One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich  
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich cover.jpg
Author(s) Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Original title Один день Ивана Денисовича
Translator Ralph Parker (1963); Ron Hingley and Max Hayward (1963); Gillon Aitken (1970); H.T. Willetts (1991)
Country U.S.S.R.
Language Russian
Genre(s) Literary fiction
Publisher Signet Classic
Publication date 1963
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 158 pp (paperback edition)
ISBN ISBN 0-451-52310-5 (paperback edition)
OCLC Number 29526909

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Russian: Оди́н день Ива́на Дени́совича Odin den' Ivana Denisovicha pronounced [ɐˈdʲin ˈdʲenʲ ɪˈvanə dʲɪˈnʲisəvʲɪtʃə]) is a novel written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, first published in November 1962 in the Soviet literary magazine Novy Mir (New World).[1] The story is set in a Soviet labor camp in the 1950s, and describes a single day of an ordinary prisoner, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. Its publication was an extraordinary event in Soviet literary history—never before had an account of Stalinist repression been openly distributed. The editor of Novy Mir, Aleksandr Tvardovsky, wrote a short introduction for the issue, titled "Instead of a Foreword," to prepare the journal's readers for what they were about to experience.



At least five English translations have been made. Of those, the translation by Ralph Parker (New York: Dutton, 1963) was the first to be published,[2][3] followed by the translation by Ronald Hingley and Max Hayward (New York: Praeger, 1963), the translation by Bela Von Block (New York: Lancer 1963), the translation by Gillon Aitken (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1971). The fifth translation is by H.T. Willetts (New York: Noonday/Farrar Straus Giroux, 1991) the only one that is based on the canonical Russian text[4] and the only one authorized by Solzhenitsyn.[5] The English spelling of some character names differ slightly among the translations; those below are from the Hingley and Hayward translation.


Ivan Denisovich Shukhov has been sentenced to a camp in the Soviet gulag system, accused of becoming a spy after being captured by the Germans as a prisoner of war during World War II. He is innocent but is nonetheless punished by the government for being a spy. The final paragraph suggests that Shukhov serves ten years.

The day begins with Shukhov waking up sick. For waking late, he is sent to the guardhouse and forced to clean it—a minor punishment compared to others mentioned in the book. When Shukhov is finally able to leave the guardhouse, he goes to the dispensary to report his illness. Since it is late in the morning by now, the orderly is unable to exempt any more workers, and Shukhov must work regardless.

The rest of the day mainly speaks of Shukhov's squad (the 104th, which has 24 members), their allegiance to the squad leader, and the work that the prisoners (zeks) do—for example, at a brutal construction site where the cold freezes the mortar used for bricklaying if not applied quickly enough. Solzhenitsyn also details the methods used by the prisoners for survival; the whole camp lives by the rule of survival of the fittest. Tiurin, the foreman of gang 104 is strict but kind, and the squad grows to like him more as the book goes on. Though a "morose" man, Tiurin is liked because he understands the prisoners and he tells them a lot and does a lot to help them. Shukhov is one of the hardest workers in the squad and is generally well respected. Rations at the camp are scant, but for Shukhov, they are one of the few things to live for. He conserves the food that he receives and is always watchful for any item that he can hide and trade for food at a later date.

At the end of the day, Shukhov is able to provide a few special services for Tsezar (Caesar), an intellectual who is able to get out of manual labor and do office work instead. Tsezar is most notable, however, for receiving packages of food from his family. Shukhov is able to get a small share of Tsezar's packages by standing in lines for him. Shukhov's day ends up being productive, even "almost happy": "Shukhov went to sleep fully content. He'd had many strokes of luck that day." (p.139).

Those in the camps found everyday life extremely difficult. For example, one rule states that if the thermometer reaches −41 °C (−42 °F), then the prisoners are exempt from outdoor labor that day—anything above that was considered bearable. The reader is reminded in passing through Shukhov's matter-of-fact thoughts of the harshness of the conditions, worsened by the inadequate bedding and clothing. The boots assigned to the zeks rarely fit, in addition cloth had to be used or taken out, for example, and the thin mittens issued were easily ripped.

