Depicting the Gulag reality

April 22, 2013 Ricardo Marquina
Ricardo Marquina Montanana, RBTH Correspondent, prefers Shalamov's stories about the Soviet camps to those by Solzhenitsyn.
Ricardo was surprised by Shalamov's ability to tell this gruesome story without resorting to recriminations, endless criticism or self pity. Source: Personal archive
Ricardo was surprised by Shalamov's ability to tell this gruesome story without resorting to recriminations, endless criticism or self pity. Source: Personal archive

My first book by a Russian author was Varlam Shalamov's "Kolyma Tales". Reading it, I wanted to get a little closer to the reality of the Soviet Gulag camps.

I didn't want to start with "The Gulag Archipelago" by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, whom I considered and still consider ­an author manipulated by the West.

In "Kolyma Tales", I found a raw and no-nonsense description of what it meant for thousands of people to be exiled in distant and inhospitable lands. 

I was surprised by Shalamov's ability to tell this gruesome story without resorting to recriminations, endless criticism or self pity. He simply tries to show reality as it was, achieving in the process a short and entertaining read that you can get through in one sitting.

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