In The First Circle, The First Uncensored Edition, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, What I’m Reading

One of the books I’m savoring now is Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s In The First Circle.  I wanted to buy every book I could of his for my library in hopes of sharing them with my children & grands. So I went on Amazon.com and there it was, The First Uncensored Edition released in 2009 just months after Solzhenitsyn’s death August 3, 2008.

I didn’t even know it existed in the final form which is restored to it’s original length.

according to the Foreword;

It has taken a half century for English-language readers to receive the definitive text of the best novel by the man who may well be the most famous author of our times. Such is the fate of art created under a totalitarian regime. In a desperate attempt to get his literary artifact published at all, the author took it upon himself to sever some of its parts, a gruesome act of sacrifice. Yet the work’s artistic power was so great that even in its wounded condition it drew much praise……….. 

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn initially composed In the First Circle from 1955 to 1958, when he was in his thirties. In 1968 an expurgated version titled “The First Circle”, came out in many languages. The loss in English of the preposition In, doubtless through an innocent decision, subtly shifts the novel’s focus from people in a place to the place itself; the present version eliminates this distortion………….

The years between 1958 and 2009 left plenty of time for the novel to endure a tortured textual history. Compared with the version previously available in English, the plot has been altered, depictions of some major characters have been substantially modified, new characters have been introduced, and many entirely excised chapters have been reinstated. For readers familiar with the previously available English version, In the First Circle will be a revelation. 

It was a grand discovery for me to find this book after having read the first release and liking it very much, even feeling that I had gained a great thought out of it which has inspired me many times to finish a work that could have been called done but lacked that “final inch”, of which Solzhenitsyn writes, which makes a thing fine.

I think this book is wonderful without explaining it’s relevance to life today, but it is like all of his writings full of timeless pondering and hope.

Just to whet your appetite for more here from the Foreword is the reason for the title;

……………………The sharashka zeks enjoy adequate food, access to tobacco and books, space to walk, and time to talk, so that a prisoner newly arrived from the camps wonders if he has died and gone to heaven. But no, he is told, he has reached the “first circle” of hell, which in Dante’s Inferno spared virtuous pagans the active torments of hell’s lower circles. The Dantean title enables Solzhenitsyn to employ one of his favorite literary devices:  understatement……………………………. 

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