Tuesday 30 November 2010

The cold of Siberia -One day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Bodley Head, 1971

One way to feel better about the current cold spell and get things in perspective is to read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich based on Solzhenitzyn's own experience of a Soviet prison camp in the late 1940s early 1950s.

A day in the life of a prisoner in the gulag is a life of routine, of being a number not a person, of avoiding the guards and scavanging around for scraps of food.

Most of all though it is about fighting the cold. in the prison camp where Ivan Denisovich is held, the prisoners do not have to work outside if it is less than -42 centigrade. On the day described in the book it is -27 centigrade -so no chance!!

Just to make things worse they have rules about the amount of clothing they can wear and there are inspections to make sure they are not wearing too much. Ivan Denisovich is not too bothered about his letters from home(twice a year)its the thickness of his boots that bother him.

A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a study in supression, cruelty and life under a totalitarian regime. It is also a study in surviving the cold.