The ‘Democratic’ Novels

  • Francis Barker


A literary text is both the product of, and a confrontation with, an historical conjuncture, as that conjuncture represents itself in ideology. This somewhat terse formulation is a useful one because it sets the literary critic an important and difficult task, the task of identifying in the text he examines those elements which are ‘reflective’ of the conjuncture which shaped it, and those elements which stand over against the conjuncture, that make the text discontinuous with, subversive of, the situation that called it into being. And as, of course, these different aspects of the text—its character as historical product and as political activity—are not empirically distinct elements of the text at all, but are, on the contrary, the contradictory ‘quality’ of the whole text, this gnomic but dialectical formulation forces the critic to examine methods by which the text in its determinate specificity nonetheless distantiates itself from its ideological locale. The three major novels of the first period of Solzhenitsyn’s development—One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The First Circle and Cancer Ward—display certain similarities, and a certain evolution of aesthetic form. This internal history is the key to their ideological significance, to their ability to evaluate their own founding ideologies.


Positive Belief Negative Centre Ethical Ideology Ideological Orientation Formal Arrangement 
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  1. 9.
    A. Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovic., trans. R. Parker (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963) p. 143.Google Scholar
  2. 10.
    See C. Moody, Solzhenitsy. (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1973) p. 62.Google Scholar
  3. 12.
    ‘Address at the Nobel Festival by Dr Karl Ragnar Gierow’ in L. Labedz Solzhenitsyn: A Documentary Recor. (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972) pp. 252–3.Google Scholar
  4. 21.
    A. Solzhenitsyn, An Incident at Krechetovka Statio. in We Never Make Mistake., trans. P. W. Blackstock (London: Sphere, 1972) pp. 86–7.Google Scholar
  5. 26.
    A. Solzhenitsyn, For the Good of the Caus. (London: Sphere, 1971).Google Scholar
  6. 27.
    T. Deutscher, ‘Soviet Fabians and Others’, New Left Revie., 62 (1970) pp. 45–54.Google Scholar

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© Francis Barker 1977

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  • Francis Barker

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