The Gulag in Writings of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Varlam Shalamov

Memory, History, Testimony


Volume Editors: and
Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Varlam Shalamov are two of the best-known Gulag writers. After a short period of personal acquaintance, their lives and views on literature took different paths. Solzhenitsyn did not see a literary program in Shalamov’s works, which he describes as “a result of exhaustion after years of hard labour in the camp”. By understanding the text as a “result”, Solzhenitsyn critically touched on a concept of evidence, which Shalamov several times emphasized as important to his own works. According to Shalamov, instead of the text being a re-presentation, it should be an extract from or substitute for the real or the factual, by which his Gulag experience became present once again. Concepts such as “document”, “thing” and “fact” became important for Shalamov’s self-identification as a modernist. At the same time, Solzhenitsyn, viewing his own task as one of restoring historical experiences of the Russian people and trying “to explain the slow course of history and what sort of one it has been”, assumed the dual role of writer and historian, which inevitably raises the question of what characterizes the borders between fact and fiction in his works. It also raises question about dichotomies of historical and fictional truth.

Contributors: Andrea Gullotta, Fabian Heffermehl, Luba Jurgenson, Irina Karlsohn, Josefina Lundblad-Janjić, Elena Mikhailik, Michael A. Nicholson, Irina Sandomirskaja, Ulrich Schmid, Franziska Thun-Hohenstein, Leona Toker.

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Fabian Heffermehl, Ph.D, University of Oslo / Humboldt University of Berlin, is researcher in art theory and Russian literature.

Irina Karlsohn, Ph.D, is Senior Lecturer of Russian language and literature at Dalarna University, Sweden.
Notes on Contributors
Introduction Fabian Heffermehl and Irina Karlsohn
Part 1 Literary Origins
 1 Discontinuities in the Evolution of Kolyma Stories and “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” Michael A. Nicholson
 2 Poetry after the Gulag: Do Solzhenitsyn and Shalamov Have a Lyric Mindset? Ulrich Schmid
 3 More than a Cat: Reflections on Shalamov’s and Solzhenitsyn’s Writings through the Perspective of Trauma Studies Andrea Gullotta
Part 2 Memory and Body
 4 Why Did Solzhenitsyn and Shalamov Not Write The Gulag Archipelago Together? Luba Jurgenson
 5 Tactility and Memory in Shalamov Fabian Heffermehl
 6 “A Grudge-holding Body”: Body and Memory in the Works of Varlam Shalamov Franziska Thun-Hohenstein
 7 Certain Properties of Rhyme: Poetic Language Touching Abomination Irina Sandomirskaia
Part 3 History and Narrative
 8 Counterfactuals and History in The Gulag Archipelago Irina Karlsohn
 9 “The Gulag’s Archipelago”: Rhetoric of History Elena Mikhailik
 10 Telling the Stories of Others and Writing the Bodies of Others: The Representation of Women in Shalamov’s Kolyma Stories and Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago Josefina Lundblad-Janjić
 11 The Issue of “Softening” and the Problem of Addressivity in Solzhenitsyn and Shalamov Leona Toker
All interested in Russian literature, memory, the Gulag and post-Holocaust studies.
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