The Gulag, the Stalinist labour camps to which millions of Russians were condemned for political deviation, has become a household word in the West. This is due to the accounts of many witnesses, but most of all to the publication, in 1962, of 'One Day In Life Of Ivan Denisovich', the novel that first brought Aleksandr Sozhenitsyn to public attention. His story of one typical day in a labour camp as experienced by prisoner Ivan Denisovich Shukhov is sufficient to describe the entire world of the Soviet camps.
The original text was first published in the Soviet journal Novy Mir, during the Khrushchev "thaw". However, in the rush to bring out the first translation, the novel was significantly diminished. The idiosyncratic language of the protagonist - a man of peasant origins and no formal education - the colloquialisms and prison-camp slang were inadequately rendered; dense, elliptical syntax was smoothed over; earthy dialogue vanished into euphemism. Moreover, the novel, published in the Soviet Union for avowedly political reasons, was received abroad almost exclusively as a political sensation. With this new translation, however, the full measure of the work's artistic achievement can finally be gauged.