The First Circle

first publication date:  1968
original title:  В круге первом
original language:  Russian

In the First Circle (Russian: В круге первом, romanized: V kruge pervom; also published as The First Circle) is a novel by Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, released in 1968. A more complete version of the book was published in English in 2009. The novel depicts the lives of the occupants of a sharashka (a research and development bureau made of Gulag inmates) located in the Moscow suburbs. This novel is highly autobiographical. Many of the prisoners (zeks) are technicians or academics who have been arrested under Article 58 of the RSFSR Penal Code in Joseph Stalin's purges following the Second World War. Unlike inhabitants of other Gulag labor camps, the sharashka zeks were adequately fed and enjoyed good working conditions; however, if they found disfavor with the authorities, they could be instantly shipped to Siberia. The title is an allusion to Dante's first circle, or limbo of Hell in The Divine Comedy, wherein the philosophers of Greece, and other virtuous pagans, live in a walled green garden. They are unable to enter Heaven, as they were born before Christ, but enjoy a small space of relative freedom in the heart of Hell. Source: Wikipedia (en)

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