But the office doors were shut. The doctors must still be in bed. He was writing something. There was no one else around. Vdovushkin looked up from his work, cool and wide-eyed. He wore a white cap, to match his coat, and he had no number tags. And in the winter there was always snow to clear. He kept saying that work was the best cure for illness. What he didn't understand was that work has killed many a horse. Vdovushkin was still writing away. This sort of thing could only happen in a camp. It was Stepan Grigoryevich who told Vdovushkin to say he was a medic and then gave him the job.
So Vdovushkin started learning how to give injections to poor, ignorant prisoners who would never let it enter their simple, trusting minds that a medic might not be a medic at all. Nikolay had studied literature at the university and had been arrested in his second year. The signal for roll call came faintly through the 22 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich double windows. They were covered by ice. Shukhov sighed and stood up.
He still felt feverish, but it looked as though he had no chance to get out of work. Vdovushkin reached for his thermometer and squinted at it. Take a chance and stay if you want. He rammed on his cap and went out. The air outside hit Shukhov. The cold and the biting mist took hold of him and made him cough. It was 16 degrees below, while his own temperature was 99 above. He had to fight it out.
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Shukhov trotted off to his barracks. The yard was absolutely empty. The escort guards were sitting in their warm barracks, leaning their heads against their rifles — it was no picnic for them either to kick their heels on top of watchtowers in this freezing cold. The guards in the main guardhouse threw some more coal in the stove. The prisoners — they were now dressed in all their rags, tied around with all their bits of string and their faces wrapped in rags from chin to eyes to protect them from the cold — were lying on their bunks on top of their blankets with their boots on, quite still and with their eyes closed.
Only the assistant gang boss, Pavlo, was busy, moving his lips as he counted some- thing with the help of a small pencil. Pavlo raised his head. And are you still alive? Even in camp they were polite to people and addressed them by tbeir full name. Pavlo handed him his bread ration from the table. There was a little white heap of sugar on top of it.
He was in a great hurry, but he answered just as politely even an assistant gang boss is a big shot of sorts, and more depends on him than on the Commandant. He scooped up the sugar with his 24 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich lips, licked the bread clean with his tongue, and put -one leg on the ledge to climb up and make his bed. He looked at the ration, turning it, weighing it in his hand as he moved, to see if it was the full pound -due him. Every ration was short. The only question was — by how much?
He made a move to shove his half- ration in his locker, but changed his mind again. He remembered the orderlies had already been beaten up twice for thieving. The barracks was as public as the courtyard of an apartment building. So, not letting go of the bread, Ivan Denisovich pulled his feet out of his felt boots, neatly leaving his foot-cloths and spoon inside them, climbed up bare- 25 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich footed, widened the little hole in his mattress, and hid the other half of his rations in the sawdust.
Meanwhile the sugar in his mouth had melted. The Baptist was reading the Gospels not just to himself but almost aloud. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed ; but let him glorify God on this behalf. With the same swift movements, Shukhov hung his overcoat on a crossbeam, and from under the mattress he pulled out his mittens, a pair of thin foot-cloths, a bit of rope, and a piece of rag with 26 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich two tapes. Shukhov finished all his chores and caught up with the last of the men in the entryway as they filed through the door and out to the steps.
Bulky, wearing everything they had, they edged put in the single file, and nobody was in a hurry to get out first. It was still dark, though the sky in the east was getting bright and looked kind of green. A nasty little wind was blowing. This was the toughest moment — when you lined up for roll call in the morning. Into the bitter cold in the darkness with an empty belly — for the whole day. Near the perimeter a deputy work-controller was going frantic. Dragging your feet again, eh? The gang came after him over the snow : tramp-tramp- tramp, crunch-crunch-crunch.
The boss must have slipped the fellow two pounds of fatfcack — you could see from the other gangs near- by the Gang was being lined up in its usual place. The boss needed a lot of fatback to slip to the people in the PPS and still have enough left for his own belly. It was always handed over to him right away by anyone in the 28 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich gang who got some. That was the only way you could live.
Who was missing? But was he sick? And right away there was a lot of whispering in the gang. Panteleyev the sonofabitch had managed to get out of it again. They worked it through the sick list. Shukhov remembered that he wanted to get the number on his jacket redone, and made his way over to the other side of the yard. There were a couple of men waiting in front of the artist. Shukhov joined them. These number tags were nothing but trouble. The warders could spot you a long way off and the guards could write the number down when you did something wrong.
