In The First Circle Bookclub!



Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to

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8 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    There was a theory at the time that Solzhenitsyn was sent to the West because once his champions here realized that he distrusted modernity, democracy, and liberalism of any sort, he’d be an embarrassment, and that was much smatter than making him a martyr. I doubt it because the Soviets weren’t that clever or insightful.

    Having finished it, I almost want to re-read it again right away, this time taking notes so I’ll remember who all the characters are.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      The first time I read it, I was a young man (granted, the expurgated version as well).

      15 years later, it reads completely differently… and I’m not sure that all of that can be chalked up to the new/improved version.Report

  2. Avatar Fish says:

    A fantastically strong finish.

    With Oskolupov, it was more “Innocent? What does that even mean?” Remember also that there were four or five others who were picked up near the phone booth where Innokenty made his fateful phone call. I don’t recall which official thought it, but it was something about how they would have to be charged with something because they couldn’t just be released after being picked up (the state is never wrong, after all).

    And now a silly question: How much of this was real? I mean, the book is based off Solzhenitsyn’s own experiences in the penal system devised by The Honest Hard Working Man’s Best Friend, but how much of it is an actual reflection of life in Stalin’s Russia? How could a nation even function while yoked with such a system? (Or maybe this question is best left for next week’s post…)Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Well, this is one of those things that I am stuck saying “I don’t know”.

      Is what was said in the Gulag Archipelago true? If the Gulag Archipelago is true, then know that what happened in Russia was *EVEN WORSE*.

      This book was a story about a couple of really good days, remember.

      That was the basic conceit of “A Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich”. It told the story of a really good day for Ivan, in which everything went his way. And you’re stuck saying “THAT WAS A *GOOD* DAY???”

      I’d recommend (for everybody, actually) reading The Gulag Archipelago. You can get it for about 20 bucks. It’s non-fiction, it’s harrowing, it’s depressing… and then you’ll find Solzhenitsyn’s sly humor and you’ll bark out a laugh for a second.

      I don’t think that Solzhenitsyn was overstating anything that he described. I think that it was understated, if anything.Report

      • Avatar Fish says:

        I’m considering picking up the three volume Archipelago, and I’ll probably add Denisovich to that list as well.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          You can read Denisovich in an afternoon and, if I recall correctly, it’s a book that you can hand to your oldest without worry as soon as you’re done.Report

    • Avatar Barry says:

      ” How could a nation even function while yoked with such a system? (Or maybe this question is best left for next week’s post…)”

      The answer was that it didn’t work more often than it did.Report

  3. Avatar zic says:

    I’ve been polite and waited before saying this, but that portrait!

    I’ve been wanting to knit an alien-head soft sculpture; I’ll use that for my basic shaping.

    Thank you.Report