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One of the great allegorical masterpieces of world literature, Cancer Ward is both a deeply compassionate study of people facing terminal illness and a brilliant dissection of the “cancerous” Soviet police state.


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One of the great allegorical masterpieces of world literature, Cancer Ward is both a deeply compassionate study of people facing terminal illness and a brilliant dissection of the “cancerous” Soviet police state.

30 review for Cancer Ward

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Pain in its purest form! At the time when I first read this, I didn't know much of the Soviet Union, or of writers' fate within that state, or of cancer and its silent, treacherous spread in secret weak spots of the body. I was a young teenager, and had been told that this might be a bit too difficult for me to take from my parents' bookshelf - which constituted a natural invitation to do exactly that of course. The ensuing problem - nightmares I could not talk about, as I had read the book in Pain in its purest form! At the time when I first read this, I didn't know much of the Soviet Union, or of writers' fate within that state, or of cancer and its silent, treacherous spread in secret weak spots of the body. I was a young teenager, and had been told that this might be a bit too difficult for me to take from my parents' bookshelf - which constituted a natural invitation to do exactly that of course. The ensuing problem - nightmares I could not talk about, as I had read the book in secret - made me try to forget it for the time being. Now, some twenty-five years later, I know so much more about all those topics that frightened me back then - and they scare me even more today, knowing their true impact. Some childhood fears disappear, or turn into nostalgic feelings or humorous memories. But some fears grow with knowledge - and the Cancer Ward plays on exactly that kind of human terror. Although it is meant to be a metaphorical story, indicating the macrocosm of the state in the microcosm of the ward, there is no real need for symbolism in the frustratingly hopeless cancer ward, where people with desperate diagnoses gather without any previous connection or anything in common except for the silent killer they have discovered within their bodies. There is true equality in misery, but other than that, the representatives of different social layers in the state have a collection of very diverse stories to tell. Of course the disease is supposed to symbolise how the Soviet Union breaks down from within its own structure, not through force from the outside, and the characters are carefully chosen to illustrate the complete disaster, among party faithful, successful career politicians or dissenters, among carefree or conscientious, young or old people. The disease affects all, and there is no protection. Now that the state described in the novel does not exist anymore, the book could be seen as obsolete, or as a historical document. But it isn't obsolete. It can now be read in a more universal sense - and be appreciated as a work of art with characters suffering from the human condition beyond specific local circumstances. Cancer still strikes silently, disrupting everyday lives of families, leaving them pending between hope and fear, and ultimately waiting for the slow inevitable progress towards the end. Even symbolically, the Cancer Ward can transcend the peculiar oppression of the Soviet State and symbolise any country in the process of self-destruction. There is never just one single occurrence that weakens a political structure beyond hope: only when many vital organs of the state are simultaneously struck, the political body falls hopelessly ill. To end a glum review of a dark book on a positive note: since Solzhenitsyn wrote his novel, science and history have gained more knowledge, and might have better cures than those that were available in the 1970s, literally and metaphorically speaking. I still sometimes have nightmares, though.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    Scene: Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Central Asia in the old Soviet Union, two years after the death of the brutal dictator, Stalin ( now 1955). Oleg Kostoglotov is lying on the floor of a provincial hospital, at the entrance to the cancer ward, which is unpromising named the 13th wing looking up at the cold ceiling, his dead eyes stare. He can't get admitted until a space is available, but a vacancy will arrive soon, he feels death near. Meanwhile stoic Kostoglotov, a survivor of the infamous Gulag and Scene: Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Central Asia in the old Soviet Union, two years after the death of the brutal dictator, Stalin ( now 1955). Oleg Kostoglotov is lying on the floor of a provincial hospital, at the entrance to the cancer ward, which is unpromising named the 13th wing looking up at the cold ceiling, his dead eyes stare. He can't get admitted until a space is available, but a vacancy will arrive soon, he feels death near. Meanwhile stoic Kostoglotov, a survivor of the infamous Gulag and a permanent exile can wait, the very sick Russian has little hope for recovery. Finally Oleg gets in, nine beds in two rows , separated by an aisle in the middle of the room , all the men are dispirited and quiet, except a youth who is moaning by the corner, unheeded slowly dying. Pavel Nikolayevich Rusanov has no problem getting a coveted bed , he is an important bureaucrat, but cancer has no favorites he will discover shortly. The pitiless Yefrem the dark joker of the ward, and a much hated man greets Pavel with these words, " Well, what have we here? Another nice little cancer! " Rusanov the great man is not amused he has connections, a famous Moscow clinic Rusanov expects soon to be going to looks down on these people, dirty peasants. Pavel shouldn't be with such riffraff, he has sent many of them lowlifes, to the labor camps most never return however rumors that the survivors are "returning" makes him feel uneasy, things are changing but not for the better Rusanov thinks. To the inmates of the cancer ward reading, is enjoyable their only entertainment to pass the dreary time, boredom makes them lethargic. Passing read books to each other in the ward, some of these like flies are seen and quickly float away, others stick to you like molasses on hair. Still Oleg Kostoglotov even has time to romance two women Vera, a pretty, friendly doctor in the hospital and Zoya even more beautiful and younger nurse, studying to become a physician also. Most of the doctors in the clinic are women here, a low -paying profession then, the head physician is of course a man still does Oleg have the right, because of his serious illness to dream about his future with a family of his own to love? One by one all Oleg's friends leave the room and go home, to die? This mystery is never explained, strangers now occupy the beds as a character in the novel says you can't know everything in the world, whatever happens you'll die a fool... An especially well written autobiographical novel, Solzhenitsyn is showing through Oleg Kostoglotov, based on his own life how dehumanizing the old Soviet system was, nobody but the high party members were treated well everyone supposedly equal, yet in reality, some "more equal than others"... And the bleakness of life, the lack of freedom and hope, the ennui that stifles the spirit of mankind. A magnificent novel which details the struggle of the fearless to breathe free.