There were three of these artists in the camp. They painted picture free for the higher-ups, and also 29 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich took turns painting numbers at roll call. Today it was the old man with the little gray beard. When he painted the number on your cap, it was like a priest anointing your brow. And he noticed at once that another fellow from his gang, Caesar, was smoking— not his pipe, but a ciga- rette —which meant there was a chance of cadging a smoke. He stopped just next to Caesar, turned halfway towards him, and then looked past him. Right at this moment, that scavenger Fetyukov latched onto them, and stood right in front of Caesar and stared with burning eyes at his mouth.
He was tense all over from waiting, and. He was still young. He had a big, black, bushy mustache. He smoked to help his mind come up with great ideas. He took 31 One Day in ihe Life of Ivan Denisovich it with one hand, quickly and thankfully, and put his- other hand underneath to guard against dropping it. The smoke seemed to go all through his hungry body and into his feet and his head. Shukhov had gotten used to it. Why shirts? No, something was wrong. There were only two gangs ahead of them before the friskers, and everyone in Gang spotted Lieu- tenant Volkovoy, the disciplinary officer.
Not for nothing was he called Volkovoy. He was dark and tall and scowling, and always dashing around. In the early days he carried a whip of braided leather as long as his arm. They said he beat people with it. When it was freezing, the frisking routine was not so tough in the morning — though it still was in the evening.
The prisoners undid their coats and held them open. They marched up by fives, and five warders were waiting for them. They pat- ted the pocket the only one allowed on the right knee. What they had to watch out for in the mornings was people carrying a lot of 33 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich food to escape with. Most likely the idea was to make things even tougher for people and add to their troubles— you took a bite out of it to put your markon it, and threw it in the box.
But all these hunks looked alike anyway. It was all the same bread. Then all the way you worried yourself sick about not getting your own piece back. And some- times you got into a fight with people over it. Then one day three fellows escaped from the building site in a truck and took one of these boxes with them. So the bosses had all the boxes chopped up in the guardroom and then they went back to the old system. In the mornings they also had to look out for anyone with civilian clothes under his camp uniform.
And another thing they checked for — letters you might try and slip to someone on the outside to mail. But Voikovoy shouted to the warders to give them a real going over, and the warders quickly re- moved their gloves, told the men to open their jackets where each man had taken a little of the warmth 34 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich from his barracks and undo their shirts. Then they began to feel around to see whether extra clothes had been put on against regulations.
The gangs that had gone ahead were lucky — some of them had alreay been checked out through the gates. But the rest had to open up. Anyone with extra clothing on had to strip it off right there in the freezing cold! The warders got busy, but then they had trouble. Everything on Shukhov was regular issue. Let them look, he had nothing to hide. But they caught Caesar with a woolen shirt, and the Captain with some kind of jersey. So let him break his back all day and shove him in the cells at night. The punishment block was nearby, on the left of the perimeter, a stone building with two wings.
The prison had eighteen blocks divided into small solitary cells. The rest of the camp was made of wood — only the prison was stone. The cold had gotten under their shirts — there was no getting rid of it now. If only he could lie down in a hospital bed right now and sleep. That was all he wanted. With a nice heavy blanket. The prisoners were standing in front of the gate buttoning and tying their coats, and the guards were waiting for them outside. Come on! Then a second gate. And there were railings on both sides.
Line up by fives! They always lit a fire before roll call to keep warm and to get some light for the count. A second guard, whose job it was to check the count, stood by the railings without speaking and just made sure the number was right. The lieutenant stood still and watched. That was the routine when they left the camp. The men meant more to a guard than gold. The gang formed up again. Now it was the sergeant who did the counting. Then there was another lieutenant. He was double- checking for the escort. They ringed the column going to the power station, shouldered their tommy guns and pointed them straight at your face.
And then their were fellows with dogs. One of the dogs was baring his teeth like he was laughing at the prisoners. The escorts all were short for jackets. Only six of them had long sheepskin coats. And once again they were lined up by fives and re-counted by the escorts. He could figure out the phases of the moon, whether new or.
The Captain was clearly going downhill. His: cheeks were caved in, but he kept his spirits up. A rag like; this really helped. Shukhov put it around his face,, right up to his eyes, ran the taps under his ears, and tied them behind his head. Then he covered the back of his neck with the flap of his cap and pulled up the 38 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich collar of his jacket.
Then he palled down the front flap over his forehead. So all you could see was his eyes. He tightened his coat around his middle with the rope. Now everything was okay. Only his mittens were thin and his hands were already frozen. He rubbed them and clapped them together. You will keep strict columns order on the line of march! You will not straggle or bunch up. You will not change places from one rank of five to another. A step to right or left will be considered an attempt at escape, and the escort will open fire, without warning! First rank, forward march!
