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Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn ,. Nicholas Bethell Translator. David Burg Translator.

Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published May 1st by Vintage Classics first published More Details Original Title. Oleg Filimonovich Kostoglotov. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

To ask other readers questions about Cancer Ward , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 4. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of Cancer Ward. Jun 25, Lisa rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites , nobels , books-to-read-before-you-die. 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!

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 s, literally and metaphorically speaking.

I still sometimes have nightmares, though. View all 19 comments. 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 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! Pavel shouldn't be with such riffraff, he has sent many of them , lowlifes, to the labor camps, most never to return, but rumors that the survivors are "returning", makes him feel uneasy, things are changing, 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, but 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, but 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.

View all 13 comments. Sep 06, Brad rated it it was amazing Shelves: exceeded-my-expectations , russian-lit , soviet , eastern-european-lit , historical , iron-curtain-lit , x-acto-knives-are-nice-and-shiny , in-translation.

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. Coast Guard Squadron One -- and wanted to go -- when the U. 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. The Soviets were hiding behind every corner; the Red Chinese were Communist and "oriental," which made them particularly evil "Just look at Mao!

So yeah 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? About one hundred pages. But what I read stuck with me for many years.


Cancer Ward

Cancer Ward , novel by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Though banned in the Soviet Union , the work was published in by Italian and other European publishers in the Russian language as Rakovy korpus. It was also published in English translation in Solzhenitsyn based Cancer Ward on his own hospitalization and successful treatment for supposedly terminal cancer during his forced exile in Kazakhstan in the mids. His fellow patients in the provincial city hospital are a microcosm of Soviet society.


After years in enforced exile on the Kazakhstan steppes, a cancer diagnosis brings Oleg Kostoglotov to Ward Brutally treated in squalid conditions, and faced with ward staff and other patients from across the Soviet Union, Kostoglotov finds himself thrown once again into the gruelling mechanics of a state still haunted by Stalinism. Withdrawn from publication in Russia in , it became, along with One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich , a work that awoke the conscience of the world. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn was born at Kislovodsk in


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 , 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 labour camp as a "counter-revolutionary" before being exiled to Central Asia under Article The story explores the moral responsibility of those implicated in Stalin's Great Purge — , when millions were killed, sent to camps or exiled. One patient worries that a man he helped to jail will seek revenge, while others fear that their failure to resist renders them as guilty as any other.

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