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0017 | The First Circle – Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

Finished this while recovering from an appendectomy in hospital. For me it didn’t match Cancer Ward in terms of the integration of the characters despite it having more of a storyline. Nevertheless, it’s a great novel because Solzhenitsyn depicts an era which very few lived through, let alone survived to write about in such style. He brings the political prison system alive from a huge range of perspectives: prisoner, guard, warden, government minister, male, female, wife, lover – even “Uncle Joe” himself gets a chapter. The ending is poignant and laden with feeling.

The fretted hands of the bronze clock on the shelf stood at five to five.


There is nothing predictable about relations between men and women – they have no set course and there are no laws that govern them. They sometimes reach such a dead end that there’s nothing to do but sit down and howl: everything that could be said has been said, all arguments have been exhausted. But then, at a chance meeting of eyes, the blank wall may suddenly crumble away, and where all was darkness there is light and an easy path along which two people might walk again – for a short while, at least.

Her nightdress was… of the sort that had been cunningly designed to make a woman many times more attractive than she would have been naked.

If you wanted to put the whole world to rights, who should you begin with: yourself or others?

the antithesis of love – a guard with a rifle

Physical suffering is never to be feared. Prolonged pain is never intense, intense pain is never prolonged. ~ Epicurius.

More great ideas have been burned, perhaps, than have ever been made public…

escutcheon:A shield bearing a coat of arms.
parsimony: reluctance to spend money unnecessarily
inter alia: Among other things.
callow: immature and inexperienced
helot: member of the slave class in ancient Sparta.
tocsin: a warning bell
panegyric: a formal public speech delivered in high praise of a person or thing
dialectic: practice of examining ideas and beliefs using reason and logic. It is often accomplished by question and answer.
pertinacious: stubbornly unyielding
leitmotif: basic recurring theme
diffident: showing modest reserve

One must admit that the city’s food supplies are admirably well organised.

terrible > poor > mediocre > okay > good > very good > excellent > superb

2007 – Apr

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