In the freezing nights of a labor camp, fifty prisoners "settle in like herring in a barrel, tightly nuzzled next to each other, and someone among them would cover the rest with clothing". And then the night-time storyteller begins his tale.
Aleksandr Sokolenko's four true stories of life in the Soviet camps detail a world of baffling catch-22s, but also of intense community. From farm work to timber-driving, wrestling marmots to runaway brides, the daily reality captivates.
Vivid characters fill the pages: the aged merchant Semyonov's rich life history and wry acceptance ("At least here, they can't arrest you"); the thief-king who tries to break free from his followers; the high-society orphan who turns barbering into an art; and the inept, vicious Captain Ivanov. Stepping back to narrate their stories as well as his own, Sokolenko offers us a broader picture of the USSR and its history, as lived by his fellow inmates.
The human suffering is blunt and clear - scurvy, starvations, injustice, drownings - but what lingers is a sense of humans' capacity for kindness and boundless talents.
Keep Forever, they stamped on his prison files, and Keep Forever is what we must do with these stories.
About Aleksandr Konstantinovich Sokolenko
See more books from this Author
Published December 14, 2012
by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel.