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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Russian: Оди́н день Ива́на Дени́совича Odin den' Ivana Denisovicha pronounced [ɐˈdʲin ˈdʲenʲ ɪˈvanə dʲɪˈnʲisəvʲɪtɕə]) is a novel written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, first published in November 1962 in the Soviet literary magazine Novy Mir (New World).[1] The story is set in a Soviet labor camp in the 1950s and describes a single day of ordinary prisoner Ivan Denisovich Shukhov.

The book's publication was an extraordinary event in Soviet literary history since never before had an account of Stalinist repression been openly distributed. Novy Mir editor Aleksandr Tvardovsky wrote a short introduction for the issue entitled "Instead of a Foreword" to prepare the journal's readers for what they were about to experience.

Contents 1 Translations 2 Plot 3 The 104th 4 Themes 5 History 6 Reception 6.1 Influence 7 Film 8 Bibliography 9 See also 10 Notes 11 References 12 External links


At least five English translations have been made. Of those, the Ralph Parker's translation (New York: Dutton, 1963) was the first to be published,[2][3] followed by Ronald Hingley and Max Hayward's (New York: Praeger, 1963), Bela Von Block's (New York: Lancer 1963), and Gillon Aitken's (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1971). The fifth translation, by H.T. Willetts (New York: Noonday/Farrar Straus Giroux, 1991), is the only one that is based on the canonical Russian text[4] and the only one authorized by Solzhenitsyn.[5] The English spelling of some character names differs slightly among the translations; those below are from the Hingley and Hayward translation.


Ivan Denisovich Shukhov has been sentenced to a camp in the Soviet gulag system. He was accused of becoming a spy after being captured by the Germans as a prisoner of war during World War II. He is innocent, but is sentenced to ten years in a forced labor camp.

The day begins with Shukhov waking up sick. For waking late, he is forced to clean the guardhouse, but this is minor punishment compared to others mentioned in the book. When Shukhov is finally able to leave the guardhouse, he goes to the dispensary to report his illness. It is late in the morning by this time, however, so the orderly is unable to exempt any more workers and Shukhov must work.

The rest of the novel mainly deals with Shukhov's squad (the 104th, which has 24 members), their allegiance to the squad leader, and the work that the prisoners (zeks) do—for example, working at a brutal construction site where the cold freezes the mortar used for bricklaying if not applied quickly enough. Solzhenitsyn also details the methods used by the prisoners to survive; the whole camp lives by the rule of survival of the fittest.

Tiurin, the foreman of gang 104, is strict but kind, and the squad grows to like him more as the book progresses. Though a "morose" man, Tiurin is liked because he understands the prisoners, he talks to them, and he helps them. Shukhov is one of the hardest workers in the squad and is generally well-respected. Rations are scant at the camp, but they are one of the few things that Shukhov lives for. He conserves the food that he receives and is always watchful for any item that he can hide and trade for food at a later date.

At the end of the day, Shukhov is able to provide a few special services for Tsezar (Caesar), an intellectual who is able to do office work instead of manual labor. Tsezar is most notable, however, for receiving packages of food from his family. Shukhov is able to get a small share of Tsezar's packages by standing in lines for him. Shukhov's day ends up being productive, even "almost happy"; "Shukhov went to sleep fully content. He'd had many strokes of luck that day." (p. 139).

Those in the camps find everyday life extremely difficult. For example, prisoners are only exempt from outdoor labor if the thermometer reaches −41 °C (−42 °F); anything above that is considered bearable. The reader is reminded in passing, through Shukhov's matter-of-fact thoughts, of the harshness of the conditions, worsened by the inadequate bedding and clothing. The boots assigned to the zeks rarely fit (cloth has to be added or taken out, for example), and the thin mittens issued are easily ripped.

