One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

5:00 AM.

Outside a loud hammer bangs on a rail, repeatedly.

The man awakens on a filthy, sawdust mattress.

A lurid yellow light.

Two men carry a barrel of shit out of the barracks.

A blast of bitter cold air.

The warden barks and the man rises and dresses, fast.

Crunching of snow beneath their feet.

A door opens with a merciful rush of warm air.

Sloshing and scouring as the man scrubs the floorboards.

Prisoners squeal over bowls of stew and oatmeal.

In the dispensary, a thermometer is placed under the man’s armpit.

Eerie silence.

An old man with a brush paints S854 on the man’s hat. Anointed.

Warmthlessly, the sun rises.

Men shuffle through the snow like Emperor Penguins.

The soft warm glow of a cigarette butt and the sweet taste of smoke. 

Stamping feet and trundling wheels on a wooden plank.

The man’s trowel scrapes steadily, mortaring rows of cinder blocks.

Jangling guns and rustling clothes: a body search.

The sun sets beyond a gray horizon.

Roll call once, roll call twice, wild scampering of feet.

The man lies on a filthy, sawdust mattress.

Outside a loud hammer bangs on a rail, repeatedly.

Darkness.

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2 Responses to One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

  1. Fred says:

    A great little work–I enjoy reading it in tandem with Dostoevsky’s _House of the Dead_.

    I think I would prefer life under the czars to life under the commissars.

    • Hi Fred, thank you for dropping by. What do you make of the contrast between Denisovich’s pragmatism and Alyosha’s faith? I’ve been thinking about it non stop since yesterday…

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