The prisoners were assigned numbers for easy identification and in an effort to dehumanize them; Ivan Denisovich's prisoner number was Щ-854. Each day, the squad leader would receive their assignment of the day, and the squad would then be fed according to how they performed. Prisoners in each squad were thus forced to work together and to pressure each other to get their work done. If any prisoner was slacking, the whole squad would be punished. Despite this, Solzhenitsyn shows that a surprising loyalty could exist among the work gang members, with Shukhov teaming up with other prisoners to steal felt and extra bowls of soup; even the squad leader defies the authorities by tar papering over the windows at their work site. Indeed, only through such solidarity can the prisoners do anything more than survive from day to day.

The 104th

The 104th was a labour camp team to which the main protagonist, Ivan Denisovich, belonged. Other members comprise the following list. Although there were over 20 members in the team the book outlines these characters especially.

  • Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, the protagonist of the novel. The reader is able to see Russian camp life through Denisovich's eyes. Information is given through his thoughts, feelings and actions which portray camp life through many of its restricted activities.
  • Alyosha (Alyoshka),[6] a Baptist. He believes that being imprisoned is an earned thing, since it allows him to reflect more on God and Jesus. Alyosha is, surprisingly, able to hide part of a Bible in the barracks. Shukhov responds to his beliefs by saying that he believes in God but not heaven or hell, nor in spending much time on the issue.
  • Gopchik, a young member of the squad who works hard and for whom Shukhov has fatherly feelings, as he reminds Shukhov of his dead son. Gopchik was imprisoned for taking food to Ukrainian rebels. Shukhov believes Gopchik has the knowledge and adjustment skills to advance far at the camp.
  • Andrey Prokofyevich Tiurin (Tyurin), the foreman/squad leader for the 104th, who has been in the camp for 19 years. Tiurin likes Shukhov and gives him some of the better jobs. This is only part of the hierarchy: Tiurin must argue for better jobs and wages from the camp officers in order to please the squad, who then must work hard in order to please the camp officers and get larger rations.
  • Fetiukov (Fetyukov), a member of the squad who has thrown away all of his dignity in the camps and is particularly seen as a lowlife by Shukhov and the other camp members. He shamelessly scrounges for bits of food and tobacco.
  • Tzesar Markovich (Caesar), an inmate who works in the camp offices and has been given other special privileges, such as being allowed to wear his civilian fur hat, instead of it being given to the Personal Property department. A cultured man, Tzesar discusses film with Buynovsky. His somewhat higher class background assures him food parcels.
  • Buinovsky (Buynovsky, "The Captain"), a former Soviet Naval captain. A relative newcomer to the camp, Buynovsky was imprisoned when an admiral on a British cruiser on which he had served as a naval liaison sent him a gift. In the camp, Buynovsky has not yet learned to be submissive before the warders.
  • Pavlo, a Ukrainian who serves as deputy foreman/squad leader and assists Tiurin in directing the 104th, especially when Tiurin is absent.
  • Johann Kilgas, the leading worker of the 104th squad along with Shukhov. Originally a Latvian, he speaks Russian like a native, having learned the language in his childhood. Kilgas is popular with his team for making jokes.
  • Senka, a member of the 104th who became deaf from intense fighting during World War II, and having escaped and been recaptured three times by the Germans ended up in Buchenwald Concentration Camp.


The themes of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich center on authoritative oppression and camp survival. Specifically discussed is the cruelty and spite towards the fellow man, namely from prison officials.[7][7] Solzhenitsyn explains through Ivan Denisovich that everything is managed by the camp commandment up to the point where time feels unnoticed;[8][9] the prisoners always have work to do and never any free time to discuss important issues. Survival is of the utmost importance to prisoners. Attitude is another crucial factor in survival.[10] Since prisoners were each assigned a grade[11] it was considered good etiquette to obey.[11][12] This is outlined through the character of Fetiukov, a ministry worker who let himself into prison and scarcely follows prison etiquette. Another such incident involves Buinovsky, a former naval captain,[13][14] who is punished for defending himself and others during an early morning frisking.


Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn had first-hand experience in the Soviet labor camps called the Gulag, having been imprisoned from 1945 to 1953[15] for writing a derogatory comment in letters to friends about the conduct of the war by Joseph Stalin, whom he referred to by epithets such as "the master" and "the boss".[16][17] He used the epithet "old man whiskers" in his novel, where it is translated as "Old Whiskers"[15][18] or "Old Man Whiskers".[19] The name was considered offensive and derogatory; however, prisoners were free to call Stalin whatever they liked[19] "Somebody in the room was bellowing: 'Old Man Whiskers won't ever let you go! He wouldn't trust his own brother, let alone a bunch of cretins like you!"

