December 22, 2000
1 bibliog., 1 index
9.25 Inches (US)
6.13 Inches (US)
1.61 Pounds (US)
$41.95 USD, £33.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Return from the Archipelago

Narratives of Gulag Survivors

"This is a ground-breaking book on a subject of capital importance, and I think [it] should start a debate about modern literature with a rich potential for further development." —Michael Scammell

Return from the Archipelago is the first comprehensive historical survey and critical analysis of the vast body of narrative literature about the Soviet gulag. Leona Toker organizes and characterizes both fictional narratives and survivors' memoirs as she explores the changing hallmarks of the genre from the 1920s through the Gorbachev era. Toker reflects on the writings and testimonies that shed light on the veiled aspects of totalitarianism, dehumanization, and atrocity. Identifying key themes that recur in the narratives-arrest, the stages of trial, imprisonment, labor camps, exile, escapes, special punishment, the role of chance, and deprivation.Toker discusses the historical, political, and social contexts of these accounts and the ethical and aesthetic imperative they fulfill. Her readings provide extraordinary insight into the prisoners' experiences of the Soviet penal system. Special attention is devoted to the writings of Varlam Shalamov and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, but many works that are not well known in the West, especially those by women, are addressed. Consideration is also given to events that recently brought many memoirs to light years after they were written. A pioneering book on an important subject, Return from the Archipelago is an authoritative resource for scholars in Russian history and literature.

About the Author

Leona Toker is Professor of English at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Her previous works include Nabokov: The Mystery of Literary Structures and Eloquent Reticence: Withholding Information in Fictional Narrative.


"Toker (Hebrew Univ., Jerusalem) provides a far-ranging and penetrating study of Russian camp literature. Traditionally read chiefly for its horrifying content, this literature has received little attention for its aesthetic qualities. Toker concedes the priority of the moral aspect but places her topic in wider contexts. She first provides a historical sketch of the archipelago, as Solzhenitsyn, its most famous survivor, described the vast camp system stretching across the Soviet Union. Although the author examines many accounts, those of Solzhenitsyn are at the book's core: these and Varlam Tikhonovich Shalamov's story cycles provide the basis for such meta-literary issues as the interrelations of factography, history, memoir, and fiction; the structure of camp writings (from arrest through release); and the relation to Russian literary tradition. Many classics of the genre (by Evgenia Ginzburg, the Pole Gustaw Herling-Grudzinski, the American Alexander Dolgun) serve as sources in formulating a composite model. Also addressed are writers who may or may not have served camp time but whose fictions take place in their shadow, e.g., Iurii Dombrovskii, Georgi Vladimov, A. Siniavskii, Sergi Dovlatov. Toker provides an excellent survey of a genre and a judicious consideration of the many issues it raises. Russian and English bibliography. Upper-division undergraduates and above; general readers.July 2001"—D. B. Johnson, emeritus, University of California, Santa Barbara

9780253337870 : return-from-the-archipelago-toker
352 Pages
$41.95 USD

Other Titles by Leona Toker

Eloquent Reticence

Leona Toker
Nov 2021 - University Press of Kentucky
$25.00 USD - Paperback / softback
$45.00 USD - Electronic book text

Gulag Literature and the Literature of Nazi Camps

Leona Toker
Aug 2019 - Indiana University Press
$90.00 USD - Hardback
$40.00 USD - Paperback / softback

Other Titles in HISTORY / Russia & the Former Soviet Union

Origins Of The Gulag

Michael Jakobson
Dec 2025 - University Press of Kentucky
$20.00 USD - Paperback / softback
$12.95 USD - Electronic book text

After the Gulag

Tyler C. Kirk
Dec 2023 - Indiana University Press
$85.00 USD - Hardback
$39.00 USD - Paperback / softback

Imperial Designs, Post-Imperial Extremes

edited by Andrei Cusco, Victor Taki
Jun 2023 - Central European University Press
$85.00 USD - Hardback