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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Cancer Ward

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Cancer Ward
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Biographical note:

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a Russian novelist and historian, and the winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature. He served as a decorated commander in the Red Army during World War II before he was arrested for anti-Soviet propaganda and sentenced to eight years in a Soviet labor camp, where he drew inspiration for his controversial novel A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Exiled in 1974, he returned to Russia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and died in Moscow in 2008.

Main description:

The Russian Nobelist’s semiautobiographical novel set in a Soviet cancer ward shortly after Stalin’s death

One of the great allegorical masterpieces of world literature, Cancer Ward is both a deeply compassionate study of people facing terminal illness and a brilliant dissection of the cancerous Soviet police state.
     Cancer Ward examines the relationship of a group of people in the cancer ward of a provincial Soviet hospital in 1955, two years after Stalin’s death. We see them under normal circumstances and then reexamined at the eleventh hour of illness. Together they represent a remarkable cross section of contemporary Russian characters and attitudes. The experiences of the central character, Oleg Kostoglotov, closely reflect the author’s own: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn became a patient in a cancer ward in the mid-1950s, on his release from a labor camp, and later recovered.

Review quote:

“A literary event of the first magnitude.” —Time

“The most moving of Solzhenitsyn’s novels.” —Clifton Fadiman


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