to Solzhenitsyn's plot, the film was a critical and commercial failure. Directed by Larry Sheldon , it received nominations for best dramatic miniseries, best actor, best actress, and best writing in the category. Murray Abraham as Stalin. It was released on DVD. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see First Circle disambiguation.

Dewey Decimal. Ericson, Jr. Selected works by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Prussian Nights The Love-Girl and the Innocent Categories : novels Novels set in the Stalin era Gulag in literature and arts Novels by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Novels set in Moscow Russian novels adapted into films Censored books.

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In the First Circle

At the height of Stalin's postwar terror, Innokenty, a young diplomat and scion of a corrupt ruling class, discovers an earlier and more spiritual tradition than that adopted by the October Revolution, the beginning of a process which is Solzhenitsyn's basic theme: the individual's experience of acquiring an immortal soul. Unwisely but generously, Innokenty helps a friend in danger of arrest, only to be arrested himself and sent to a special prison. This, the archetype of the Gulag, is described with masterful psychological insight. There are no heroes and hardly any villains; oppressors are no less victims then the oppressed.


Review: In the First Circle, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

I read The First Circle by Alexander Solzhenitsyn when I was 15, and although I have never read it again, it had a more profound effect on me than any other book in my life. Although I blub uncontrollably during black-and-white Second World War movies, The First Circle is the only book that has ever moved me to tears. It taught me the evils of totalitarianism of all kinds, and the sheer waste of human talent involved in all political systems that deny liberty, for whatever reason. In this story of the occupants of a Gulag prison just outside Moscow after the Second World War, the title is of course an allusion to Dante's Inferno.

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