Saturday, August 23, 2014

Question Commander- Bianca A

A day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich 
Alexander Solzhenitsyn 
Week 1: vii (introduction) xviii; xix-(foreward) xxii; pp. 3-22
Job 1: Question Commander 

1- What do you believe is the significance of the introduction and foreword chapters and why do you think that they were included in the book? 

I believe that these beginning chapters were extremely important in order to understand the significance of some key events on the first part. I had begun directly reading the novel part, and frankly, was completely lost in the setting and some ideas being presented. So, I decided to go back and read the introduction and foreword, hoping they would shed some light in these areas. I realizes that since this is a historical fiction novel, the background information is extremely influential. I believe it is important to understand the camp in which Ivan is living in, what it is and who is there in order to make sure everything is clear. It is also interesting to learn that this was the first book to actually expose these Soviet camps, and that the author actually attended one. The introduction also explains a bit about the character himself, his motives and intentions, and this will help us fully grasp the character development further on in the novel. For these reasons, I believe that the person that is in charge of the research this week must do a thorough job of explaining the Soviet regime in order to help us understand it a bit better. 

(Source )

2- We don't know anything about Shukhov's past, however, can we infer anything about his character through the way that he acts around camp? 

For me, Shukhov is still a mystery. I do not understand what he did to be sent to the labor camp or how his life is. Yet, I can notice a few trends throughout the few pages that we have already read. I can see that it is a extremely tough routine, and that the men seem to be suffering tremendously. After some small research on these Soviet labor camps, I learnt that the men attending them were ones who had committed crimes worthy of life sentences. It is still a mystery to me what Ivan did to end up there. However, I noticed that he seems to know his way around and how to do things in order to survive in the least painful way. He knows about the process of the hospital, as well as who to trust with his food. In the introduction, it is mentioned that Ivan is a person whose ambition is to survive, and does everything he can to do so. He is not a rebel and works hard to live the way he does. I am very interested to learn about his past and his actions. 


3- Are the first pages already enough to understand why the book was banned in Russia? Explain why or why not. 

In the introduction, it is explained why it was banned, for it was revealing too much about the Soviet labor camps. The sort of information that was supposed to be censored. If I did not have that information though, I would probably need to understand a bit more of the timing and the Soviet regime in order to make that connection. I needed to understand where it was happening and how the people dealt with it in order to comprehend. In my opinion, the camp does have some characteristics that distinguish it and help us understand what is happening. However, we needed to know the background information about the author in order to know the reasons. We also do not have a lot of information on the camp itself, so we must read on to understand. 



  1. Bianca, I agree with you on the first question. Without having read the introduction and the foreword I wouldn't have understood the book. Unless you researched the background of this book, you wouldn't have known what was going on. I think Alexander did a great job putting those parts in. These several pages of information was crucial for readers to understand the setting. It may have explained important information, but it was difficult for me to catch up. It had too much information in a few pages.

    For the second question, I can predict Shukhov's history. In my risk taking researcher post, I researched about the author. Since the base of the story was formed through Alexander's experience, I think that they might have a similar history. The research on the Gulag showed that some of the prisoners were sentenced to labor camps due to political crimes. Although I am not completely sure, I believe that Shukhov committed a political crime just like Alexander.

    The answer to the third question is quite simple. I think that the Soviet Union were shocked when they read the first few pages of the book. This book would've grabbed the world's attention on the Gulag and the forced labor camps. As expected, the West was very interested in the book and it became a hit in the world.

  2. Hi Bianca,

    I thought you did a great job with answering the questions thoroughly and completely. I agree with pretty much everything you said, and I really liked what you wrote about the introduction and how important it was to understanding the fundamentals of this book.

    The only thing I want would want to maybe expand on is the second question. I did a little research on camps, and I found out that many people where sent there for ridiculous reasons, like being late to work or showing 'disrespect' to an official. From what we can tell so far from the book, I suspect that Ivan was also sent there for a ridiculous reason. We will have to read on too see.

  3. Bianca, answering the first question, I do agree with you. To understand the book, you had to read the introduction. Beginning this book, I read the introduction because I thought that it might help me understand some key evens soon going to happen. Without reading the introduction, I think that everyone would be lost and confused about whats going on. You wouldn't be able to understand the story and you wouldn't know whats happening.

    Answering your second question, I think that the way he acts might be able to tell us a little about him. Since he was there, you can tell he has done something bad. Only people that go to that camp are men that have created crimes, as you said. Other than that, I agree with you that he already knows what to do in order to survive. I think that he might have been at the camp before, or has been there for a long time. As you, I am also very interested to learn why he is there and what his past holds.

    Reading the introduction, as you said, it does reveal why is was banned. This book has information from Soviet labor camps that are supposed to be secret. I also think that if it didn't have information about the camp, the book would not be exciting and, as you mentioned, they will need other ways of information for us to understand the book. Understanding how the people felt and how they reacted to what was happening also made the book better to understand.

  4. Hello Bianca !
    Answering your first question , I think it is very important to have an introduction. In books like this one , where history is involved , it is good to read a few pages that will inform you about the setting and historical background. When I read a book that has an introduction , I read it because it usually gives more detailed information.

    Answering the second question , I feel that after reading this few pages and discussing with my book group , it is easier to predict Shukhov's life. Doing some research and getting to know Gulag Camps better , my group discussed that Shukhov obviuosly did something bad to get there , since the camps are for prisoners. For a conclusion we said that Shukhov offended the current governor , which was Stalin. I agree , he knows the camp very well to be able predict that he has been there for a while already.

    Answering the final question , a country like the Soviet Union wouldn't like for foreigners to be informed about the bad things in the Soviet Union. In my opinion the Soviet labor camps are massive and harsh. Do you agree ? The book has too much information about the camps , not a good thing for the Soviet Union. But of course , someone who is not Russian and knows few about this , a book like this one will help them know more about this topic. What will you think the next pages will be about ? Shukhov's life ? The Soviet Labor Camps ? The current government force ? What ?
    - Great Post !

  5. Bianca, throughout the book, I had some of the same ideas that you had. For your first question, "What do you believe is the significance of the introduction and foreword chapters and why do you think that they were included in the book?" I thought it was very complex and thoughtful. However, I think that Alexander Solzhenitsyn did this so that we could get a good backround information of what was happening at that time in Shukhov's life. I also think he put these chapters, because he foreshadows in many moments.

    "We don't know anything about Shukhov's past, however, can we infer anything about his character through the way that he acts around camp?" it is a really complex, and thoughtful question. I agree with you, and think that they should tell more backround information on what had happened to Shukhov so that he had been sent to labor camp. But, I predict that he had done something before related to a crime. I think that later on in the book, they are going to speak about what he had made so that he went to labor camp.

    Well, your third question was quite basic. As you mentiond in your post, it says in the book that they banned it because it said too many details of the Soviet labor camp.