One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s groundbreaking 1962 novel about life in a Soviet labor camp. I read the Ralph Parker translation.
Solzhenitsyn takes the reader through Shukhov’s everyday activities, including all things mundane, as well as into the prisoner’s mindset, illuminating a number of interesting and surprising attitudes. All this is done with the extensive detail of personal experience, which makes One Day immersive and compelling. The novel builds slowly and steadily before making a rather sizeable impact upon its conclusion.
One Day is a short novel, and yet Solzhenitsyn does an excellent job of depicting not only Shukhov’s personality, tenacity, and attitudes, but also, in sketches, those of many others in his squad as well as their interactions. Solzhenitsyn’s breath of life in these characters helps the reader invest in all their fates.
In short, One Day is a stark look into an important part of twentieth-century history as well as a well-told account of humanity’s aptitude for both cruelty and survival.