The Gulag Archipelago (Part 2) - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

I've finally read the other half of this volume. Whereas the first half really concentrated on the arrest and interrogation, almost at an individual level, this part of the book pulls back into a wider shot. It covers the transportation of prisoners and transit prisons, skirting around the gulags themselves. As you get a handle on the numbers and scale involved, the individual tragedies do start turn into Stalin's statistics, but the scale of the horror does come through.

It's clear that if you did actually serve your sentence doing the hard labout, you wouldn't survive to the end. They're death camps. They're death camps, with the extension of using slave labour along the way. The level of inhumanity is astonishing.

The only reason Solzhenitsyn managed to survive was because he was plucked out of the pool for knowing nuclear physics at a time when this was incredibly important to he USSR. Somehow this brings home to me what a person he was. We're talking military officer, Nobel prize-winning author and nuclear scientist in one. The foolishness of his country in converting a (very slightly mouthy) person of such potential into a major dissident is astounding.

The whole volume barely discusses the camps themselves. It turns out this whole 700 page book is volume one of three. I'm not sure I can face the whole thing.

Posted 2014-10-02.