One 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., 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...
... middle of paper ...
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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