echniques be shocking or sensational, the author has

echniques be shocking or sensational, the author has

echniques One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich EssaysOne Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch Literary Techniques Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s style of writing is economical and unornamental.

This is particularly true of One Day. This would seemingly cause little difficulty in translating One Day were it not for the great amount of prison jargon contained in the dialogues and discussion of life in the camp. The author’s motto might well be, “wie es eigentlich gewesen,” or “tell it like it is.” In believing as he does in honest realism and not the propaganda slogan of “socialist realism,” Solzhenitsyn wishes to render the real-life situations he describes in so many of his writings-but especially in One Day-in real-life language. The author did not have to use any glossaries of prison argot, although the translator must; Solzhenitsyn simply drew on his own 8-years’ experience in corrective labor camps. Artistic Use Of Blunt Language Many “unprintable” Russian words turn up in One Day, as it was first published in Novy Mir. Words like khub kren, yebat’, govno and der’mo, khui, pizda, etc.

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, would make Beelzebub himself blush, but since they are part of a zek’s vocabulary, they appear in the novella. In the half-dozen extant English translations of the work, these words are rendered with the frankness of a Henry Miller novel. In Solzhenitsyn’s case, the reader gets the impression that far from wishing to be shocking or sensational, the author has used these obscenities to show how debased humans can become.

In any case, most of the smutty language comes out of the mouths of the camp authorities. This undoubtedly is the author’s way of illustrating the source of the debasement, debasement not only of language but of human beings. In a brilliantly written essay, L.

Rzhevsky notes how the blunt language lends an “immediacy and sincerity of tone” to the story (in Tvorets i Podvig: Ocherki po Tvorchestvu Aleksandra Solzhenitsyna The Artist and His Accomplishments: Notes on the Writings of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Possev-Verlag, Frankfurt/Main). “The simplicity and credibility of the story” are enhanced by this device, whether the scene be in the barracks, at the construction site, or during the friskings and body counts. Professor Christopher Moody speaks in his book (see Bibliography) of the author’s own familiarity with Russian peasant life; he has learned how to convey the “idiom of the common people.” Solzhenitsyn studied philological texts (such as Dal’s famous dictionary) to verify expressions that he heard, and he took copious notes, as Dostoyevsky had done before him, as found in Dostoyevsky’s Diary of a Writer. Some of Solzhenitsyn’s proverbs appear to be lifted from Dal.

Moody cites and proverb found in One Day, “How can you expect a man who is warm to understand a man who is cold” (from the infirmary scene where Shukhov is commenting about Kolya upon leaving the hospital). But the Dal original renders it, “A man who is satisfied cannot understand one who is hungry.” So in these and other cases, Solzhenitsyn did not reproduce Dal but only adapted Dal to his own purposes. Moody notes also Solzhenitsyn’s folk-tale (skaz) flavor.

He cites the “stitch-stitch-stitch” line when Shukhov is sewing into his mattress the remaining half of a piece of bread; one might also mention the top-top, skrip-skrip onomatopoeia, which is Russian folk speech. Moody also notes how Solzhenitsyn’s descriptions do not retard the pace of One Day. The story’s tempo is not slowed down, “nor does the rhythm become monotonous.” The wealth of detail is combined with the lively pace of narration in which broken phrases, a wealth of emotionally-colored interrogatory and exclamatory figures, expressive parenthetical words and phrases, ellipses and unusual word order are used to best advantage. “Skaz” Story-Telling As to the folk-tale manner of One Day, Professor Moody and others note how Solzhenitsyn fits into the Russian tradition of Pilniak, Zamyatin, and Babel, not to mention prerevolutionary writers like Leskov and Gogol. In the skaz, the story-teller, or narrator, is one the same level as the main characters in the story.

He think their thoughts and uses their language. The skaz strategy for telling the story permits the author to tailor in a great deal of “local color,” to lend the story an eye-witness flavor through the making of astute, sometimes humorous and sardonic observations or commentaries. The narration in One Day permits the reader along with the author vicariously to dart in and out of the situations or conversations, as if he were there, both participating as well as describing goings-on.

One Day’s narration is enhanced by the fact that the language is at times simple and slangy and full of zek argot. The “darting-in-and-out” technique is accomplished by Solzhenitsyn without establishing any clear dividing line between Shukhov’s speaking and the author’s speaking. Moody notes that the voices “interchange so imperceptibly that the reader is often uncertain which is speaking.” At times it will necessitate extreme care on the part of the reader to disentangle an unspoken monologue of Shukhov from an exterior observation made by the author through the unseen narrator, who is in the third person. Moreover, the Shukhov himself is speaking, in a dialogue for example, it is sometimes difficult to know whether he is speaking to us, the readers, or to another character in the dialogue. At this juncture, the author, via the narrator, may step in to wrap up a scene with a comment or observation.

In brief, the author has employed a number of techniques to achieve his overall strategy in One Day. Above all, he wants to tell us the truth in the manner in which we are generally acquainted with raw truth: as a blunt, lopsided thing which we have no other choice but to accept. Avoiding as he does ornamentation or lengthy sentences and description (in the Dickensian or Dostoyevskian manner), Solzhenitsyn accomplishes a stoic austerity which somehow suits the equally stark scenes, lean figures, and cleanshaven heads of the zeks etched against the bleak white background of the Siberian camp.

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