A Day in the Life

I finished reading One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich yesterday. It was quite a good book, even though a bit depressing. I’ve read part of The Gulag Archipelago as well, though I haven’t finished that, and that book is far more depressing. Which is not too surprising since One Day was allowed to be published by the Soviets and Gulag was not, if I remember correctly. The book does trace, quite literally, one day in the life of a fictional camp prisoner or zek in the camp slang. What makes this book even more depressing than it would have already been is that when we get to the end of the day, Ivan decides that it hasn’t been such a bad day after all. Knowing that, one is left merely to imagine in horror how awful a bad day would really be. I’d suggest this book to anyone interested in learning a bit more about the excesses of the Soviet system and why moral equivalence between them and us is so misguided. It’s short (my copy is small and still only has about 150 pages) and it reads easily. It’s worth remembering that the Soviets kept their concentration camp system running for nigh on 70 years while the Nazis only were in power for about a decade and that communism has killed (and in China, is killing) far, far more people than Nazism ever did. And yet the hammer and sickle is still acceptable avant garde wear, Che t-shirts are fashionable and communist thought is socially acceptable when the swastika with a quarter turn is considered beyond the pale. Read the book and reflect on why one evil gets a pass and another does not.

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