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Kolyma Tales

Shalamov was a political prisoner in the Soviet Union and was sent to the gulags in northeastern Siberia. This book is life-changing in that he nonchalantly tells stories of extreme discomfort and how the men would kill each other without a second thought if they didn't like what the other was doing. Narrating tales over many years of desperation, Kolyma Tales puts the reader in the shoes of someone who knows they can't escape but can't lose the survival instinct, either. This is easily one of the best books I've ever read.

Kolyma Tales

Prof. John Glad has made a valuable contribution to our appreciation of an important contemporary Russian writer by making available a representative selection of Shalamov's stories for the first time in English translation, carefully preserving the understated Chekhovian style of the original. These two dozen tales depict the dehumanization of man as witnessed by a victim who possessed the determination to remember and the talent to communicate.

In 1972, Shalamov wrote a letter to Literaturnaya Gazeta, the influential Moscow newspaper, repudiating his tales of Kolyma as "no longer topical." Such recantations are frequent among harassed Soviet writers, but they pique the curiosity of many Russian readers who cannot obtain the truth from censored publications. It is hoped that someday Russians will have free access to these books of artistic and historical merit, which broaden our perspective of Soviet reality.

Varlam Shalamov (1907-1982) was a Russian writer who was sent to the Gulags and lived to tell the tale. I read about this collection of tales on one of the blogs I read, but I forgot to note which one, and it took me so long to read the book on my kindle, (because I read it only in cafés and waiting rooms and sometimes sitting beside my sleeping father until he woke up) that now all I can do is to thank my anonymous source for the recommendation.

A masterpiece of Gulag literature, the complete Kolyma Stories is a thousand-page epic composed of short fictional tales based on Russian writer Varlam Shalamov's fifteen years in the Gulag. He spent six years as a slave in the gold mines of Kolyma, a far northeast region of the USSR and one of the coldest and most inhospitable places on earth, before finding a less intolerable life as a paramedic in the prison camps. He began writing his six-volume prose account of life in Kolyma after Stalin's death in 1953 and continued until his own physical and mental decline in the late 1970s. Kolyma Stories comprises the first three volumes of Shalamov's tales. The line between autobiography and fiction is indistinct: everything in these stories was experienced or witnessed by Shalamov. His work records the real names of prisoners and their oppressors; he himself appears simply as "I" or "Shalamov," or at times, under a pseudonym, such as Andreyev or Krist. These collected stories form the biography of a rare survivor, a historical record of the Gulag, and, because the stories have more than documentary value, a literary work of creative power and conviction. 041b061a72


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