One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Russian: Оди́н день Ива́на Дени́совича Odin den' Ivana Denisovicha pronounced [ɐˈdʲin ˈdʲenʲ ɪˈvanə dʲɪˈnʲisəvʲɪtɕə]) is a novel by Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, first published in November 1962 in the Soviet literary magazine Novy Mir (New World). The story is set in a Soviet labor camp in the 1950s and describes a single day in the life of ordinary prisoner, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov.
The book's publication was an extraordinary event in Soviet literary history since never before had an account of Stalinist repression been openly distributed. Novy Mir editor Aleksandr Tvardovsky wrote a short introduction for the issue entitled "Instead of a Foreword" to prepare the journal's readers for what they were about to experience.
|One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich|
|Original title||Один день Ивана Денисовича|
|Translator||Ralph Parker (1963); Ron Hingley and Max Hayward (1963); Gillon Aitken (1970); H.T. Willetts (1991)|
At least five English translations have been made. Of those, the Ralph Parker's translation (New York: Dutton, 1963) was the first to be published, followed by Ronald Hingley and Max Hayward's (New York: Praeger, 1963), Bela Von Block's (New York: Lancer 1963), and Gillon Aitken's (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1971). The fifth translation, by H.T. Willetts (New York: Noonday/Farrar Straus Giroux, 1991), is the only one that is based on the canonical Russian text and the only one authorized by Solzhenitsyn. The English spelling of some character names differs slightly among the translations.
Ivan Denisovich Shukhov has been sentenced to a camp in the Soviet gulag system. He was accused of becoming a spy after being captured briefly by the Germans as a prisoner of war during World War II. He is innocent, but is sentenced to ten years in a forced labor camp.
The day begins with Shukhov waking up sick. For waking late, he is forced to clean the guardhouse, but this is a comparatively minor punishment. When Shukhov is finally able to leave the guardhouse, he goes to the dispensary to report his illness. It is relatively late in the morning by this time, however, so the orderly is unable to exempt any more workers and Shukhov must work.
The rest of the novel deals mainly with Shukhov's squad (the 104th, which has 24 members), their allegiance to the squad leader, and the work that the prisoners (zeks) do in hopes of getting extra food for their performance. For example, they are seen working at a brutal construction site where the cold freezes the mortar used for bricklaying if not applied quickly enough. Solzhenitsyn also details the methods used by the prisoners to survive; the whole camp lives by the rule of survival of the fittest.
Tiurin, the foreman of gang 104, is strict but kind, and the squad's fondness of Tiurin becomes more evident as the book progresses. Though a morose man, Tiurin is liked because he understands the prisoners, he talks to them, and he helps them. Shukhov is one of the hardest workers in the squad and is generally well-respected. Rations are meagre at the camp, but they are one of the few things that Shukhov lives for. He conserves the food that he receives and is always watchful for any item that he can hide and trade for food at a later date.
At the end of the day, Shukhov is able to provide a few special services for Tsezar (Caesar), an intellectual who does office work instead of manual labor. Tsezar is most notable, however, for receiving packages of food from his family. Shukhov is able to get a small share of Tsezar's packages by standing in lines for him. Shukhov reflects on his day, which was both productive and fortuitous for him.
The 104th is the labor-camp team to which protagonist Ivan Denisovich belongs. There are over 24 members, though the book describes the following characters the most thoroughly:
The main themes of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich are totalitarian oppression and camp survival. Specifically discussed are the prison officials' cruelty and spite towards their fellow man. Solzhenitsyn explains through Ivan Denisovich that everything is managed by the camp commandant to the point that time feels unnoticed; the prisoners always have work to do and never have any free time to discuss important issues.
Survival is of the utmost importance to prisoners. Attitude is another crucial factor in survival. Since prisoners are each assigned a grade, it is considered good etiquette to obey. This is outlined through the character of Fetiukov, a ministry worker who has let himself into prison and scarcely follows prison etiquette. Another such incident involves Buinovsky, a former naval captain, who is punished for defending himself and others during an early morning frisking.
One Day is a sparse, tersely written narrative of a single day of the ten-year labor camp imprisonment of a fictitious Soviet prisoner, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn had first-hand experience in the Gulag system, having been imprisoned from 1945 to 1953 for writing derogatory comments in letters to friends about the conduct of the war by Joseph Stalin, whom he referred to by epithets such as "the master" and "the boss". Drafts of stories found in Solzhenitsyn's map case had been used to incriminate him (Frangsmyr, 1993). Solzhenitsyn claimed the prisoners wept when news of Stalin's death reached them. He uses the epithet batka usaty (Russian: батька усатый) in his novel, which is translates to "Old Whiskers" or "Old Man Whiskers". This title was considered offensive and derogatory, but prisoners were free to call Stalin whatever they liked: "Somebody in the room was bellowing: 'Old Man Whiskers won't ever let you go! He wouldn't trust his own brother, let alone a bunch of cretins like you!"
In 1957, after being released from the exile that followed his imprisonment, Solzhenitsyn began writing One Day. In 1962, he submitted his manuscript to Novy Mir, a Russian literary magazine. The editor, Aleksandr Tvardovsky, was so impressed with this detailed description of life in the labor camps that he submitted the manuscript to the Communist Party Central Committee for approval to publish it (until then Soviet writers had not been allowed to refer to the camps). From there it was sent to the de-Stalinist Khrushchev, who, despite the objections of some top party members, ultimately authorized its publication with some censorship of the text. After the novel was sent to the editor, Aleksandr Tvardovsky of Novy Mir, it was subsequently published in November 1962.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was specifically mentioned in the Nobel Prize presentation speech when the Nobel Committee awarded Solzhenitsyn the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970. Following the publication of One Day... Solzhenitsyn wrote four more books, three in 1963 and a fourth in 1966 which cataclysmically led to the controversy of his publications. In 1968, Solzhenitsyn was accused by the Literary Gazette, a Soviet newspaper, of not following Soviet principles. The Gazette's editors also made claims that Solzhenitsyn was opposing the basic principles of the Soviet Union, his style of writing had been controversial with many Soviet literary critics especially with the publication of One Day.... This criticism made by the paper gave rise to further accusations that Solzhenitsyn had turned from a Soviet Russian into a Soviet enemy, therefore he was branded as an enemy of the state, who, according to the Gazette, had been supporting non-Soviet ideological stances since 1967, perhaps even longer. He, in addition, was accused of de-Stalinisation. The reviews were particularly damaging. Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Soviet Writers' Union in 1969. He was arrested, then deported in 1974. The novella had sold over 95,000 copies after it was released and throughout the 1960s. While Solzhenitsyn and his work was originally received negatively, under the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev, the book's mass publication was allowed in order to undermine the influence of Josef Stalin on the Soviet Union. However, critics of this action argue that this action unleashed liberalization that would cause the publication of more radical works and eventually the Dissolution of the Soviet Union. 
Often considered the most powerful indictment of the USSR's gulag ever made. It appeared on the Independent newspaper's poll of the Top 100 books, which surveyed more than 25,000 people.
A one-hour dramatization for television, made for NBC in 1963, starred Jason Robards Jr. in the title role and was broadcast on November 8, 1963. A 1970 film adaptation based on the novella starred British actor Tom Courtenay in the title role. Finland banned the film from public view, fearing that it could hurt external relations with its eastern neighbor.