After being released from the exile that followed his imprisonment, Solzhenitsyn began writing One Day in 1957. In 1962, he submitted his manuscript to Novy Mir, a Russian literary magazine.[15] The editor, Aleksandr Tvardovsky, was so impressed with this detailed description of life in the labor camps, that he submitted the manuscript to the Communist Party Central Committee for approval to publish it, because until then Soviet writers had only been allowed to refer to the camps. From there it was sent to the de-Stalinist Khrushchev,[20] who, despite the objections of some top party members, ultimately authorized its publication with some censorship of the text. After the novel was sent to the editor, Aleksandr Tvardovsky of Novy Mir, it was subsequently published in November 1962[15][21]

The labour camp described in the book was home to Solzhenitsyn[15] for a while as he served his term, located in Karaganda in northern Kazakhstan.[15]


One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was specifically mentioned in the Nobel Prize presentation speech when the Nobel Committee awarded Solzhenitsyn the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970.[1][15][22] With the publication of One Day Solzhenitsyn had also written four more books, three in 1963 and a fourth in 1966[15] which cataclysmically led to the controversy of his publications.[15] In 1968 Solzhenitsyn was accused by the Literary Gazette, a Soviet newspaper, of not following Soviet principles. The Gazette's editors also made claims that Solzhenitsyn was opposing the basic principles of the Soviet Union, his style of writing had been controversial with many Soviet literary critics[15] especially with the publication of "One Day...". This criticism made by the paper gave rise to further accusations that Solzhenitsyn had turned from a Soviet Russian into a Soviet enemy,[15] therefore he was branded as an enemy of the state, who, according to the Gazette had been supporting non-Soviet ideological stances since 1967,[15] perhaps even longer. He, in addition, was accused of de-Stalinisation. The reviews were particularly damaging. Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Soviet Writers' Union in 1969.[15] He was arrested, then deported in 1974.[15] The novella had sold over 95,000 copies when it was released[3] throughout the 1960s.


Often considered the most powerful indictment of the USSR's gulag ever made, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich forced Western intellectuals to acknowledge their sins of omission in regards to the Soviet human rights record. A decade later at a US-Soviet summit a human rights agenda was created as a topic of concern.


A one-hour dramatization for television, made for NBC in 1963, starred Jason Robards Jr. in the title role and was broadcast on November 8, 1963. A 1970 film adaptation based on the novella starred British actor Tom Courtenay in the title role. Finland banned the film from public view,[23] fearing that it could hurt external relations with its eastern neighbor.[24]


  • Feuer, Kathryn (Ed). Solzhenitsyn: A collection of Critical Essays. (1976). Spectrum Books, ISBN 0-13-822619
  • Moody, Christopher. Solzhenitsyn. (1973). Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh ISBN 0-05-002600-3
  • Labedz, Leopold. Solzhenitsyn: A documentary record. (1970). Penguin ISBN 0-014-00.3395.5
  • Scammell, Michael. Solzhenitsyn. (1986). Paladin. ISBN 0-586-08538-6
  • Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr. Invisible Allies. (Translated by Alexis Klimoff and Michael Nicholson). (1995). The Harvill Press ISBN 1-86046-259-6
  • Grazzini, Giovanni. Solzhenitsyn. (Translated by Eric Mosbacher) (1971). Michael Joseph, ISBN 0-7181-1068-4
  • Burg, David; Feifer, George. Solzhenitsyn: A Biography. (1972). ISBN 0-340-16593-6
  • Medvedev, Zhores. 10 Years After Ivan Denisovich. (Translated by Hilary Steinberg). (1973). Macmillan, London.SBN 33-15217-4
  • Rothberg, Abraham. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The Major Novels. (1971). Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-0668-4
  • Dostoevsky's The House of the Dead

