One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Book - 1984
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This brutal, shattering glimpse of the fate of millions of Russians under Stalin shook Russia and shocked the world when it first appeared. Discover the importance of a piece of bread or an extra bowl of soup, the incredible luxury of a book, the ingenious possibilities of a nail, a piece of string or a single match in a world where survival is all. Here safety, warmth and food are the first objectives. Reading it, you enter a world of incarceration, brutality, hard manual labour and freezing cold - and participate in the struggle of men to survive both the terrible rigours of nature and the inhumanity of the system that defines their conditions of life.
Publisher: Harmondsworth, Middlesex : Penguin Books, 1984.
Branch Call Number: FICTION
Characteristics: 142 p. ;,18 cm.
Notes: First published by Penguin in 1963, first issued in Penguin modern classics 1984.
Translation of: Odin denʹ Ivana Denisovicha.


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A harrowing yet beautiful look at 24 hours of life in a Stalinist Russian prison and labour camp. Our central character strives hard to maintain dignity in the face of inhumanity, where seemingly ordinary objects take on great significance in the quest for one's own survival. A bleak and hard-hit... Read More »

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Apr 28, 2021

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich By Alexander Solzhenitsyn is a very short and simple book, only 141 pages long and actually physically a small book as well. When first coming into this work I was determined but hesitant to read it, expecting that it would be extremely tough to digest, considering that the book is based on real life events. However, I was extremely surprised to discover that although the entire book's undertone is quite sad and unjust, Alexander was able to document happy and comedic moments that Ivan and his gang members went through, and it made me smile. It shows how even in unfair situations, humans will form relationships and make the best of it. Both Ivan and his gang members in this book have such amazing, varying, and real personalities, and I came to love every single one of them in their own way. Coming out of this book, I became more educated on the lives of prisoners in the Soviet Union Gulag system, and I would recommend this book to anyone interested in its history as well. 4.5/5 -@JP101 of the Hamilton Public Library Teen Review Board

Mar 23, 2021

The simplicity of this book is what makes it so impactful. There is no need for fillers or extravagant events, nothing that would otherwise be identifiable in "action" books, like a grand escape, etc. The simplicity of Ivan's day holds volumes in weight, especially considering the story is based on true events (the author's experience), which only increases the impact a reader feels. The characters feel real; almost too real. It feels as if every time "One Day" is opened those imprisoned souls come back to life, repeating the days they were designated to repeat for upwards of years (or for some, 25 years).

It's a short and simple story about a day in the incarceration of an insignificant ant - Ivan Denisovich - in the grand scheme of the rolling machinery that was the Gulag. But do not be fooled, even though short and labelled "simple," "One Day" is anything but rudimentary writing, every page is packed in what seems to be reality and truth itself.

Read this book. Not only will you feel grateful for the ease of your life, but you'll leave with a better understanding of the Soviet Gulag system and the unfortunate lives that were caught in its gears. And above all, I hope that by reading this you transcend. The Gulag Archipelago by the same author - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn - is highly recommended after reading this book, even though long and focused solely on non-fiction, it's the required book in understanding the USSR.

Jan 14, 2019

To my knowledge, Solzhenitsyn has got a Nobel Prize, I don't remember if he was able to pick it up. His other book, titled sg. like "The House Of Matriona" is also a great work, a vivid picture on human nature. There he shows how Matriona, this kind natured woman is different from her own relatives, the "crowd." OK, now back to the prison camp. I was born during the war in Hungary, and after the war my father was also put into a prison camp for 3 months. The book here tells the real sufferings and complexities of human behavior (corruption as well) inside a Soviet camp. This is an unforgettable account directly from an insider's mouth. Now I tell you the story of R.B., a Hungarian accountant, who in the 1970s told me his own prison camp story in after-war communist Hungary, and he wept all thru his account. He said that in 1948 the company where he worked as chief accountant, bought some used furniture from a Jewish widow, whose husband had been killed by the Nazis. So he, as an accountant, did not deduct from the money due to that widow the mandatory "contribution" to the Comm. Party's election fund. Then the director of the company called him "traitor", spat into his face, and when he protested, slapped him on the face as well. And then reported him as an enemy, who badmouthed the Party (this was a lie), and based on that false charge he was sent into a prisoners' labor camp for 3 years for "reeducation." There was so much physical and moral suffering in there, that when he was released with another inmate, as they stood outside the gate and looked at the open meadow outside, suddenly both of them started running in the field until they dropped to the ground from exhaustion. Years later this accountant gathered enough strength to go back to the site of the camp to see it, but there was no sign whatever of the camp being there ever. Finally, years later he bumped into his old-time boss at a conference - the boss was very embarrassed, but finally he went up to our man and apologized. OK, so this book about a Soviet labor camp is very powerful and truthful, an unforgettable account. GUYS, as I re-read this comment of mine, I remembered what I learned in College here in Vancouver about concentration camps in Canada and in this province. I was horrified at those accounts in our textbook. During the Great Depression, abt 90 yrs ago the Chinese were put into such camps, bec. allegedly those immigrants brought some plague into this province. During and after WW1 the Italians, Ukrainians and the unemployed also were put into such camps, and even the Jews who fled from the Nazis to England - find and read the history of the Ripples-Pinto camp in New Brunswick, where the Jews were put into the same camp with the German POWs, and some Jews committed suicide out of fear. They were transferred from England to Canada, bec. it was supposed that some spies might have been hiding among them. Well, let's hope this won't repeat again here, but it looks to me that the folk here are prone to paranoia. I heard a Canadian radio program on the Ripples-Pinto camp, and a music prof, a Jew who was in there talked. And also I heard a program on French Canadian Radio on a person Von Alvenslebens, who created the Stock Market here in Vancouver before WW1, and he was arrested at the start of the war as a spy. He was not. Camps are looming ghosts of our rather recent past.