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    Do I remember the Cold War? You bet I do. I think about it every day. It is as fundamental a part of my upbringing -- as defining of me as Catholicism, American Patriotism, Canadian Anti-Americanism, homophobia, abuse and bisexuality. It wasn't just something that was happening in the world. In my household, with an American father, a U.S. Coast Guard Veteran (he was a Coastie who was all set to go to Vietnam with U.S. Coast Guard Squadron One -- and wanted to go -- when the U.S. finally pulled o Do I remember the Cold War? You bet I do. I think about it every day. It is as fundamental a part of my upbringing -- as defining of me as Catholicism, American Patriotism, Canadian Anti-Americanism, homophobia, abuse and bisexuality. It wasn't just something that was happening in the world. In my household, with an American father, a U.S. Coast Guard Veteran (he was a Coastie who was all set to go to Vietnam with U.S. Coast Guard Squadron One -- and wanted to go -- when the U.S. finally pulled out. He didn't count himself lucky), a father who was rabidly patriotic, the Cold War was something that we were fighting every day. Trudeau and his "pinko" Liberal Party were bringing Communism to Canada (where we were all living. My Dad and I were born in the U.S., my Mom and sister were born in Canada). The Soviets were hiding behind every corner; the Red Chinese were Communist and "oriental," which made them particularly evil ("Just look at Mao!"); Patton should have pushed straight on through Berlin and driven his tanks to Moscow; all Soviet athletes were cheaters; the Soviets had no business in Afghanistan (of course, my Dad supports the U.S. presence there today); and on and on and on. So yeah ... the Cold War was real to me. It was real for my sister too. So real that after watching The Day After (she was only nine. Nice one, Mom and Dad), the famous nuclear holocaust TV movie with Steve Guttenberg and Jason Robards, she took to hiding in our basement bathroom, the darkest room in the house, jamming a towel along the crack at the bottom of the door and teaching herself how to do everything blind. She was convinced that the evil Russkies were going to nuke us into the stone age, and she'd be blinded, if not by the flashes than by the fallout. And while she was busy torturing herself, I decided to read my father's copy of Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward. My Dad loved Solzhenitsyn, of course, and he held the great author up as an example of everything that was wrong with the Commies. They were silencing one of their great men. One of their great men was in exile. Obviously they were evil bastards. My Dad owned everything Solzhenitsyn had written at that point (at least those available in translation), and I'd seen him leafing through Gulag Archipelago, although I am certain he never read anything but the captions around the pictures. I wanted to impress him, and I was reading tons of big books at the time, so I thought, "Why not Cancer Ward?" I didn't get far. About one hundred pages. But what I read stuck with me for many years. I remembered vividly that the hospital was horrific . It was grey and appalling and squalid and filthy and ineffective, and everyone in the hospital was a Communist. Some were being crushed under the fist of others, some were the crushers, but they were all Commies, and they weren't worthy of pity. They chose their stupid system -- their evil system -- and they got what the deserved. It's amazing the way indoctrination (and living with my father can be considered nothing other than that) takes hold and shifts perspective. The lenses I saw Cancer Ward through were Star Spangled, and even though I couldn't get through Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's dreary world that first time, I always loved the book and wanted to try reading it again because it made my world -- my North American world -- so much brighter. And damn did it feel good to have my moral and ideological superiority confirmed by a man who had lived "under" Communism. My lenses aren't Star Spangled anymore, and that same hundred pages that I read when I was twelve revealed a society that I can walk out my door and see today. The hospital is no different from the crowded hospital my wife nurses in. Hell, I could have seen it back then if I'd had other lenses. Don't mistake me, though. The Soviet Union that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn shows us here (and in his equally brilliant One Day in the LIfe of Ivan Denisovich) is no utopia. It's not a pretty place. Horrors abound in Stalinist Russia. Minorities are sent to prison for "criminal activity" (often activities that were intentionally criminalized to insure their incarceration), the poor stay poor and those with power flaunt their ease and wealth and special treatment, the poor were in constant fear of being watched by secret police and local police, of being screwed over by those in power on a whim. It wasn't pretty. But what I couldn't see through those glasses of mine is that the Soviet Union was really no different than the United States. If your skin was black or yellow or tanned (yes, even today), you were looking at all the same shit in the U.S. that you'd be looking at in the U.S.S.R.. The only difference I could see is that in the Soviet Union the folks that were at risk -- those who could be shipped off to engage in forced labour and starvation when the famine hit -- were the people that are safe here (oops ... and free health care for all, even the poor). The middle class, us, the mainstream ... in Russia they were as vulnerable as those we fucked (and continue to fuck) in North America. So the U.S.S.R. had to be vilified; it had to be evil and horrible and nasty because we never wanted to lose the power that we were indoctrinated into believing was our birth right. If you read Cancer Ward now, try to read it through the lenses of the poor in Detroit or Toronto or East or South Central L.A. or any other big city with its embarrassing, obligatory ghettoes. See with the eyes of those people you share your country with and your communities with. Recognize that what Solzehitsyn was rightly condemning in the Soviet Union is something we would be right to condemn in Canada and the U.S. and England (riots anyone?) today. And then allow yourself to take joy in the beautiful spirits of Oleg Filimonovich Kostoglotov and the women he shares love with. They're not different from you at all. There is tremendous beauty in that. Just as there is beauty in the deaths that will come to us all.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Ра́ковый ко́рпус = Rákovy kórpus = Cancer Ward, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Cancer Ward is a semi-autobiographical novel by Nobel Prize-winning Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Completed in 1966, the novel was distributed in Russia that year in samizdat, and banned there the following year. The plot focuses on a group of patients as they undergo crude and frightening treatment in a squalid hospital. Cancer Ward tells the story of a small group of patients in Ward 13, the cancer ward of a hospita Ра́ковый ко́рпус = Rákovy kórpus = Cancer Ward, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Cancer Ward is a semi-autobiographical novel by Nobel Prize-winning Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Completed in 1966, the novel was distributed in Russia that year in samizdat, and banned there the following year. The plot focuses on a group of patients as they undergo crude and frightening treatment in a squalid hospital. Cancer Ward tells the story of a small group of patients in Ward 13, the cancer ward of a hospital in Soviet Central Asia in 1955, two years after Joseph Stalin's death. A range of characters are depicted, including those who benefited from Stalinism, resisted or acquiesced. Like Solzhenitsyn, the main character, the Russian Oleg Kostoglotov, spent time in a labor camp as a "counter-revolutionary" before being exiled to Central Asia under Article 58 (Article 58 of the Russian SFSR Penal Code was put in force on 25 February 1927 to arrest those suspected of counter-revolutionary activities). تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال 1984 میلادی عنوان: ب‍خ‍ش‌ س‍رطان‌؛ نویسنده: ال‍ک‍س‍ان‍در س‍ول‍ژن‍ی‍ت‍س‍ی‍ن‌؛ مت‍رج‍م: س‍ع‍دال‍ل‍ه‌ ع‍ل‍ی‍زاده؛ ت‍ه‍ران ام‍ی‍رک‍ب‍ی‍ر‏‫، 1362؛ در 545ص؛ چاپ دیگر 1389؛ در 912ص؛ شابک 9789640013106؛ چاپ سوم 1393؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان روسیه - سده 20م بخش سرطان یک دنیای حیرت‌زای بی‌امید و غمباره است، بخش سرطان تمامی روسیه شوروی پیشین است، که در دام غده ی مرگبار خفقان و سرطان سیاسی و روانی است، که در کار شکنجه و احتضار خویشتن خویش است.؛ داستان در همین بخش سرطان است که می‌گذرد، محیطی تیره‌ و اندوهبار، هر فرد در این نظام بی‌ روزن کلکتویسم، زندانی غده ی بدخیم، و مبتلای شکنجه ی اسارت خویش است.؛ در بخش سرطان، از تبعید‌ها، زندان‌ها، اردوگاه‌ها و خلاصه شکنجه‌ گاه‌های روحی، و جسمی استالینی، سخن می‌رود...؛ از قدرت‌های بی‌رحم اهریمنی‌ ای سخن می‌رود، که به سادگی محض، چه بسا زندگی‌ها را ویران، و بی‌سامان می‌کنند...؛ هیچ‌کس را یارای نجات ازین ظلمتکده نیست.؛ سرنوشت «کوستوگولوتف» نیز جز این نیست؛ او نیز این غده مضاعف را، همیشه و همه‌ جا با خود همراه دارد، و سرانجام جان خویش نیز در سر آن می‌گذارد؛ بنگریم که محیط رعب‌ انگیز حزبی، چگونه آزاد اندیشی والای بشری را، در سراسر کشور کشته است.؛ کتاب چه ارتقای فراجویانه، چه شهوت راستین، و حزن‌ انگیز، و چه تپش، و جهش، و اشتیاق، برای زیستن انسانی، و آزادانه دارد، چه بسا زندگی‌ها که تباه شدند؛ میلیون‌ها انسان، میلیون‌ها اندیشه، میلیون‌ها آرزو، و آرمان عدالت‌جویی، و صلح‌ دوستی، که نمی‌خواستند گوهر زندگی‌شان، آلوده ستم گردد.؛ آن‌همه، نخست زبانشان بریده شد، و سپس در محراب سوسیالیسم حزبی، و دیکتاتوری مارکسیسم قربانی گشتند...؛ نقل نمونه متن: (بدتر از همه بخش سرطان «شماره سیزده» بود.؛ پاول نیکلایویچ روسانف هیچگاه آدمی خرافاتی نبود و نمیتوانست باشد، اما وقتی پای کارت پذیرشش نوشتند «بخش سیزده» قلبش یکباره فرو ریخت.؛ مسئولین بیمارستان باید ابتکار را از خود نشان میدادند که از شماره سیزده برای مشخص کردن بخشهایی مثل ارتوپدی یا زایمان استفاده کنند، نه بخش سرطان.)؛ پایان نقل تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 22/05/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dana Ilie

