Apricot Jam.

Author:Belanger, Lydia
Position:Book review

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (author); APRICOT JAM; Counterpoint Press (Fiction: Short Stories) $28.00 ISBN: 9781582436029

Byline: Lydia Belanger

From the Nobel-winning pen of the late Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Russian writer, dramatist, and historian, come eight short stories newly translated into English, which portray social, political, and military conditions during the height and the decline of the Soviet regime. Solzhenitsyn is best known for exposing the Gulag, the Soviet Union's forced labor camp system, and as a result of his controversial work, he was forced to leave Russia from 1974 until 1994. He composed the works in Apricot Jam during the 1990s, after he returned from exile.

Through the stories in Apricot Jam, Solzhenitsyn recognizes the diverse viewpoints and various institutions that played a role in modern-day Russia's fate as a nation; therefore, he creates characters with a passion for war or bureaucracy, as well as professors, prisoners, peasants, and writers. He captures the hope-filled plight of the proletarian class, tracing both their achievements as they ascend the socioeconomic ladder, as well as their stoicism toward oppression.

Solzhenitsyn's military officers, students of science and technology, and young mothers all share a desperate longing for betterment in the future, whether it be from the manifestation of communist or socialist ideology that benefits all, the end of Bolshevik dictatorship, a new generation of godless, avant-garde, class-conscious individuals (described in "A New Generation"), or the ability to "change" one's "social origins." Some characters devote their bodies and minds to affecting change, such as soldiers "taught by the book" who experience "joyous exhaustion" from battle and revel in the "delight of war." Yet there is also a motif of passivity in Solzhenitsyn's stories; characters take note of clouds covering the moon, and this becomes a symbol for their fate as they wait for them to part -- and for the light of hope to appear.

Each story is constructed in a "binary" fashion, with two parts (except for one that is divided into...

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