Universitatea de Vest din Timișoara, Facultatea de Litere, Istorie și Teologie; West University of Timișoara, Faculty of Letters, History, and Theology
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Dostoevsky and the Gulag Literature
Abstract: This paper aims to describe and analyze the references and allusions made by the authors who write about the Soviet Gulag to Dostoevsky and to his text written after his imprisonment in the tsarist prison in Omsk, The House of the Dead (1860- 1862). Starting from the premise that The House of the Dead has a special status as it is a text that makes the transition from the classical and vaguely defined genre of prison literature (i.e. literature written in prison or related – however not always explicitly – to the prison experience) to that of testimonial literature (i.e. literature related to a traumatic experience of a collective nature that is able to testify on behalf of those who remain to suffer in prisons or concentration camps), I will emphasize the testimonial character of Dostoevsky’s writing. Subsequently, I will analyze how the authors who write about their experiences in the Soviet camps (Gustaw Herling-Grudziński, A World Apart, Julius Margolin, Journey into the Land of Zeks and Back, Varlam Shalamov, Kolyma Tales, Yevgenia Ginzburg, Journey into the Whirlwind, Within the Whirlwind, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago) relate to Dostoevsky’s text. At first, the references to Dostoevsky highlight the continuity between the two repressive systems: the tsarist katorga and the Soviet Gulag (Gustaw Herling-Grudziński). Later, however, the differences between them become apparent, as the Gulag writers all highlight in their writing the extent and intensity of the suffering experienced by those who lived through the hell of the repressions in the Gulag. In this way, they enter in an ironic and polemical dialogue with the nineteenth-century Russian writer. In the end, this polemical separation from Dostoevsky shows how the Gulag writers abandon the messianic and humanistic innocence of the nineteenth-century prison literature in the context of the totalitarian and repressive system of the twentieth century.
Keywords: Dostoevsky, prison literature, testimonial literature, memoirs, Soviet camps, katorga.
Citation suggestion: Tucan, Dumitru. “Considerații pe marginea unei tipărituri liturgice românești mai puțin cercetate – Mystirio sau Sacrament (Târgoviște, 1651)”. Transilvania, no. 6 (2021): 40-52.