    Cancer Ward can be read purely as a literary work, without the reader ever knowing the circumstances in which it was written, without recognizing the larger picture that the book rounds up, of the excruciatingly totalitarian regime under which Russian writers, intellectuals and artists worked, and were finally silenced if they raised their voices against oppression.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Speranza

    Like the blood transfusion Kostoglotov received from Gangard, I literally felt this book flow through my veins. I was wary of the injection at the beginning, a bit numb in the middle and completely intoxicated toward the end. In fact, I think this might be the best piece of literature I have come across so far in my life. First of all - the characters. Despite being confined to the same small space and sharing a common fate, they are very colourful, different from each other and interesting in the Like the blood transfusion Kostoglotov received from Gangard, I literally felt this book flow through my veins. I was wary of the injection at the beginning, a bit numb in the middle and completely intoxicated toward the end. In fact, I think this might be the best piece of literature I have come across so far in my life. First of all - the characters. Despite being confined to the same small space and sharing a common fate, they are very colourful, different from each other and interesting in their own right. They develop beautifully, right before the eyes of the reader, through their interactions, thoughts, reactions to what life throws at them. There, in their small cancerous universe, every subtle touch, every sigh, every stare, every silence tells a story. An allegory of the Soviet regime, 'Cancer ward' actually shows that communism and capitalism are two sides of the same coin. We are all captives of the system, it's just the bars that are made of different material. The society we have created is one big cancer ward and we are all locked up in there, everyone in their own little room, each and every one of us both a patient and a doctor. Some suffer, some hope, some battle, some despair, some live in an imaginary world, some hope to break free. And when they do, they don't know how to handle their freedom. Because they were never taught how to. Because they are suddenly left alone. Because they are this one person that laughs when ninety nine people weep. Because we are born slaves, raised as slaves and die slaves. All the way being told that freedom is the utmost human right. 'Cancer ward' is not about cancer; it is not about death either. It is about life. It is about freedom. It is about tolerance. It is about the smell of human skin, the power of a word, the companionship of a dog that gives an invisible meaning to human life. It is about fear and loneliness; about the flesh and the soul; about the equal right of life of every living creature. It is about togetherness and about diversity; about love and walls; about the human spirit flying and the human spirit dying. It is a masterfully crafted encyclopedia of humanism.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    Cancer Ward … hmmm… Oh, Cancer Ward…. What was I expecting from you? Certainly not a frolicky day in the park… no Maurice Chevalier dance routines. Nope. I can’t say I was duped. Cancer sucks. Hell, I’m not spouting some fresh angle on an old dictum. Just nod and agree, folks. Most of us have had some dealings with it, some more than others… it’s one of the nastiest things out there… rots you from the inside out, leaves you to dwell on things left unaccomplished and fills your head with messy wo Cancer Ward … hmmm… Oh, Cancer Ward…. What was I expecting from you? Certainly not a frolicky day in the park… no Maurice Chevalier dance routines. Nope. I can’t say I was duped. Cancer sucks. Hell, I’m not spouting some fresh angle on an old dictum. Just nod and agree, folks. Most of us have had some dealings with it, some more than others… it’s one of the nastiest things out there… rots you from the inside out, leaves you to dwell on things left unaccomplished and fills your head with messy words like ‘sarcoma’, ‘carcinoma’, ‘lymphoma’, ‘melanoma’, and you know, the biggie: ‘death.’ So, here it is the beginning of Spring, the most joyous of times, birds tweeting, flowers sprouting... and I’m reading about a ward full of cancer patients in Soviet Uzbekistan circa 1955. Joy. Actually, the thing is, it was. You think that these characters have lived through sieges and war and exiles and now this horrible disease and you still see them grasping at the hope that it's not what it is or what it could be. There's this great chapter called 'What Men Live By' where each of the characters ponder over the riddle 'what do men live by?' They start to call out responses 'productivity!', 'Professional skill!', 'their pay!', 'Food! Water!', 'Air!' and then you have the quiet ones; 'your homeland' and 'ideals' and finally 'love.' I guess that is the mother load of questions, right? What keeps us going? What keeps us moral? Are we just sheep? Yeah, I didn't sleep a lot while reading this. Oleg, who, I guess you could call, the protagonist, the character that Solzhenitsyn models after himself, won me over. We see him struggle with his doctors to have some control of his treatments and then dealing with the side effects (read: Impotence) of said treatment. He comes to the Cancer Ward from his 'perpetual exile' in Kazakhstan and we see how his ideals clash with his fellow bunkmates. His struggle with what life has dealt him with: "If my life is totally lost, if I can feel in my bones the memory that I'm a prisoner in perpetuity, a perpetual 'con', if Fate hold out no better prospect, if the only expectation I have is being consciously and artificially killed--- then why bother to save such a life?” Can you even imagine? Hell, I can't even get past my anger at the pedestrian that hits the walk sign and then proceeds to cross without waiting. I need to reassess. Big.Time. There's another great scene where he is visiting the zoo. He's promised another patient that he will go there and report back, he's just been released from the ward, given a free day to roam the city before returning to Ush-Terek and the first encounters a spiral horned goat. It had stood there a long time just like a statue, like a continuation of the rock itself. And when there was no breeze to make its straggly hair flutter it was impossible to prove it was alive, that it wasn't just a trick. Oleg stood there for five minutes and departed in admiration. The goat had not even stirred. That was the sort of character a man needed to get through life.” The peak. Then, he continues on to see a crowd gathering around another cage. Inside is a squirrel in a wheel. ...And there, quite oblivious of its tree and the slender branches up above, stood the squirrel in its wheel—even though no one had forced it there or entice it with food---attracted only by the illusion of sham activity and movement. It had probably begun by running lightly up the steps out of curiosity, not knowing then what a cruel, obsessional thing it was. (It hadn't known the first time, but now at the thousandth time, it knew well enough, yet it made no difference.)” The valley. That's it, I'm playing hookie tomorrow. Screw the machine. I guess you can ask, how can you be inspired and uplifted by this, Kim? (Don't lie, it's there, I can see you forming the words...) Hell if I know. I was just overwhelmed by the sense of hope that these people still carried, no matter their lot in life. Sieges, exiles, bread lines, grappling with the idea of ethical socialism yet living in a competitive, do better society. Fighting the idols of the marketplace while trying to stay true to themselves. That says a lot. So, does this: The meaning of existence was to preserve unspoiled, undisturbed and undistorted the image of eternity with which each person is born. Like a silver moon in a calm, still pond. You can't know everything in the world, whatever happens you'll die a fool.' What else is there to say?

