I say: As soon as I started reading I realised that I have actually read this before, which turned out to be all well and good since I loved it, but only a couple of days after I had read it and had time to reflect over the impact it made (on me and the world).
There’s not really that much to be said about the writing; it does exactly what it says on the tin: Ivan takes us through a day in his life in a labour camp. He talks about the abuse from the guards, the food they are given and how he has to cheat and do favours to get enough, as well as how despite the fact that it’s hard work, he sometimes enjoys it. We also get sparse information of his life prior to being sent there – as a soldier he was captured by the Germans which lead the Russians to think that he was a spy.
The thing that I enjoyed the most about this was that it wasn’t just doom and gloom. Despite the fact that Ivan has been convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, he has resigned himself to his fate and makes the best of the situation. As the day progresses he proves himself to be extremely resourceful, cunning, and a good judge of character/human nature, which is how he manages to get more food, favours and stay out of most trouble.
Due to my obsession with Russian literature I’ve read a few books about the labour camps but none of them have been as stark as this one. I can easily see myself reading this again in the future.