Only when you read its very last paragraph, you’ll appreciate the true scale of this novel. It is as audacious, as confidently grand as the Ode to Joy of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.
You’ll get up with Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, early in the morning, and follow him throughout the day, from sleeping hut to sickbay to mess hut, through the labour camp and back. You’ll get to know the complex social rules that governed this environment: the hierarchical status from camp commandant over warders and foremen down to convicts like Shukhov himself, their crafty solutions for gaining some warmth or food, their unpitying harshness toward one another, the way they’d go easy on the relative newcomers. Above all, you will feel the hunger and the cold.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich follows Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, known to his warders as S-854, through a brutally cold January day in a Stalinist work camp in Siberia. In this masterpiece of the literature of witness, not a word is wasted; not an incident is out of place; no moralizing sentiment impedes the author’s absorption in his drama. As readers, we are irresistibly drawn into Shukov’s search for warmth and his strategies to stave off hunger. We understand as if we were governed by those needs ourselves the intricate imperatives that define his relationships to both his fellow prisoners and his jailers. And we recognize with growing awe, through the details of an intense struggle for survival, the resilience of the human soul in the face of cruelty. Solzhenitsyn’s novel has had an incalculable impact as a document on the history of our time. But it is as a work of art—a work utterly personal yet timeless—that it will always be read and remembered.
‘I’ve done my damnedest to rip a reader’s nerves to rags, I don’t want him to be satisfied.’ Shocking and controversial when it was first published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer prize-winning epic, The Grapes of Wrath, remains his undisputed masterpiece. Set against the background of Dust Bowl Oklahoma and Californian migrant life, it tells of the Joad family, who, like thousands of others, are forced to travel west in search of the promised land. Their story is one of false hopes, thwarted desires and broken dreams, yet out of their suffering Steinbeck created a drama that is intensely human, yet majestic in its scale and moral vision; an eloquent tribute to the endurance and dignity of the human spirit.
Chinua Achebe’s first and most famous novel was originally published in 1958. One of the greatest novels to come out of Africa, it is the story of a ‘strong’ man whose life is dominated by fear and anger, a powerful and moving narrative that critics have compared with classic Greek tragedy. Written with remarkable economy and subtle irony, it is uniquely and richly African, while at the same time revealing the author’s keen awareness of universal human qualities. Things Fall Apart also works on another level, as a social document, recounting with extraordinary immediacy the impact of colonialism and Christianity on the life of an African tribe — the Ibo — in turn-of-the-century Nigeria.
Muchos años después, frente al pelotón de fusilamiento, el coronel Aureliano Buendía había de recordar aquella tarde remota en que su padre lo llevó a conocer el hielo. Macondo era entonces una aldea de veinte casas de barro y cañabrava construidas a la orilla de un río de aguas diáfanas que se precipitaban por un lecho de piedras pulidas, blancas y enormes como huevos prehistóricos. El mundo era tan reciente, que muchas cosas carecían de nombre, y para mencionarlas había que señalarlas con el dedo. Todos los años, por el mes de marzo, una familia de gitanos desarrapados plantaba su carpa cerca de la aldea, y con un grande alboroto de pitos y timbales daban a conocer los nuevos inventos. Primero llevaron el imán.
Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe taal: Engelsgepubliceerd door: Alfred Knopfeerste editie: gedrukt: 2006verworven: 2007bindwijze: gebondenisbn: 0679446230verworven via: Amazon Read my appreciation here and Yann Martel’s comments on his website What is Stephen Harper reading? This novel is part of my personal canon.