They went around the edge of the camp and the wind hit them side- ways. Hands behind backs and heads lowered, the column started off as if to a funeral. All you could see was the legs of the two or three people in front 39 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich of you and the bit of trampled ground under your feet. Keep up there! The wind whipped them and made it hard for them to see. But today everyone was bent forward, hiding behind the back of the man in front and thinking his own thoughts. Will they find that bread in the mattress? Will the medics put me on the sick list this evening?
Will they put the Captain in the cooler or not? And where did Caesar get that warm shirt? Where else? The column came out into the steppe with the wind right in their faces, and there was a red sunrise. It was the beginning of a new year— — and Sbukhov was allowed to write two letters home this year. In Ust-Izhma there had been a different system — you could write once a month if you wanted. But what can you say in a letter? One Sunday morning, people had come back from the church in Polomnya and said the war had started.
Writing now was like throwing stones into a bottomless pit. They fell down and disappeared, and no sound came back. What was the point of telling them what gang you worked in and what your boss was like?
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Now you had more in common with that Latvian Kilgas than with your own family. They told you there was a new boss in the kolkhoz — but there was nothing new about that, they had a new one every year. All the youngsters were getting out as best they could — to factories in the towns or to the peat fields. The only men in the kolkhoz were the gang boss, Zakhar Vasilyevich, and the carpenter, Tikhon, who was eighty-four, had married not long ago, and even had children already. Did they go off to seasonal work or something?
And what did they do about getting the hay in? More and more people were doing it and getting good at it. They went all over the country and even flew in planes because their time was valuable. They raked in thousands of rubles painting carpets all over the place. They got 50 rubles for a carpet painted on some old sheet — these carpets, they said, could be finished in an hour. All these carpet painters were putting up new houses, and nowadays it cost you 25, rubles, not 5, like in the old days, to build a house near the railroad.
And what was so great about these carpets? What did they put on them? There were three kinds. Shukhov would have given a lot to see these carpets. In all the time he spent in camps and prisons, Ivan Denisovich had gotten out of the habit of worrying about the next day, or the next year, much less how to feed his family.
The fellows at the top thought about everything for him, and it was kind of easier like that. Winter after winter, summer after summer — he still had a long time to go. But this business -about the carpets upset him. It looked like an easy, sure-fire way of making money. Yotf had to have a lot of gall and you had to know how to grease the right palm.
Shukhov had been walking this earth for forty years. So maybe it would have to be those carpets after all. The column had now arrived and stopped in front of the guardroom of the vast compound where the building site was. A little before that, two of the escorts in sheepskin coats had peeled off at a corner of the compound and made for the watchtowers at the far end. The prisoners would only be let in when the watchtowers had been manned. The officer in charge, with a tommy gun over his shoulder, went to the guardhouse.
And there were great clouds of smoke pouring out of the guardroom chimney. The big, red sun, sort of covered in mist, was slanting through the wires of the gate, across the whole compound and through the wire far over on the other side. A smile came to his lips. What was he so pleased about?
On Sundays he spent all the time whispering with the other Baptists. He shoved it off his face onto his neck and stood with his back to the wind. He had an aching pain all the way from the small of his back to his shoulders, so how could he work? He looked around and caught sight of the gang boss.
He was at the end of the column. He had powerful shoulders and a large face. He looked grim. He was doing his second sentence and he had lived practically all his life in the camps. In a camp, your gang boss is everything. A good one can give you a new lease on life, but a bad one will finish you off. Shukhov never had any dealings with the Commandant, the PPS, the work-supervisors, and the engineers.
The boss took care of all that sort of thing. He was like a rock. But he only had to raise an eyebrow or point a finger and you ran off to do what he wanted. And their ration for the next five days depended on this. He could face the wind without wincing — the skin on his face was tough like the bark of an oak tree. The men in the column were slapping their hands together and stamping their feet. The wind was brutal.
It looked like the guards were already up on all six watchtowers, but the men were still not being let inside. They must have another security drive on. Here it was! The officer in charge of the escort came out of the guardroom with an inspector. They stood on each side of the gate and opened it. Once they got into the compound, they knew what to do without being told. Just past the guardroom was the work office. The work-supervisor was standing there, calling over the gang bosses.
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And one of the foremen — a man called Dcr — went over to them. A real bastard. He was a prisoner himself, but he treated everybody else like dirt. The fellows in charge were scared stiff about the prisoners wasting time and ducking into shelters to keep warm. But the prisoners had a long day and took their time. As soon as they got into the compound they started bending down to pick up pieces of wood. It all came in handy for the stove back in camp. Tyurin told his assistant, Pavlo, to come to the office with him. Caesar went along too.
