Prisoners: A Play – Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1983)


Prisoners: A Play – Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1983)


Title: Prisoners: A Tragedy

Author: Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Helen Rapp (trans), Nancy Thomas (trans)

Publisher: The Bodley Head, London. 1983. First English-language edition.

Condition: Hardcover, with dust jacket. Good. Some foxing to dust jacket flap, endpapers, and edges of book (including one or two page margins. Slight creasing to dust jacket. A thin book, app 7″x4.5″.

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About the book (from jacket flap):

Prisoners is set in the cells and offices of Stalin’s Counter-Intelligence SMERSH in July 1945, crowded with repatriated Russian prisoners-of-war, and shows the rough and ready methods used for despatching prisoners to Siberia. In exposing the travesty of justice to which these men were subjected, Solzhenitsyn demonstrates his awareness of where the Revolution was leading Russia: far from forging a new nation, it was creating an unbridgeable gulf between the revolutionaries and ordinary Russian humanity.

Prisoners forms the second part of a trilogy including Victory Celebrations and The Love-girl and the Innocent, and was conceived by the author in the years 1952-3 while under sentence of hard labour in the Gulag. He committed it to memory and wrote it down subsequent to his release. The plays dramatically reflect Solzhenitsyn’s indignation at the enormities committed in Russian-occupied Europe by Stalin as well as by the Allies against Russian prisoners-of-war and displaced persons of all nationalities. Little by little the evidence has come to light, not least in Solzhenitsyn’s other books. The plays in this trilogy are among the earliest and starkest pieces of evidence to come out of the Gulag.

About Solzhenitsyn (from Wikipedia):

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (11 December 1918 – 3 August 2008) was a Russian novelist, philosopher, historian, short story writer and political prisoner. One of the most famous Soviet dissidents, Solzhenitsyn was an outspoken critic of communism and helped to raise global awareness of political repressions in the Soviet Union, in particular the Gulag concentration camp system.

Solzhenitsyn was born into a family that defied the Soviet anti-religious campaign and remained devout members of the Russian Orthodox Church. While still young, however, Solzhenitsyn lost his faith in Christianity and became a firm believer in both atheism and Marxism–Leninism, in his later life, he gradually became a philosophically-minded Eastern Orthodox Christian as a result of his experience in prison and the camps. While serving as a captain in the Red Army during World War II, Solzhenitsyn was arrested by the SMERSH and sentenced to eight years in the Gulag and then internal exile for criticizing Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in a private letter.

He was awarded the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature “for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature”. His The Gulag Archipelago was a highly influential work that “amounted to a head-on challenge to the Soviet state” and sold tens of millions of copies.