The prisoners are assigned numbers for easy identification and in an effort to dehumanize them; Ivan Denisovich's prisoner number is Щ-854. Each day, the squad leader receives their work assignment for that day, and the squad are then fed according to how they perform. Prisoners in each squad are thus forced to work together and pressure each other to get their task done. If any prisoner is slacking, the whole squad will be punished. Despite this, Solzhenitsyn shows that a surprising loyalty exists among the work gang members, with Shukhov teaming up with other prisoners to steal felt and extra bowls of soup; even the squad leader defies the authorities by tar-papering over the windows at their work site. Indeed, only through such solidarity can the prisoners do anything more than survive from day to day.

The 104th[]

The 104th is the labour-camp team to which protagonist Ivan Denisovich belongs. There are over 24 members, though the book describes the following characters the most thoroughly: Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, the protagonist of the novel. The reader is able to see Russian camp life through Denisovich's eyes, and information is given through his thoughts, feelings, and actions. Alyosha (Alyoshka),[6] a Baptist. He believes that being imprisoned is something that he has earned, since it allows him to reflect more on God and Jesus. Alyosha, surprisingly, is able to hide part of a Bible in the barracks. Shukhov responds to his beliefs by saying that he believes in God but not heaven or hell, nor in spending much time on the issue. Gopchik, a young member of the squad who works hard and for whom Shukhov has fatherly feelings, as he reminds Shukhov of his dead son. Gopchik was imprisoned for taking food to Ukrainian ultranationalists. Shukhov believes that Gopchik has the knowledge and adjustment skills to advance far at the camp. Andrey Prokofyevich Tiurin (Tyurin), the foreman/squad leader of the 104th. He has been in the camp for 19 years. Tiurin likes Shukhov and gives him some of the better jobs, but he is only part of the camp hierarchy; Tiurin must argue for better jobs and wages from the camp officers in order to please the squad, who then must work hard in order to please the camp officers and get larger rations. Fetiukov (Fetyukov), a member of the squad who has thrown away all of his dignity. He is particularly seen as a lowlife by Shukhov and the other camp members. He shamelessly scrounges for bits of food and tobacco. Tsezar Markovich (Caesar), an inmate who works in the camp offices and has been given other special privileges; for example, his civilian fur hat was not confiscated by the Personal Property department and he is allowed to wear it. Tzesar is a film director who was imprisoned before he could finish his first feature film. Some discussions in the novel indicate that he holds formalist views in art, which were probably the reason for his imprisonment. A cultured man, Tzesar discusses film with Buynovsky. His somewhat higher class background assures him food parcels. Buinovsky (Buynovsky, "The Captain"), a former Soviet Naval captain and a relative newcomer to the camp. Buynovsky was imprisoned after he received a gift from an admiral on a British cruiser on which he had served as a naval liaison. In the camp, Buynovsky has not yet learned to be submissive before the warders. Pavlo, a Ukrainian who serves as deputy foreman/squad leader and assists Tiurin in directing the 104th, especially when Tiurin is absent. Ivan Kilgas, the leading worker of the 104th squad along with Shukhov, a Latvian by birth. He speaks Russian like a native, having learned it in his childhood. Kilgas is popular with the team for making jokes. Senka Klevshin, a member of the 104th who became deaf from intense fighting during World War II. He escaped from the Germans three times—and was recaptured each time, ending up in the Buchenwald Concentration Camp.


The main themes of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich are authoritative oppression and camp survival. Specifically discussed are the prison officials' cruelty and spite towards their fellow man.[7][7] Solzhenitsyn explains through Ivan Denisovich that everything is managed by the camp commandant to the point that time feels unnoticed;[8][9] the prisoners always have work to do and never have any free time to discuss important issues.

Survival is of the utmost importance to prisoners. Attitude is another crucial factor in survival.[10] Since prisoners are each assigned a grade,[11] it is considered good etiquette to obey.[11][12] This is outlined through the character of Fetiukov, a ministry worker who has let himself into prison and scarcely follows prison etiquette. Another such incident involves Buinovsky, a former naval captain,[13][14] who is punished for defending himself and others during an early morning frisking.


Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn had first-hand experience in the Gulag system, having been imprisoned from 1945 to 1953[15] for writing derogatory comments in letters to friends about the conduct of the war by Joseph Stalin, whom he referred to by epithets such as "the master" and "the boss".[16][17] Solzhenitsyn claimed the prisoners wept when news of Stalin's death reached them. He uses the epithet "old man whiskers" in his novel, where it is translated as "Old Whiskers"[15][18] or "Old Man Whiskers".[19] This title was considered offensive and derogatory, but prisoners were free to call Stalin whatever they liked:[19] "Somebody in the room was bellowing: 'Old Man Whiskers won't ever let you go! He wouldn't trust his own brother, let alone a bunch of cretins like you!" Drafts of stories found in Solzhenitsyn's map case were used to incriminate him (Frangsmyr, 1993).

In 1957, after being released from the exile that followed his imprisonment, Solzhenitsyn began writing One Day. In 1962, he submitted his manuscript to Novy Mir, a Russian literary magazine.[15] The editor, Aleksandr Tvardovsky, was so impressed with this detailed description of life in the labor camps that he submitted the manuscript to the Communist Party Central Committee for approval to publish it (until then Soviet writers had only been allowed to refer to the camps). From there it was sent to the de-Stalinist Khrushchev,[20] who, despite the objections of some top party members, ultimately authorized its publication with some censorship of the text. After the novel was sent to the editor, Aleksandr Tvardovsky of Novy Mir, it was subsequently published in November 1962.[15][21]

The labour camp described in the book was one that Solzhenitsyn had served some time at, and was located in Karaganda in northern Kazakhstan.[15]


One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was specifically mentioned in the Nobel Prize presentation speech when the Nobel Committee awarded Solzhenitsyn the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970.[1][15][22] Following the publication of One Day... Solzhenitsyn wrote four more books, three in 1963 and a fourth in 1966[15] which cataclysmically led to the controversy of his publications.[15] In 1968, Solzhenitsyn was accused by the Literary Gazette, a Soviet newspaper, of not following Soviet principles. The Gazette's editors also made claims that Solzhenitsyn was opposing the basic principles of the Soviet Union, his style of writing had been controversial with many Soviet literary critics[15] especially with the publication of One Day.... This criticism made by the paper gave rise to further accusations that Solzhenitsyn had turned from a Soviet Russian into a Soviet enemy,[15] therefore he was branded as an enemy of the state, who, according to the Gazette had been supporting non-Soviet ideological stances since 1967,[15] perhaps even longer. He, in addition, was accused of de-Stalinisation. The reviews were particularly damaging. Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Soviet Writers' Union in 1969.[15] He was arrested, then deported in 1974.[15] The novella had sold over 95,000 copies after it was released[3] and throughout the 1960s.


“ The Soviet Union was destroyed by information

- and this wave started from Solzhenitsyn's One Day ”
—Vitaly Korotich[23]

Often considered the most powerful indictment of the USSR's gulag ever made. It appeared on the Independent newspaper's poll of the Top 100 books, which surveyed more than 25,000 people.


Main article: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1970 film)

A one-hour dramatization for television, made for NBC in 1963, starred Jason Robards Jr. in the title role and was broadcast on November 8, 1963. A 1970 film adaptation based on the novella starred British actor Tom Courtenay in the title role. Finland banned the film from public view,[24] fearing that it could hurt external relations with its eastern neighbor.[25]


Feuer, Kathryn (Ed). Solzhenitsyn: A collection of Critical Essays. (1976). Spectrum Books, ISBN 0-13-822619-9 Moody, Christopher. Solzhenitsyn. (1973). Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh ISBN 0-05-002600-3 Labedz, Leopold. Solzhenitsyn: A documentary record. (1970). Penguin ISBN 0-14-003395-5 Scammell, Michael. Solzhenitsyn. (1986). Paladin. ISBN 0-586-08538-6 Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr. Invisible Allies. (Translated by Alexis Klimoff and Michael Nicholson). (1995). The Harvill Press ISBN 1-86046-259-6 Grazzini, Giovanni. Solzhenitsyn. (Translated by Eric Mosbacher) (1971). Michael Joseph, ISBN 0-7181-1068-4 Burg, David; Feifer, George. Solzhenitsyn: A Biography. (1972). ISBN 0-340-16593-6 Medvedev, Zhores. 10 Years After Ivan Denisovich. (1973). Knopf, ISBN 0394490266 Rothberg, Abraham. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The Major Novels. (1971). Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-0668-4

