January 8, 2004 10:13 AM   Subscribe

The Gulag. An online exhibition from the Open Society Archives.
posted by plep (7 comments total)
Wonderful, thanks! (Well, not wonderful...but you know what I mean.)

I've been immersing myself in Gulagiana lately, again, thanks to Martin Amis' amazing, personal "Koba The Dread." BTW, I'd avoid Anne Applebaum's curiously juiceless tome "Gulag," which somehow manages to render this most wrenching of 20th century human tragedies somehow banal.

The single word "Vorkuta" still manages to send a chill down my spine in a way few other things do.
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:48 AM on January 8, 2004

I've been immersing myself in Gulagiana lately, again, thanks to Martin Amis' amazing, personal "Koba The Dread."

Skip Amis, find refuge with Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
posted by the fire you left me at 12:11 PM on January 8, 2004

Good link, plep.

Here's a thread on North Korea's gulag system, which is active today.
posted by homunculus at 1:05 PM on January 8, 2004

Thanks. From my point of view, what seems striking about apologists for the Soviet system (as opposed to other forms of twentieth century tyranny) is how easily otherwise good and humane people could be blinded by wishful thinking into believing that such a system could have a rational basis. I suppose to some extent it may depend on your perspective - religion, after all, has been abused in the past with somewhat similar consequences.

I've also been reading Solzhenitsyn recently.

The Open Society Archives site has some other good exhibits there, it's worth browsing around.
posted by plep at 1:27 PM on January 8, 2004

I agree with the fire you left me: Amis is far too obsessed with his little circle of British pals and their ideological squabbles to be of much use on the ostensible subject. Read Solzhenitsyn and the equally great but little-known (outside Russia) Varlam Shalamov. (Solzhenitsyn said he wouldn't try to describe Kolyma because Shalamov had done it better than he could hope to.)

Great post, plep!
posted by languagehat at 1:49 PM on January 8, 2004

I highly recommend Anne Applebaum's Gulag, for what it's worth.
posted by Daze at 3:55 PM on January 8, 2004

Dude, I *did* Solzhenitsyn, compulsively. What do you think got me started on this? I did Gulag 1, 2 *and* 3 practically without sleeping, moved beyond expression. I'd literally have to put the book down from time to time and let what I had just read sink in.

Daze, what did you like about the Applebaum book? I found it internally redundant and poorly edited, not particularly evocative in its description of what had to have been extraordinary vivid situations and events, and neither observant enough to succeed as journalism nor pointed enough to work as invective. I also found it to be organized strangely, lurching back and forth between chronological and meta-biographical modes in a way that deprived the narrative of both drive and focus. IMO, the Gulag still awaits its definitive English history.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:04 PM on January 8, 2004

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