See also

Book collection.jpg Novels portal


  1. ^ a b One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, or “Odin den iz zhizni Ivana Denisovicha” (novel by Solzhenitsyn). Britannica Online Encyclopedia.[dubious ]
  2. ^ Solzhenitsyn, Alexander. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963. (Penguin Books ; 2053) 0816
  3. ^ a b Salisbury 1963.
  4. ^ Klimoff 1997
  5. ^ One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux. 1991. pp. backcover. ISBN 0-00-271607-0. 
  6. ^ Alexey (Russian: Алексей) is used once in the Russian. Willetts replaces that with Alyoshka.
  7. ^ a b Parker translation, p. 30
  8. ^ Parker translation, p. 36
  9. ^ Parker translation, p. 38
  10. ^ Parker translation, p. 8, Kuziomen's speech.
  11. ^ a b Parker translation, p. 17
  12. ^ Parker translation, p. 45
  13. ^ Parker translation, p. 34
  14. ^ Parker translation, p. 44
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Parker translation, p. 2 of introduction
  16. ^ Moody, Christopher J. (1973). Solzhenitsyn. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd. pp. 6. ISBN 0-05-002600-3. 
  17. ^ Scammell, Michael (1986). Solzhenitsyn. London: Paladin. p. 153. ISBN 0-586-08538-6. 
  18. ^ Parker translation, p. 126. In a footnote, Parker says this refers to Stalin. This translates batka usaty (Russian: батька усатый).
  19. ^ a b Willetts translation, p. 139
  20. ^ "Soviet dissident writer Solzhenitsyn dies at 89". Reuters. August 3, 2008. 
  21. ^ John Bayley's introduction and the chronology in the Knopf edition of the Willetts translation.
  22. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Literature 1970 Presentation Speech" by Karl Ragnar Gierow. The Nobel citation is "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature." Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn did not personally receive the Prize until 1974 after he had been deported from the Soviet Union.
  23. ^ One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1963) at the Internet Movie Database
    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1970) at the Internet Movie Database
  24. ^ Solsten, Eric; Meditz, Sandra W., ed (1988). "Mass Media". Finland: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress. 


  • Klimoff, Alexis (1997). One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich: A Critical Companion. Evanston, Ill: Northwestern University Press. ISBN 0810112140.  (preview)
  • Salisbury, Harrison E. (January 22, 1963). "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (review)". New York Times. (registration required)
  • Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr (1980). The Oak and the Calf: Sketches of Literary Life in the Soviet Union. Harry Willetts (trans.). New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 0060140143. . In the early chapters, Solzhenitsyn describes how One Day came to be written and published.
  • Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr (1995). One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. H. T. Willetts (trans.), John Bayley (intro.). New York: Knopf, Everyman's Library. ISBN 0679444645. 
  • Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr (2000). One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Ralph Parker (trans. and intro.). Penguin Modern Classics. ISBN 0-14-118474-4. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно решить контрольную?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (film) — One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Directed by Caspar Wrede Produced by Caspar Wrede Screenplay by Ronald Harwood Based on One Da …   Wikipedia

  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1970 film) — Infobox Film name = One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich image size = caption = director = Caspar Wrede producer = writer = Ronald Harwood, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn narrator = starring = Tom Courtenay, Espen Skjonberg, James Maxwell music =… …   Wikipedia

  • One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich — Directed by Chris Marker Produced by Thierry Garrel Written by Chris Marker Narrated by Alexandra Stewart …   Wikipedia

  • Day in the life of — is a device often used in fiction, such as books films, plays and TV shows, showing the events that happen to the character over a day. One of the most noted examples is Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. Examples 24 The Breakfast Club Clerks Dazed… …   Wikipedia

  • The Lottery — is a short story by Shirley Jackson, first published in the June 26, 1948 issue of The New Yorker . [cite news | author=Shirley Jackson | title=Fiction: The Lottery (abstract of story) | url= 06 26… …   Wikipedia

  • The Gulag Archipelago — ( ru. Архипелаг ГУЛАГ) is a book by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn based on the Soviet forced labor and concentration camp system. The three volume book is a massive narrative relying on eyewitness testimony and primary research material, as well as the… …   Wikipedia

  • The Black Book of Communism — The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression is a book which describes a history of repressions, both political and civilian, by Communist states, including extrajudicial executions, deportations, and artificial famines. The book was… …   Wikipedia

  • Ivan (name) — Infobox Given Name Revised name = Ivan imagesize= caption= pronunciation= gender = Male meaning = region = origin = Slavic related names = John footnotes = Ivan (Bulgarian, Russian, Macedonian: Иван, Serbian: Иван, uk. Iван) is a Christian male… …   Wikipedia

  • The First Circle — infobox Book | name = The First Circle title orig = В круге первом translator = Thomas P. Whitney image caption = author = Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn cover artist = country = Soviet Union language = Russian genre = Novel publisher = Northwestern… …   Wikipedia

  • List of novels, the action of which takes place within 24 hours — While in drama the Unity of Time prescribes that the action of a play is to take place during a single day, the novel as a rule covers a much longer period of time. There are, however, some notable examples where the time narrated is only one day …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”