One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by former gulag prisoner Alexander Solzhenitsyn, is a short novel that entails an ordinary day for a prisoner, Shukhov, in a Siberian gulag. Although the work is a typical skaz, a traditional Russian narrative form, the novel was well-received by Russians at the time of publishing in 1962. This paper will explore the reason for such acclamation, understanding how Solzhenitsyn’s innovations to the skaz allowed readers to connect with their past. The paper also mentions theories such as Traumatic Realism to comprehend how such a bleak novel positively impacted post-Stalinist readers. Questions this paper will consider are, “How did Solzhenitsyn’s novel affect trauma-ridden survivors of Stalinism and their memories of past events?,” “Why is Shukhov a good (or bad) symbol of human existence to Soviet people?,” and “How does Solzhenitsyn’s writing style contribute to the unmasking of the horrors in camp life?” This paper will also explore the undertones of Christian spirituality throughout the novel by asking questions like, “How do characters like Alyosha the Baptist find fulfillment through Christian asceticism and the desire to survive?,” and “How does this work’s spiritual undertones correlate with the collective suffering of postStalinist readers?” Although One Day provided Soviet readers a means of healing, one novel could not bear the trauma of one of the most horrific holocausts. The paper acknowledges that Russia (and former Soviet countries) still lack proper holocaust memorialization today, while applauding Solzhenitsyn for taking the first step in acknowledging the horrors of the Stalinist regime.
Chirkova-Holland, Alisa, "Raising the Iron Curtain: Healing Collective Oppression through Literature" (2023). Student Works. 4.