See also[]

iconNovels portal The Gulag Archipelago List of Nobel laureates in Literature

--Notes== 1.^ Jump up to: a b One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, or "Odin den iz zhizni Ivana Denisovicha" (novel by Solzhenitsyn). Britannica Online Encyclopedia. 2.Jump up ^ Solzhenitsyn, Alexander. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963. (Penguin Books ; 2053) 0816 3.^ Jump up to: a b Salisbury 1963. 4.Jump up ^ Klimoff 1997 5.Jump up ^ One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux. 1991. pp. backcover. ISBN 0-00-271607-0. 6.Jump up ^ Alexey (Russian: Алексей) is used once in the Russian. Willetts replaces that with Alyoshka. 7.^ Jump up to: a b Parker translation, p. 30 8.Jump up ^ Parker translation, p. 36 9.Jump up ^ Parker translation, p. 38 10.Jump up ^ Parker translation, p. 8, Kuziomen's speech. 11.^ Jump up to: a b Parker translation, p. 17 12.Jump up ^ Parker translation, p. 45 13.Jump up ^ Parker translation, p. 34 14.Jump up ^ Parker translation, p. 44 15.^ Jump up to: a b c d e f g h i j k l m Parker translation, p. 2 of introduction 16.Jump up ^ Moody, Christopher J. (1973). Solzhenitsyn. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd. p. 6. ISBN 0-05-002600-3. 17.Jump up ^ Scammell, Michael (1986). Solzhenitsyn. London: Paladin. p. 153. ISBN 0-586-08538-6. 18.Jump up ^ Parker translation, p. 126. In a footnote, Parker says this refers to Stalin. This translates batka usaty (Russian: батька усатый). 19.^ Jump up to: a b Willetts translation, p. 139 20.Jump up ^ "Soviet dissident writer Solzhenitsyn dies at 89". Reuters. August 3, 2008. 21.Jump up ^ John Bayley's introduction and the chronology in the Knopf edition of the Willetts translation. 22.Jump up ^ "The Nobel Prize in Literature 1970 Presentation Speech" by Karl Ragnar Gierow. The Nobel citation is "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature." Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn did not personally receive the Prize until 1974 after he had been deported from the Soviet Union. 23.Jump up ^ Rosenberg, Steve (BBC News, Moscow; 19 November 2012). "Solzhenitsyn's One Day: The book that shook the USSR". BBC News Magazine. Retrieved 20 November 2012. Check date values in: |date= (help) 24.Jump up ^ One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1963) at the Internet Movie Database One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1970) at the Internet Movie Database 25.Jump up ^ Solsten, Eric; Meditz, Sandra W., eds. (1988). "Mass Media". Finland: A Country Study. CountryStudies.US. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress.


Klimoff, Alexis (1997). One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich: A Critical Companion. Evanston, Ill: Northwestern University Press. ISBN 0-8101-1214-0. (preview) Salisbury, Harrison E. (January 22, 1963). "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (review)". New York Times.(registration required) Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr (1980). The Oak and the Calf: Sketches of Literary Life in the Soviet Union. Harry Willetts (trans.). New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-014014-3.. In the early chapters, Solzhenitsyn describes how One Day came to be written and published. Nobel Lectures, Literature 1968-1980, Editor-in-Charge Tore Frängsmyr, Editor Sture Allén, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1993. Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr (1995). One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. H. T. Willetts (trans.), John Bayley (intro.). New York: Knopf, Everyman's Library. ISBN 0-679-44464-5. Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr (2000). One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Ralph Parker (trans. and intro.). Penguin Modern Classics. ISBN 0-14-118474-4.

External links[]

Text of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich translated by H.T. Willets (English) Text of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Russian) One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1970) at the Internet Movie Database Audiobook (Russian)