Comment: I borrowed this book in Portuguese from the same person that has lent me so many others in the past. It wasn't a choice I made, once again, it was something the person thought I'd appreciate and gave it to me to read. I truly appreciate her gesture and her thoughts and belief in my literary taste and willingness to increase my fictional reads but sometimes the titles she picks aren't things I'd choose for myself or that would be the most interesting. I prefer to read for entertainment and serious fiction reads aside, to see how a plot would engage me. Nevertheless, I feel thankful someone lends me her books, as I know it's not always an easy decision to trust our beloved books to someone else.
This book was written by a Nobel prize winner, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and his tale and experience of living and surviving in the Gulag, the equivalent to concentration camps in Russia, during Stalin's dictatorship.
The book is a descriptive narrative of what led to a detention, why were so many people accused, how thy were treated and how such a terrible heritage still lives on, thanks to the memories of countless men and women who suffered and paid with their lives for such testimony. The author shares his own experience but he also mentioned many times how this is s tribute to all the others, friends and comrades, who had the same fate. This is them honoring all of those who didn't have the opportunity to speak and live.
I'm not debating politics here, although that certainly is a huge part of the book. Just bear in mind everything looks easy after time has passed or if you weren't involved in it. Yes, this time was bad, terrible things were done but is any other political regime any better? This would allow for neverending conversations so let's leave it at that.
I confess this isn't a theme I would look forward to read about. Its importance to the History and Humanity notwithstanding, I admit it takes a certain mood and state of mind to read about it with some interest.
I wasn't always in the mood, though. The theme is heavy, difficult to read but the author's choice of presenting it didn't engage me completely. I think if the story had been shared as a diary or in a more lyric style, I would feel closer to him and his pain and more interested in seeing him overcome all the difficulties and be freed.
But this was treated more like a non-fiction (which in reality is, but...), and the story is told in different sub-themes, which distracts out attention and turns the tale into something boring, I'm afraid, to go though. Something else that didn't help me to maintain my focus was the incredible amount of footnotes. I can understand why they exist but it's super distracting to stop reading to check the footnotes' explanations and get back to the story. It's too distracting.
Well, probably the fault isn't with the author, he was just sharing his experience. But in terms of readable text, it was difficult and the way it was presented made it difficult to analyze and absorb the message. If you feel bored, it's complicated to assimilate the message.
This doesn't mean the content was boring. It's not that what I'm saying: what I mean is that the way the information is presented doesn't allow for us, the reader, to fully commiserate, despite the first person narrative. All the references to several ideas/places/people/facts are interesting but not always easy to follow either, because it's something so out of our notion of space.
I wonder why the story was told this way... the style at the time it was written/published? A demand of publishers? Author's thought it was best?
I've read other non fiction biography-styled stories and even tales in the first person that I found more easy to follow and empathize with than this. It doesn't mean the author isn't worthy or didn't suffer or should be acknowledged by his steps into making something fair at last for all of those who died, but... one needs to read it with will to better absorb it too.
In the end, I think I should say I recommend it for the History lesson it is and because to honor those who died and their memories, we shouldn't let it fade away...but it's definitely something to be read at a time nothing else is on out minds.