Caesar was rich, got two packages from home every month, and bribed all the right people. He had a soft job in the office, helping the fellow in charge of the work sheets. The rest of Gang took off like greased light- ning. The sun came up, red and hazy, over the empty compound. Then there was a broken part of a bulldozer. And a scoop and some metal scrap. There were ditches, trenches, and holes all over the place.
Everybody was out of sight — all but the six sentries standing on the watchtowers and the men bustling around the office. This was the best moment in the day for a prisoner. They said the chief supervisor had threatened no end of times to pass out the work 48 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich orders the evening before.
But as it was they now had a moment to them- selves. While they were figuring things out, you could find some warm spot and stay there for a spell before you started breaking your back. It was good if you could get near the stove to take your foot- cloths off, warm them a little, and then put them on again.
Then your feet would be warm all day long. Some of these blocks were lying around in their molds, others were standing upright, and there was steel meshwork for rein- forcing the concrete. There was a high roof and an earthen floor, and it never really got warm here. Of course, the men of Gang 38 were hogging the stove, drying out their foot-cloths. Okay, so the rest of us have to sit in a corner.
What the hell. Shukhov perched on the edge of a wooden mold with his back to the wall. The seat of his padded pants had seen worse. When he leaned back, his coat 49 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and jacket pulled tight around his body, and on the left side of his chest, by his heart, he felt something hard. He always brought this much with him to work and never touched it before the meal break. He felt a great hunger pang and wanted to eat it right away in this warm place. There were five hours till the meal break — it was a long time. The pain in his back had now shifted to his legs and they felt all weak.
If only he could get near the stove. He put his mittens on his knees, undid his coat, untied the frozen face-rag from his neck, broke the ice to fold it up, and put it in his pocket. Then he took the bread in a piece of white cloth and cradled it behind the flap of his coat not to lose a single crumb, starting gradually nibbling at it and chewing it. In the camps he often remembered how they used to eat at home in the village — potatoes by the panful and pots of kasha, and in the early days before that, great hunks of meat.
And they swilled enough milk to make their bellies burst. But he understood in the camps this was all wrong. You had to eat with all your thoughts on the food, like he was nibbling off these little bits now, and turn them over on your 50 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich tongue, and roll them over in your mouth — and then it tasted so good, this soggy black bread.
What had he eaten this eight years and more? Nothing at all. He was busy with his six ounces of bread while his whole gang sat there on the same side of the shed. Two Estonians, who were like blood brothers, were sitting on a low concrete block and smoking half a cigarette in turns from the same holder. They were both very fair, tall, and thin. Both had long noses and big eyes. The gang boss never separated them. They shared all their food and slept on the top level of the same bunk. And in the column or at roll call or going to bed at night, they were always talking to each other in slow, quiet voices.
One of them, they said, had been a fisherman, the other had been taken to Sweden by his parents when the Soviets came to Estonia and he was still a kid. But after he grew up he came back to Estonia of his own accord to get a college education. They were still sitting, either on the slabs or on the molds or just on the ground. That scavenger Fetyukov had scrounged together quite a pile of cigarette butts from somewhere he would even pick them up out of a spittoon without batting an eye , and now he was sorting them out on his knees and putting all the unburned tobacco in a piece of paper.
So there was no one to send him things. Throw it out! It's happened to better men than you. One of his eardrums had burst back in forty-one. They caught him and stuck him in Buchen- wald. He said if you kicked up a fuss you were finished. The only thing for you was to put your back into the work — that was for sure. Alyoshka dropped his face into his hands. He was praying. He wrapped up the crust again in the white cloth for the next meal, stuck the cloth in the pocket on the inside of his jacket, buttoned himself up against the cold, and got ready.
Let them send him to work now if they wanted. Gang 38 got up. Some of them went to the cement- mixer, some to get water, some to the steel mesh- work. But neither Tyurin nor Pavlo had come back to the gang. What kind of a winter is that? Without a rope slung between your barracks and the mass hall, you could get lost.
If a prisoner froze to death in the snow, the dogs could eat him for all anyone cared. But what if he escaped? It happened sometimes. When there was a storm, the snow was very, very fine, but in the snowdrifts it got packed down. Prisoners had gotten over the wire across these snowdrifts and made a run for it. They kept the prisoners locked in. The coal was late coming in and the warmth was blown out of the barracks. They brought no flour into the camp, and there was no bread, and things got fouled up in the mess hall.
All the same, the men loved storms and prayed for them.