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    “In the midst of life we are in death.” The beauty of Cancer Ward is that it illustrates the fact that, quite often, the opposite is true too: even in the midst of death, we can still find so much life. For me, this was by far the most compelling aspect of the novel, that the characters you meet are so vibrantly, tenaciously alive, and that they feel so utterly real. Solzhenitsyn wrote this with his whole heart; his compassion for his characters is undeniable. Overall, an unexpectedly life-af “In the midst of life we are in death.” The beauty of Cancer Ward is that it illustrates the fact that, quite often, the opposite is true too: even in the midst of death, we can still find so much life. For me, this was by far the most compelling aspect of the novel, that the characters you meet are so vibrantly, tenaciously alive, and that they feel so utterly real. Solzhenitsyn wrote this with his whole heart; his compassion for his characters is undeniable. Overall, an unexpectedly life-affirming, heartening look at the human condition!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ammara Abid

    Exceptional and ingenious piece of writing, "Cancer Ward" Terribly terrific, Painstakingly beautiful, One more, later on, later on. Keeping the review aside, let me say first, 'Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn' is one of the greatest literary craftsman & he 'Must Be Read'. Before saying anything else let me confess this man is my another favorite Russian writer. That's my second book by him (the first was "One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich") and I'm startled by his eloquent description of those harsh Exceptional and ingenious piece of writing, "Cancer Ward" Terribly terrific, Painstakingly beautiful, One more, later on, later on. Keeping the review aside, let me say first, 'Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn' is one of the greatest literary craftsman & he 'Must Be Read'. Before saying anything else let me confess this man is my another favorite Russian writer. That's my second book by him (the first was "One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich") and I'm startled by his eloquent description of those harsh circumstances. He was an exceptional, visionary & remarkable writer with deadly writing style & heart wrenching life experiences which he amazingly portrayed in the form of books. Tears stood in my eyes & my heart sank while reading. The title is enough to break your heart more precisely to stab your heart. This book made me think, shatter me and left me in tears. Every second line of this masterpiece made you think, so I'm going to add all my favorite lines here, don't mind if it get pretty long :) 'But you told me I don't have cancer!... What is the diagnosis?' 'Generally speaking, we don't have to tell our patients what's wrong with them, but if it will make you feel any better, very well - it's lymphoma.' ' You mean it's not cancer?' ' Of course it's not.' 'Come on, tell us, what are you most afraid of in the world now? Of dying! What are you most afraid of talking about? Of death! And what do we call that? Hypocrisy!' 'The hurricane swept by, few of us survived, And many failed to answer friendship's roll-call..' "But living longer doesn't mean having more life. The real question is, what will I have time to achieve? I must have time to achieve something on this earth. I need three years. If they give me three years, I won't ask more than that. And I don't mean three years lying in the clinic, I mean three years in the field." 'When you're born, you wriggle; when you grow up, you run wild; when you die, that's your lot.' "Living longer doesn't mean having long life." "The falsest line of reasoning would be to treat what he was losing as a premise: how happy he'd have been, how far he'd have got, what he'd have attained if only he'd lived longer. The right view was to accept the statistics which stated that some people are bound to die young. By dying young a man stays young for ever in people's memory. If he burns brightly before he dies, his light shines for all time. In his musings during the past few weeks Vadim had discovered an important and at first glance paradoxical point: a man of talent can understand and accept death more easily than a man with none - yet the former has more to lose. A man of no talent craves long life, yet Epicurus had once observed that a fool, if offered eternity, would not know what to do with it." "A man is happy so long as he chooses to be happy, and no one can stop him." "Be happy with what you've got. In perpetuity? Why not? In perpetuity!" "Which place on earth should you love more? The place where you crawled out of the womb, a screaming infant, understanding nothing, not even the evidence of your eyes or ears? Or the place where they first said to you, 'All right, you can go without a guard now, you can go by yourself!" What is an optimist? The man who says, 'It's worse everywhere else. We're better off here than the rest of the world. We've been lucky.' He is happy with things as they are and he doesn't torment himself. What is a pessimist? The man who says, 'Things are fine everywhere but here. Everyone else is better off than we are. We're the only ones who've had a bad break?' He torments himself continually. 'If you don't want to croak, you shouldn't get yourself upset. Less talk, less pain.' 'First my own life was taken from me, and now I am being deprived even of the right... to perpetuate myself. I'll be the worst sort of cripple! What use will I be to anyone? An object of men's pity - or charity?..." 'Reading them made a shattering impression on me, but it was somehow emptying as well. I got the feeling I didn't really want to live any more...' 'Happiness is a mirage.' 'The only thing is, I don't want to die under the knife. I'm frightened, No matter how long you live or what a dog's life it's been, you still want to live...' "We are so attached to the earth, and yet we are incapable of holding on to it."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    ”He was dead but his star burned, it kept burning... But its light was wasted. It wasn’t the sort of star that still gives light after being extinguished. It was the sort of star that shines, still shines with all its light, yet no one sees the light or needs it.” Cancer Ward is like a grief-kissed dream: mournful, vivid, and lasting. The disease is merciless, and the war to combat it tireless. Solzhenitsyn doesn’t pander with unrealistic dialogue or outlandish storylines; he simply tells the stor ”He was dead but his star burned, it kept burning... But its light was wasted. It wasn’t the sort of star that still gives light after being extinguished. It was the sort of star that shines, still shines with all its light, yet no one sees the light or needs it.” Cancer Ward is like a grief-kissed dream: mournful, vivid, and lasting. The disease is merciless, and the war to combat it tireless. Solzhenitsyn doesn’t pander with unrealistic dialogue or outlandish storylines; he simply tells the story of disease, hope, and dread—the “sad music of Russia,” as he called it. Excellent and realistic. I highly recommend.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    In this novel Solsjenitsyn is above all a Russian writer. For starters, lots of characters: patients, doctors, nurses in the cancer ward of a hospital, somewhere in Central Asia, in the mid-50's, that is in full Soviet era. He takes his time to describe some of these characters in full, and through them he brings up existential, political and social questions. Let's say he offers a mix of Tolstoi and Dostojevski, although he is less whirling and feverish than those two classic models. The constr In this novel Solsjenitsyn is above all a Russian writer. For starters, lots of characters: patients, doctors, nurses in the cancer ward of a hospital, somewhere in Central Asia, in the mid-50's, that is in full Soviet era. He takes his time to describe some of these characters in full, and through them he brings up existential, political and social questions. Let's say he offers a mix of Tolstoi and Dostojevski, although he is less whirling and feverish than those two classic models. The construction of the novel is a bit awkward: some storylines are unfinished, and sometimes I had the impression Solsjenitsyn had lost course. In the end there's only one character left, the others fade away. But these shortcomings are compensated for by the political and humanistic message. Solsjenitsyn gives a most uncompromising critic on the soviet system, namely by showing the effect it has on real people. The cancer is a metaphore for the totalitarian system. But the strongest storyline is that of people fighting the horrible disease, coping with the possibility of death and the question what they have made of their life. The last 100 pages are almost unbearably beautiful: the main character, Kostoglotov, leaves the cancer ward, still a bit unstable and enters the nearby city, observing everything with wondering eyes; it has been 12 years since he has been in the real world. His voyage has ups and downs, with hope and disappointment, and in the end accepting his fate. It's no coincidence this somehow reminds of Mann's The Magic Mountain. You have to take your time for it, and perhaps you'll be annoyed by the slow pace and the many digressions, but hey, this is another very classic Russian novel.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Somethingsnotright