Dec 10, 2018

'Oh, you mustn't pray for that either,' said Alyosha, horrified. 'Why d'you want freedom? In freedom your last grain of faith will be choked with weeds. You should rejoice that you're in prison. Here you have time to think about your soul. As the Apostle Paul wrote: "Why all these tears? Why are you trying to weaken my resolution? For my part I am ready not merely to be bound but even to die for the name of the Lord Jesus." '

Date Started: December 3, 2018
Date finished: December 8, 2018
Time: 236 minutes (3.9 hours)

Aug 04, 2018

This was the third time I read Ivan Denisovich. By the way, it is impolite to refer to a Russian person only by First name, unless close friend or relative and not much older than you.
I read the eight comments available to us and was very glad that most people found the great value that is in it, literary and human. There was one person who wrote that it was VERY VERY boring. A friend who, in her earlier years 'taught' the book made the comment to me yesterday: "Everybody should read this book". I agree, but sadly, apparently there are some people on whom it has no redeeming effect. Happily, very few.
I am an 82 year old Hungarian who lived through nazism, the terror called communism, took part in the '56 revolution and, sadly, found it necessary to escape before retaliations. Our family lost everything we owned, in 1944, down to the last piece of underwear. We never whined. You go on. There is always beauty and value in life if you are strong enough to look for it.
When a person who has not gone through similar experiences "gets" this book, I tip my hat to them. Or should I tip my hat to Solzhenitsyn's literary and human genius?
Judit Dibuz, Seattle

Dec 12, 2017

This book offers a powerfully matter-of-fact description of life in the Soviet gulag system in the aftermath of World War II. Reading about people whose daily reality involved struggling and scheming for even the tiniest fraction of respite and sustenance made me thankful for the privileges I enjoy, yet apprehensive about society's fragile nature. It's a good, quick read that provides a timely reminder that life goes on and we must do our best regardless of the obstacles placed before us.

Oct 20, 2017

Despite this book’s reputation as a restrained yet powerful classic, I found it painfully bleak to read. (Shades of “Groundhog Day” in the most desolate way imaginable). This story of a "happy" day in Ivan's wretched life as a gulag prisoner gives us a glimpse into a world where to live through one more day is an accomplishment. One of 3,653 days. I have to admire him for his resilience in the dehumanizing situation, but the abusive injustice of the entire situation vexes me in reading about it. Which, I suppose, makes it a very effective story.

Oct 07, 2017

A sadly timely read.

Oct 06, 2017

At first, the book seems to drag. It doesn't take long for that to become the point, as the reader is dragged completely into a world from which there is no escape. People known to their guards only by their numbers wake in the bitter Siberian winter, and spend the entire day working completely to exhaustion building nothing, trying only to survive on minimal gruel and filthy crusts of bread, insufficient sleep, harassment or worse, counting the days until their release. Yet during this one dreadful day, Ivan has moments of sheer happiness. H even thinks that perhaps spending the rest of his life in this labor camp atoning for something he didn't even do would be preferable to release to a world that's passed him by. It took me several weeks to read, as the horror of it made me put it down, only for the fascination to make me pick it back up again. An incredible book.

Aug 26, 2017

We are all familiar with the Hollywood Second World War films, where a bunch of grunts of different ethnicities and faiths are wielded into a cohesive unit. Think, for instance, of ("The Thin Red Line". Oddly, Solzhenitsyn's masterpiece in some ways conforms to this genre. His hero, Ivan, is in fact, a Red Army soldier, perversely serving a 10-year term for succeeding in escaping Nazi captivity. His unit is multi-ethnic, containing a Western Ukrainian, an Estonian, a Balt, someone of mixed Greek, Jewish and other ethnicity, and a Russian Baptist, Alyosha, stands out from the other ethnic Russians given Russia's Orthodox traditions. As in the Hollywood movies, the unit is held together by a brave, strong-willed unit leader. Where it differs from Hollywood is that the unit is not bent on defeating the Japanese or the Germans, but simply on surviving the brutality of the camps.

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Oct 07, 2020

Kerguelen thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Jul 05, 2019

ea304gt thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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Oct 07, 2020

Life in the gulag is frigid and tiring for comrade Ivan Denisovich. Inspired by Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s own experiences in the brutal labor camps of the former Soviet Union comes a book that sheds light on to how an ordinary prisoner would find themselves in the labor camp. The book follows Ivan Denisovich as it documents his chemistry with the other prisoners, the arduous labor his unit must do, and how he ended up in the camp in the first place. As the book progresses, the reader would grow familiar with Ivan Denisovich’s resourcefulness as he analyzes what actions will give him an advantage, some of which come with great risk.


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Feb 28, 2020

"You get no thanks from your belly- it always forgets what you've just done for it and comes begging again the next day" (Solzhenitsyn 121).


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