Friday, November 27, 2009

~ The Gulag Archipelago ... ~


Next day, we were allowed to move into private lodgings. I found myself a henhouse to suit my pocket, with a single bleary window and such a low roof that even where it was highest, in the middle, I could not stand upright. "Give me a low-roofed cottage," I once wrote in prison, dreaming of exile. It was not very pleasant, all the same, not being able to raise my head. Still, it was a little house of my own! The floor was earthen. I put my padded camp vest on it, and there was my bed! But Zdanyukevich, an exiled engineer, who had formerly taught at the Bauman Institute, quickly lent me a couple of wooden boxes, on which I managed to make myself comfortable....


I had no oil lamp as yet - I had nothing!! an exile must select and buy every single thing he needs, as though he has just landed on this earth - but I did not feel the want of it... I simply lay on my boxes and enjoyed it!

What more could I desire?...

But the morning of March 6 surpassed anything that I could have wished for! Chadova, my elderly landlady, an exile from Novgorod, whispered - because she dared not say it out loud: "Go and listen to the radio. I'm afraid to repeat what I've just heard."


Something told me to do as she said: I went over to the central square. A crowd of perhaps two hundred people - a lot for Kok-Terek - huddled around the post under the loudspeaker and the sullen sky...


... There were many Kazakhs, most of them old men, among the crowd. Their bald heads were bare, and they held their red-brown muskrat-fur hats in their hands. They were grief-stricken. The younger people seemed less concerned. Two or three tractor drivers had not removed their caps. Nor, of course, would I. Before I could make out what the announcer was saying (he spoke with a histrionic catch in his voice), understanding dawned on me.

This was the moment my friends and I had looked forward to even in our student days. The moment for which every zek in Gulag (except the orthodox Communists) had prayed!...


...He's dead, the Asiatic dictator is dead! The villain has curled up and died! What unconcealed rejoicing there would be back home in the Special Camps!...


...But where I was, Russian girls, schoolteachers, stood sobbing their hearts out. "What is to become of us now?" They had lost a beloved parent... I wanted to yell at them across the square: "Nothing will become of you now! Your fathers will not be shot! Your husbands-to-be will not be jailed! And you will never be stigmatized as relatives of prisoners!"


I could have howled with joy there by the loudspeaker; I could even have danced a wild jig! But alas, the rivers of history flow slowly. My face, trained to meet all occasions, assumed a frown of mournful attention. For the present I must pretend, go on pretending as before...


All the same, my exile had begun with magnificent auguries!

.....

-Excerpt from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago, Part VI, Chapter 5 ("End of Sentence"), p. 420-422

5 comments:

Sara said...

Awesome work, as always. I'm really impressed with your crowd scenes!

Khylov said...

Thanks much Sara. Was worried that I wasn't getting the focus on the main character, what with all the other business in the scenes.

Josh (musarter) said...

I am digging the illustration of this story. It adds some fun and life to a the morose mood of the writing. I was also impressed by the crowd scenes.

TH3DEN said...

Hey man. Really nice illustrations. I really like the contrast of the colours to the mood that you get from the writing. Been a while, really diggin the previous posts as well. Very nice work all around! :D

Khylov said...

Josh, TH3DEN;

Thanks much guys. I was thinking about the color thing this week, wondering if some of the brighter colors in the crowd weren't detracting from the darker tone of the subject matter (as well as the run-down desert look of Soviet era Kazakhstan).

But then again, I should've figured that adding overly cartoonish expressions to the characters doesn't necessarily add to a brooding atmosphere. (I should've added bulging eyes to Stalin.) JUst glad the mix goes over well with folks.