    This book is one of the best examples, for me, of Russian writers making stones "stonier". It was almost an out of body experience to read this. I felt it, saw it, smelled it, heard it. As I read on, I imagined I became physically unwell and increasingly so, but only when I was reading this book. It sounds like madness but that is how supernaturally vivid I found this. Incredible immersive reading experience from a genius. This book is one of the best examples, for me, of Russian writers making stones "stonier". It was almost an out of body experience to read this. I felt it, saw it, smelled it, heard it. As I read on, I imagined I became physically unwell and increasingly so, but only when I was reading this book. It sounds like madness but that is how supernaturally vivid I found this. Incredible immersive reading experience from a genius.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Gator

    Cancer ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was published in 1968. This was his 5th book and one of his best. I find Solzhenitsyn to be incredibly refreshing and truthful. As an author/person Solzhenitsyn is one of my favorites, he is a true inspiration. Cancer ward was fantastic, it was thoughtful, funny, sad, and addictive to read. Plenty of times I found myself laughing out loud. The story telling is captivating, the descriptive writing is on point. Overall this was a very enjoyable read and anothe Cancer ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was published in 1968. This was his 5th book and one of his best. I find Solzhenitsyn to be incredibly refreshing and truthful. As an author/person Solzhenitsyn is one of my favorites, he is a true inspiration. Cancer ward was fantastic, it was thoughtful, funny, sad, and addictive to read. Plenty of times I found myself laughing out loud. The story telling is captivating, the descriptive writing is on point. Overall this was a very enjoyable read and another grand slam by one of the best Russian authors ever, which isn’t an easy task considering who he’s up against ! “As the two-thousand-year-old saying goes, you can have eyes and still not see. But a hard life improves vision.” “It is not our level of prosperity that makes for happiness but the kinship of heart to heart and the way we look at the world. Both attitudes lie within our power, so that a man is happy so long as he chooses to be happy, and no one can stop him.”

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    A man of no talent craves long life, yet Epicurus had once observed that a fool, if offered eternity, would not know what to do with it. Cancer Ward (CW) consciously strives for the epic, readily aware of the distance between itself and the baggy monsters of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and yet sways in the limitations of the material especially in moral terms. Unlike Europe after the Shoah, the Soviet experiment had different questions to ask itself after Stalin's death. Caught almost in the sway of s A man of no talent craves long life, yet Epicurus had once observed that a fool, if offered eternity, would not know what to do with it. Cancer Ward (CW) consciously strives for the epic, readily aware of the distance between itself and the baggy monsters of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and yet sways in the limitations of the material especially in moral terms. Unlike Europe after the Shoah, the Soviet experiment had different questions to ask itself after Stalin's death. Caught almost in the sway of self-conscious people becoming cynical. I place CW apart from the other major works of Solzhenitsyn and place it instead closer to Grossman's Forever Flowing, another novel about the inmate's impossibility of returning --to normality, to youth, to belief. Memory becomes a clever foe, a challenge. This is an ensemble piece - similar to First Circle - which pulsates with social discord and apprehension. The patients have all internalized the implications of their illness. The setting is the Thaw of Khrushchev at a clinic in Uzbekistan. The presence of the oncological leads the reader to assume such is a metaphor. Not entirely. Matters are more organic -- the effects of the Purge, the show trials -- they are returning-- as the metaphysical meaning of Remission becomes palpable , even rendered upon the very flesh of the sick. I would be most curious as to what Foucault gathered about this protean display of the abject and possible redemption.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    I have a fond recollection of reading this book off my parent's bookshelves but I don't think I'll return to it. Flicking through it ,there a dry prose style, the central character looks to be a barely disguised authorial self-portrait. It suffers, even as Cold war condemnation of the Soviet Union, in comparison to The Foundation Pit or Moscow Stations - though admittedly Moscow Stations central message of alcoholism as a means of opting out of everything is not culturally or temporally specific I have a fond recollection of reading this book off my parent's bookshelves but I don't think I'll return to it. Flicking through it ,there a dry prose style, the central character looks to be a barely disguised authorial self-portrait. It suffers, even as Cold war condemnation of the Soviet Union, in comparison to The Foundation Pit or Moscow Stations - though admittedly Moscow Stations central message of alcoholism as a means of opting out of everything is not culturally or temporally specific. As a symbol you might find a cancer ward and a building site as equivalent alternatives to the ship of state (or fools - assuming any difference between the two is perceptible), but Platonov's book is a finer piece, it slides into you like a razor sharp dagger while offering the mystical possibility of being a weapon that heals as well as hurts while Solzhenitsyn's book bounces off the head, a far blunter instrument. I think here he is reaching for the role of a modern day Tolstoy - the author as prophet and cult figure, perhaps uniquely writers have the potential to re-form their communities of readers, fortunately maybe few try to do so. Tolstoy's vision is by and large a more positive one, transcendence a possibility, scythe in hand or on the battlefield, Ivan Denisovitch's brief burst of work-pride by contrast suggests the impossibility of transcendence, one can only approximate it. That I guess is his point, soviet man is in his view too far fallen from Uvarov's 'Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality' for such experiences, the only answer as Voinovich playfully suggested in Moscow 2042 is to return to the Seventeenth Century. I still like the cover though, with the implied weekends spent searching through sheds and outhouses for appropriately shabby tools.

