Monday, August 31, 2009

A Major Literary Event 50 Years In the Making: IN THE FIRST CIRCLE by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

This landmark publication of In the First Circle: The First Uncensored Edition is the first complete English translation of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's "best novel" (Washington Post). Written between 1955 and 1958, In the First Circle is Solzhenitsyn's fiction masterpiece. In order to pass through Soviet censors as much as 25% of the original novel was cut: this was the version that was published in a hastily translated English edition in 1968. Even in its diminished form it was hailed as "a classic" by the New York Times and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969. Now Solzhenitsyn's most trusted translator, Harry Willetts, has produced the definitive English edition.

In the First Circle finds a brilliant mathematician locked in a Moscow prison filled with the country's brightest minds--a setting that Solzhenitsyn allegorically modeled after Dante's First Circle of Hell. After the Soviet Secret Police intercept a call to the American embassy made by a Russian minister who promises to deliver secrets about the Soviet nuclear program, the prisoners are charged with sleuthing out the caller's identity. They then must make the anguishing choice of whether to aid Stalin's repressive state or refuse and accept transfer to the Siberian Gulags, leading to their almost certain death.

If you'd like to consider In the First Circle for one of your classes, please order an examination copy. If you've already decided to require the book, please request a desk copy.
Finally, file this breaking news item under "it's about time!": The Gulag Archipelago, previously banned in Russia due to its examination of Stalinism and Bolshevism, is now listed as required reading for Russian students. The Russian Education Ministry sidestepped any debate, claiming the unexpected change was due to "the vital historical and cultural heritage" of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's work.

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