I post book reviews of impossibly big reads on this blog. They’re the literary heavyweights, usually on the older side. Don’t be afraid of a history lesson. A heavy classic needs only a big attitude, big ideas, and more than a little bit of profundity. These books change the way people read. Some change the world. They’re a mountain range of world literature, high peaks that few dare to climb today.
The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 704 pages Published in 1976
Could a government fail this badly?
The word ‘archipelago’ conjures up images of a restful vacation. The scattered islands of the Aegean Sea are one such setting. People want to go there. And so we realize this oddly-poetic title, The Gulag Archipelago, is laced with sarcasm. Solzhenitsyn was not sent on vacation by his utopian government, the Soviet Union. He and his fellow citizens were not protected, supported, nor empowered. At least eighteen million of them were, by the weakest of connections or for no reason at all, branded as enemies. They were arrested, coerced to confess, sentenced to a prison term that was often fatal, or simply shot. Who would be next?