  16. 5 out of 5

    John

    Solzhenitsyn deservedly earned the Nobel Prize for this and his other works in 1970. The story is about a small group of patients receiving treatment in a cancer ward in one of the old Soviet Union Central Asian republics. Oleg Kostoglotov is a wonderful character as are Rusanov, Dyoma, Yefrem, Vega, Zoya and of course Shulubin a Bolshevik scholar regretting all the compromises being made to survive. The story is also semi-autobiographical and draws on Solzhenitsyn’s own gulags and cancer experi Solzhenitsyn deservedly earned the Nobel Prize for this and his other works in 1970. The story is about a small group of patients receiving treatment in a cancer ward in one of the old Soviet Union Central Asian republics. Oleg Kostoglotov is a wonderful character as are Rusanov, Dyoma, Yefrem, Vega, Zoya and of course Shulubin a Bolshevik scholar regretting all the compromises being made to survive. The story is also semi-autobiographical and draws on Solzhenitsyn’s own gulags and cancer experiences for this masterpiece. The doctors, patients and the sense of desperation and acceptance is captured with the radiation, surgical and quack treatments Amazingly the translation is excellent and it’s a shame the translators name is not mentioned in my edition. Life in the cancer ward is like a microcosm of the Soviet Union around the time that Stalin had recently died and a wave of change for exiles was occurring. Many in the small group worry about their roles in the great purges and the possible implications. The visit to the zoo and parallels of people losing their freedom is evident. Perhaps the most poignant statement for me was ‘An evil man threw tobacco in the macaque-rhesus’s eyes.’ A reference to Stalinism and the people being blinded by their own fears of being sent to gulags other punished by the regime.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Biblio Curious

    This book is just so human. Dostoevsky said about Victor Hugo's The Last Day of a Condemned Man, "Absolutely the most read and truthful of everything that Hugo wrote." Without being arrogant and just my strong opinion as a reader, Cancer Ward has to be the most human and honest book by Solzhenitsyn. There are scenes where if we look into our heart, we would do or feel the same thing, I'm sure of it. Solzhenitsyn included so many aspects of what makes us human and puts them into a mere few hundre This book is just so human. Dostoevsky said about Victor Hugo's The Last Day of a Condemned Man, "Absolutely the most read and truthful of everything that Hugo wrote." Without being arrogant and just my strong opinion as a reader, Cancer Ward has to be the most human and honest book by Solzhenitsyn. There are scenes where if we look into our heart, we would do or feel the same thing, I'm sure of it. Solzhenitsyn included so many aspects of what makes us human and puts them into a mere few hundred pages. The setting is a Cancer Ward, so there are numerous hospital like moments, but somehow regardless of the cold, sterile setting, there is such deep emotion that honestly rises above all this. He wrote this to be an allegory on Soviet Russia and you could read it looking for that social commentary. Like any well crafted allegory, there's multiple layers and threads. You can read this as a modern day cancer book or one on health care or more importantly, heath care ethics. The heart of this book and all of Solzhenitsyn's writing is in a single chapter: Chapter 30, The Old Doctor. It should be recommended reading for everyone going into the Health Care Field in any capacity. Just reading that one chapter and nothing else by him would be amazing and I'm sure could help with some desperately needed changes in this field. Not everyone has to agree with me, and Solzhenitsyn is a little idealistic. But there is some merit in what he's trying to say here. And I think he's going in the right direction. It's clear, what we're doing in North America for health care isn't working. This book as a whole is even more amazing. Reading it from beginning to end gives you the full picture of the health care field and the point of view of everyone who's involved. Solzhenitsyn's keen observational skills of what makes us human is on full display in this book when he shifts seamlessly from point of view to point of view. He crafts a single narrative weaving in the various roles and what their motives are so we end up with a complete tapestry of what makes up humanity when facing our own natural mortality. If In the First Circle is humankind's imposed prison on us, Cancer Ward is nature's imposed prison and what we try to do about it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nick Imrie

    I've spent so long reading this book about a whole load of people who have a whole load of cancer that I've almost started to entertain the superstition that all this thinking about cancer might give me cancer, like summoning a demon by speaking its name. Nevertheless, I will be thinking about it a little more as I try to write a proper review because this was an truly amazing book that somehow managed to show me all of life and death in just a few hundred pages. I loved all the fellas from the c I've spent so long reading this book about a whole load of people who have a whole load of cancer that I've almost started to entertain the superstition that all this thinking about cancer might give me cancer, like summoning a demon by speaking its name. Nevertheless, I will be thinking about it a little more as I try to write a proper review because this was an truly amazing book that somehow managed to show me all of life and death in just a few hundred pages. I loved all the fellas from the cancer ward by the end, the ones who tried to bring some meaning to their lives, and the ones who never even realised the question.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    This work of Russian literature -which is quite epic in scope-deals with many themes. It is set in a clinic in Soviet ruled Uzbekistan for cancer patients ,in the mid 1950's ,shortly after the death of Joseph Stalin. It deals with the personal stories and lives of many different characters There are parallels between the cancer that ravages the bodies of the dying patients and the cancer of Communism that ravaged the once proud Russia. The hero of the novel is Oleg Kostolgotov who has gone from bein This work of Russian literature -which is quite epic in scope-deals with many themes. It is set in a clinic in Soviet ruled Uzbekistan for cancer patients ,in the mid 1950's ,shortly after the death of Joseph Stalin. It deals with the personal stories and lives of many different characters There are parallels between the cancer that ravages the bodies of the dying patients and the cancer of Communism that ravaged the once proud Russia. The hero of the novel is Oleg Kostolgotov who has gone from being a soldier on the frontline of Russia's fight against the invading Nazi armies during world War II to a political prisoner doomed to destruction for falling foul of Stalin's psychopathic system to a cancer patient lingering in a rundown hospital He lives life to the full however , even in this seemingly gloomy clinic. His foil is the Communist Party hack Pavel Rusanov , a man who has no heart and soul at all other than the Communist Party itself , in whose name he has cold-bloodedly ruined countless lives. Now he lies in the cancer ward layed low by a disease that even the mighty Party cannot save him from . Kostoglotov lives life to the full in the ward and has an interesting relationship with two remarkable women -the dedicated and beautiful Dr Vera Gangart and the vibrant and attractive young nurse Zoya. Through the stories of the many people in this book we learn of the type of society they lived in ,and there are profound observations on so many subjects in life that are extremely memorable. Always in the classic Russian combination between hope and depression where neither completely triumph over the other , but rather vie in a dependant type of antagonism .

  20. 5 out of 5

    Judy Vasseur

    "Well, what have we here? Another nice little cancer!" "The hard lump of his tumor—unexpected, meaningless and quite without use—had dragged him in like a fish on a hook and flung him onto this iron bed—a narrow, mean bed, with creaking springs and an apology for a mattress." Solzhenitsyn writes beautifully about human physical, moral, social, and political conditions; over-layering each consideration one upon the other. His books do not depress me, I find them powerful and hopeful documents to th "Well, what have we here? Another nice little cancer!" "The hard lump of his tumor—unexpected, meaningless and quite without use—had dragged him in like a fish on a hook and flung him onto this iron bed—a narrow, mean bed, with creaking springs and an apology for a mattress." Solzhenitsyn writes beautifully about human physical, moral, social, and political conditions; over-layering each consideration one upon the other. His books do not depress me, I find them powerful and hopeful documents to the strength of the human spirit. He uses humor and documentation as forces of survival. He writes from his own experience having a cancer tumor removed while he was in a Soviet prison camp, he was eventually cured of the disease. This book takes place in the cancer ward of a soviet hospital and follows the illnesses and treatments of many different patients, mostly in the men's ward. Interestingly the majority of the doctors are women. The patients come from different backgrounds, different political hemispheres, laying in beds alongside each other, each battling their particular sicknesses, pains and fears. I find Solzhenitsyn's writing has something in common with American Southern Gothic. It's in his contrasts: shifting quickly from enormous tragedy to every day practicality in one sentence.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rebecka

