I’ve noticed a tendency in myself recently to read only shorter works. This isn’t something that’s always been my reading mode – I’ve happily sunk myself into massively long volumes in the past with no issue at all and with great enjoyment. But on thinking about it, I think that embarking on this blog is something to do with it. I’ve been reading shorter works so I can get a review out every day or two, and small volumes are therefore more manageable. This is Not Necessarily A Good Thing – so I have given myself a bit of a talking to and reminded myself that at the end of the day, I read for pleasure and I read what I feel like reading, and that it doesn’t matter if I don’t post for a week!

So – I take on a chunkster! The book in question is one that’s been on my TBR mountain for a couple of years in its present form and for about 35 in its original form! In case that statement causes any confusion I’ll explain – in my teens I discovered Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and after reading “One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich” I got hold of all of his books that I could – most of them in Penguins from the 1970s or thereabouts. One such was “The First Circle” and I confess to never having got very far into it.

However, a couple of years ago I discovered that this volume had been severely truncated by the author in the 1960s in an attempt to get it published by the Soviet authorities, following the success of “Ivan”. Needless to say, they wouldn’t have anything to do with it, but it was this shortened version that had been published in the West, somewhat out of Solzhenitsyn’s control. After he defected to the West, he restored the work to its original form and this version was published shortly after his death, in a version by his approved translator, Henry Willetts (under the title “In The First Circle”). I demanded a copy from family for Christmas 2010 but didn’t get very far into it – at 700+ pages I was a bit daunted.

By Verhoeff, Bert / Anefo [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

But – 700-odd pages or not, I am determined to read this. Solzhenitsyn seems to be in some ways a forgotten author which is a great shame. When I was growing up he was ubiquitous because of his political stand and his defection to the West, and his books were very highly regarded. However, I think his public persona and his politics have got in the way of perception of him as an author. I read “Cancer Ward” within the last few years and was blown away. I think he’s a remarkably good writer and I’m looking forward very much to getting sunk into “In The First Circle”.

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