    Finally, a Russian book that I REALLY liked! This is an extremely well written, slow paced story of the daily life of patients and employees at a cancer ward somewhere in an Asian Soviet republic in 1954, with the soviet mindset, customs, oppression and resignation, coupled with fear of death. Wonderfully interesting!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sean Blake

    Cancer Ward is like all the other greats of Russian literature: Dense, passionate and rewarding. This truly beautiful novel is, to me, the best Russian novel of the twentieth century, and Solzhenitsyn is one of Russia's greatest writers ever to have lived. Cancer Ward is like all the other greats of Russian literature: Dense, passionate and rewarding. This truly beautiful novel is, to me, the best Russian novel of the twentieth century, and Solzhenitsyn is one of Russia's greatest writers ever to have lived.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Moon Rose

    As the cliche goes, money is the root of all evil, and many would agree that indeed it is. On the contrary, it contradicts the essence of what had become human living since time immemorial. As human living immersed itself voluntarily in the deep dark materiality of existence, as it is beleaguered by the sensual pleasures of physicality. In truth, the want of money is only a direct object. It appears only as the end goal to attain the inexhaustible, human yearning for material happiness . This As the cliche goes, money is the root of all evil, and many would agree that indeed it is. On the contrary, it contradicts the essence of what had become human living since time immemorial. As human living immersed itself voluntarily in the deep dark materiality of existence, as it is beleaguered by the sensual pleasures of physicality. In truth, the want of money is only a direct object. It appears only as the end goal to attain the inexhaustible, human yearning for material happiness . This burning desire for earthly comforts and the luxurious provisions that it usually comes with that provides the ability to take control and get ahead, can be define as the true cause or rather, the mother root of ALL EVIL. As greed , or the love of power is blurred invisibly deep within the human consciousness, enabling the flesh to do harm against another as it slowly infects the soul like a carcinogen to decay and rot, losing its full capacity to love. Cancer Ward is an aftermath of this terrible human sin, as it is set against the Post Stalin era in Soviet Russia. This is a social condition of loose morals foreseen by Fyodor Dostoyevsky , as it is prophetically depicted in Demons , in which Leo Tolstoy tries to redeem through his Christ like vision of passivity. Soviet Russia under the tyrannical regime of Stalin was gripped by the might of his human cruelty, social oppression and the injustice of his political repression, casting his dark shadow over the country in the midst of turmoil, as it blanketed the tortured lives of the many into the oblivion of dreamless isolation. Cancer Ward is a seamless reenactment of this fatal social condition, surprisingly overwhelming in the pureness of its simplicity, as it is written in the fluidity of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's masterful technique. It is his symbolic representation of an ailing society on the brink of death, as the Russian people hope against hope and tried to hold on to the flickering light of uncertainty after being plunged into the abyss of moral degradation and exposed into the ensuing darkness of spiritual deterioration. THE SOULS IN THE WARD: Blind Men Walking on the Shadows of the Living Dead There are people with eyes who choose to be blind, and there are people who breathe, but consider themselves dead. Like a true virtuoso Solzhenitsyn paints with so much dexterity, using only the easel of his narrative technique, the lifeless existence in a gulag in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich , capturing in utter lucidity a day in the life of an imprisoned man forced into a labor camp. In Cancer Ward, he put these so called imprisoned men, both literally and figuratively vis-a-vis with the people, whose sheer blindness contributed to even greater extent to their perpetual ordeal. Solzhenitsyn puts all of them in the same footing, using cancer as God's Sacred equalizer, and death as a Divine declaration of equality... The Blind Fanatics: The Scheming Official and The Quiet Geologist The underlying vileness in the character of Pavel Nikolayevich Rusanov is a representation of the extent of Stalin's deadly tentacles. The perfect epitome of blind obedience mingled with a stringent conviction in an inane and senseless belief. This guiltless and scheming official is behind the deportation, torture and imprisonment of innocent people, believing that what he does is only a testament of loyalty to his country, but in reality, he is just a common criminal who abuses his power out of spite. Rusanov is the antithesis to the character of Oleg Filimonovich Kostoglotov , Solzhenitsyn's main protagonist, who perhaps mostly resembles him in character and belief, as the different ideologies of these two men lie in the opposite side of the spectrum. Vadim , on the other hand, is the silent geologist obsessed to leave a legacy in the world, believing in full heart that it will engraved his immortality in the minds of the people. As he realizes the imminent danger his into, his idea is to make the most of his short and brief life, exhausting all his energy, all that remained in the fulfillment of his earthly dream of recognition. His is what could be referred as the Divine blindness of being. A self devoid of any form of spirituality that loses one's connection to his own eternal soul. It is a kind of blinded existence common in all humanity that embraces the ephemeral part of life, holding on to the fleeting and temporal aspects of happiness. Blind No More: Conquering Fear on the Brink of Death Death can be regarded as the Divine transition to immortality. It is the sheer moment of detachment, as the spirit leaves its temporal vessel, it surrenders to the Source of Light back to its eternal rest. It is the moment of Enlightenment that usually begins with most men when they are on the brink of death. The tall, lanky figure of Aleksei Filippovich Shulubin is on the verge of this precipice. He is perhaps the most identifiable among the patients in the ward. The irritating glacial stare of his popping eyes that emanates from his blank timid nature hides the terrible guilt inside of him. It is the guilt of betrayal, of surrendering to fear and succumbing to a belief he truly opposes in order to preserve his life and protect his family. With his tortured mind full of guilt and a slowly dying body, he breaks his silence, as he lets out his evolved being with a sudden outburst during a heated discord in defense of Kostoglotov. It particularly highlights his character, making him at par with the rest of the patients in terms of spiritual maturity. His discourse on the significance of ethical socialism shows the depth of his thought, shining with a penetrating illumination of an enlightened soul. This is no different from Dostoevsky 's approach. To reach the level of Shulubin's understanding is to bridge the gap between suffering and happiness, enabling the spirit to arise amidst turmoil, as it dissipates fear and unleashes the lightness of the true being. The Converted: Seeing the Illumination of Life at the Point of Death For most men, life is to be lived to the fullest. It is like living on the pretense of no tomorrow, exhausting the earth's resources for selfish reasons. This is a blind notion of existence clouded by the dark shadow of materialism . It hinders the slightest trace of mortality in a human life, believing that the eternal glory lies in the fulfillment of one's OWN transient satisfaction. It is living life with a full stomach, leaving behind an empty and starving soul... The filth and rot of Yefrem Podduyev 's hungry soul responded to the erudite words of the Tolstoyan thought of love while reading one of his books. It is his starving soul trapped inside his dying body on the verge of extinguishing its immortality that attempts to communicate with the Divine Words, as it seeks its own salvation. Like Vadim, Yefrem enclosed his soul into an apocryphal belief throughout his existence. It is an indifferent life devoid of any compassion, yet before he reaches his end. He still manages to feed his spirit, fighting against the whim of his physical body with an illumination worthy to salvage his past wrong doings, as it rectifies and eventually frees a life into the transformative power of love. Solzhenitsyn did not explore much into Yefrem's life. He only gives us a glimpse of an equanimity against the roaring turbulence of life at the point of death. THE RESURRECTION OF THE LIVING DEAD: The Ex Prisoner in Perpetual Exile Amidst the Social Cancer There is a disease more fatal than Cancer . It gnaws not the skin, but the spirit within. It cripples not only an individual, but the condition of the collective whole. Its destructive elements damage not only the body, but the destiny of the human race, polluting men into moral corruption with the complete lack of compassion. Solzhenitsyn refers to this social cancer in this pragmatic novel, ironically making it appear side by side with the actual disease itself, as he mingles them together in the eloquence of his style. The character of Oleg Filimonovich Kostoglotov is the best personification of this symbolic fusion, as he seems to appear as the extension, or rather a sequel to the life and times of Ivan Denisovich after the Gulag, reflecting the millions of innocent Russian lives shattered by the intense grip of this social disease and at the same time, suffering from the fatal malady itself that blows his already wasted life to further uncertainty. It is also through Kostoglotov that Solzhenitsyn shows the debilitating effects of a force deliberately stricken upon another's life, as it squanders the promise of his youth, alienating him from society as it closes out all possibilities in life and destroying even one's capacity to hope, perhaps a mere reflection of Solzhenitsyn's own experiences and perceptions of Soviet Russia after his exile. This is evident in Cancer Ward's open ending that seems to connote one's own hopelessness, as if submitting helplessly to the irrevocable hands of destiny for comfort and answers, represented by Kostoglotov's feeling of detachment, alienation and indecisiveness, leaving all to fate to put back the broken pieces of his life. Only Time can tell when human sins will be absolved in the true sense of forgiveness, enabling humans to reach the pinnacle of spiritual maturity that allows everyone to understand in perfect harmony thereby resurrecting the souls for the absolute redemption of all. ☾

  24. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    “A man dies from a tumour, so how can a country survive with growths like labour camps and exiles?" “A man dies from a tumour, so how can a country survive with growths like labour camps and exiles?"

  25. 5 out of 5

    Andreea

    I loved this book about life as is and how it should not be. It's a very sad story and somehow the ending left me with broken heart. I loved this book about life as is and how it should not be. It's a very sad story and somehow the ending left me with broken heart.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alba Hasimja (Abaa)

    « Now that I am going away ... I can tell you quite frankly: even when we were having the most intellectual conversations and I honestly thought and believed everything I said, I still wanted all the time, all the time, to pick you up and kiss you on the lips. So try to work that out. And now, without your permission, I kiss them. »

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bethan

    The greyness of the cancer theme (it's set in a cancer ward) is just like a mirroring backdrop for the Soviet Union that it showcases. Vignettes of the lives of patients, doctors, nurses and others; from the high-ranking and staunch Soviet bureaucrat Rusanov to the poor exile Kostoglotov, it breaks their political and ideological positions down to their narrower human concerns and desires, such as the materialism of Rusanov's home that he enjoys, or Kostoglotov's desire for a woman that takes up The greyness of the cancer theme (it's set in a cancer ward) is just like a mirroring backdrop for the Soviet Union that it showcases. Vignettes of the lives of patients, doctors, nurses and others; from the high-ranking and staunch Soviet bureaucrat Rusanov to the poor exile Kostoglotov, it breaks their political and ideological positions down to their narrower human concerns and desires, such as the materialism of Rusanov's home that he enjoys, or Kostoglotov's desire for a woman that takes up much of the novel. This is a very humanistic novel and it shows things like one of the overworked doctors getting cancer herself and how her colleagues react, or of the little fights the patients have with the doctors to be told what is going on with them medically, or of what it is like on the trains when Kostoglotov goes out. Life is showcased and you can't ask for much more than that. ------------ I enjoyed the argument that Rusanov's golden daughter had, about "insincerity" in literature, with a patient on the ward - against realism; that literature should be about ideals of the future. From her, it sounded like that literature should be propaganda, but this debate also sounded curiously archaic - I am reminded that people used to have debates on what literature ought to be while these days there seems to be tacit acceptance that literature can be various things.

  28. 4 out of 5

    John

    I was slow to pick this one up, "After all," I thought, "how interesting can a book be about a ward full of cancer patients?" The answer is very interesting. This is an excellent book. It is a remarkable contrast to the epic fictional works of his that I've read of his. It is intimate, romantic, personal, and tragic. I heartily recommend this book. I was slow to pick this one up, "After all," I thought, "how interesting can a book be about a ward full of cancer patients?" The answer is very interesting. This is an excellent book. It is a remarkable contrast to the epic fictional works of his that I've read of his. It is intimate, romantic, personal, and tragic. I heartily recommend this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Adelle

    “Stupid fool! If it’s not cancer, what the hell d’you think they put you in here for?” Solzhenitsyn’s Pulitzer Prize winning book is a most excellent read. Is it a story of the patients in a cancer ward? Yes. “Did he want to go on living? The disease took no notice.” The patients desperate to live. Eagerly latching themselves onto any hope. Chaga mushrooms? OK. They’ll write their families to acquire some. The leg must go? OK. The stomach must go? OK. A man’s sexual life must be destroyed? A youn “Stupid fool! If it’s not cancer, what the hell d’you think they put you in here for?” Solzhenitsyn’s Pulitzer Prize winning book is a most excellent read. Is it a story of the patients in a cancer ward? Yes. “Did he want to go on living? The disease took no notice.” The patients desperate to live. Eagerly latching themselves onto any hope. Chaga mushrooms? OK. They’ll write their families to acquire some. The leg must go? OK. The stomach must go? OK. A man’s sexual life must be destroyed? A young woman’s never-loved-by-a-man breast must go? “Today it was a marvel. Tomorrow it would be in the trash bin” “How much can one pay for life, and how much is too much?” Is it a story of the political landscape in Russia? Yes. “…how to wriggle out from underneath the boulder that was crushing them” Those who had turned in their neighbors? “I wasn’t the only one!” “Because who doesn’t want to live?” : “Those up top—not my business. I swear oath—I serve. They force you—you serve” Is it a story of life? Yes. Political exiles, political pols, patients who had seemingly led exemplary lives… “They all had the same enemy, death.” The man with the tumor on his neck: “His fate lay there, between his chin and his collarbone. And in answer to this justice he could summon no influential friend, no past services, no defense.” There are people trying to do good in this world in this book But the book closes with a sad view of how cruel human nature can be… at the zoo... where the animals were caged prisoners: “An evil man threw tobacco in the Macaque Rhesus’s eyes. Just like that…”

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I enjoyed the allegorical nature of this book. However, the characterization was what struck me most. Particularly hat of Dontsova with whom I deeply identified, who fights a disease in others regardless of cost; but is humbled by that self- same illness. The following two quotes were, for me particularly evocative: "We are so attached to the earth and yet we are incapable of holding on to it" "Sometimes I feel quite distinctly that what is inside of me is not all of me. There's something else, subli I enjoyed the allegorical nature of this book. However, the characterization was what struck me most. Particularly hat of Dontsova with whom I deeply identified, who fights a disease in others regardless of cost; but is humbled by that self- same illness. The following two quotes were, for me particularly evocative: "We are so attached to the earth and yet we are incapable of holding on to it" "Sometimes I feel quite distinctly that what is inside of me is not all of me. There's something else, sublime' quite indestructible, some tiny fragment of the universal spirit. Don't you feel that?" it brings to mind the idea of the collective unconsciousness...

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