Tyurin came in. He looked black. He sent the two Estonians and Klevshin and Gopchik to get the big cement-mixer from nearby and take it to the power plant. He sent two others to the tool shop, where Pavlo was getting the tools. He told four others to clear the snow from around the plant, by the entrance to the generator room, and inside it, and from the ladders.
He told another two to get the coal stove going there and to pinch some boards and chop them up. One man was to take cement there on a small sledge. Two were to carry water, two had to bring sand, and another had to clear the snow off the sand and break it up with a crowbar. There are three big windows there, and the irst thing is to board them up with something. Get it? So Tyurin went there. Never mind how hard it was to begin the work- day in such freezing cold, the thing was to get over the beginning— that was the important part.
Shukhov and Kilgas glanced at each other. Shukhov was a carpenter and Kilgas a bricklayer. I know a spot near those prefabs where there's a big roll of roofing-felt. Hid it there myself. They decided to get the roofing-felt. But first Shukhov ran off to get his trowel from the half- finished repair shops.
But Shukhov had once managed to pull a fast one on the fellow in the tool shop and kept the best trowel for himself. Now he hid it in a different place every night and got it in the mornings if he was going to do any bricklaying. But now he rolled away a small stone and stuck his fingers in a crack. There it was! He pulled it out. Shukhov and Kilgas left the repair shops and went over to the prefabs.
There was a cloud of steam from their breath. They thought they saw something that looked like posts sticking out all around the sun. The whole gang liked him for this. But of course Kilgas ate pretty good with his two packages a month. It was easy for him to make jokes. This site of theirs was really big. It took quite a while to get across it. But the ground here was like stone even in summer, and now it was frozen stiff and it was impossible to dig.
Hit it with a pick and it just skidded off. All you got was sparks, no earth at all. The fellows stood there by their holes and just looked around. So they went at it again with their picks. That was the only way to keep warm. Shukhov saw someone he knew among them — a fellow from Vyatka— and gave him a piece of ad vice. They went on till they came to the place- where the prefab panels were buried under the snow. Shukhov liked working with Kilgas. Kilgas really kept his eyes open. They picked up a board and then another, and there was the roll of roofing-felt.
They took it out. But how could they carry it? The guards only worried about people running away. That was their only concern. But inside you could chop up all the panels for firewood for all they cared. They were always on the lookout them- selves for something that might come in handy. Shkuropatenko was no one in particular, just an ordinary prisoner, but he was paid for guarding the prefabs and stopping the prisoners from pinching them. It was this Shkuropatenko who was most likely to catch them.
All you could see from the side was two men walking close together. His fingers were numb in his mittens. And the cold had gotten into his left boot. Your boots were the main thing. His hands would warm up at work. They walked over the untouched snow and came out on a sledge track that ran from the tool shop to the power plant. This meant they must have taken the cement there already. The power plant was on a rise and it was right at the edge of the compound. No one had been in the power plant for a long time, and the snow all around it was unmarked. So the sledge track, the new path, and the deep footprints stood out more clearly and showed the men had gone that way.
And they were already clearing snow with wooden shovels near the power plant and clearing a path for a truck. It would be good if the hoist was working. The power plant had been there for two months, like a gray skeleton in the snow. But now Gang had come. And what kept them going? Their empty bellies were held in by rope belts. The cold was fierce. There was no shelter and no fire. The cement-mixer was right there by the entrance to the generator room, but it had come apart.
The gang boss swore just for the hell of it, but he saw that nobody was to blame. Then Kilgas and Shukhov came up, carrying the roofing-felt between them. The gang boss was pleased and decided on a switch of jobs. And Kilgas was told to patch up the mixer, with the two Estonians helping him. Where could they get the wood? The boss looked around and so did the others. All they could do was take the boards used a hand-rails for the ladders up to the second story.
There was no other way. You might well ask why a prisoner worked so hard for ten years in a camp. In the camps they had these gangs to make the prisoners keep each other on their toes. It was like this— either you all got something extra or you all starved. So work, you bastard! Like it or not, you had to get a move on. All they had to do was pick out what they needed. And he also brought some pipes. Shukhov clapped his mittens together, placed the pipes end to end, and started fixing them up, dove- tailing the joints. He sent Gopchik to fasten the pipe at the window where it went out. There was a red-hot iron plate on top of it to thaw out the sand and dry it.
That was why Tyurin gave this work to people who used to run things before they got to the camp. Fetyukov was once some kind of a big shot in an office. He used to ride around in a car. In the beginning Fetyukov tried to bully the Captain. But the Captain hit him in the teeth a couple of times, so they called it off. The boys tried to get near the stove with the sand to warm up, but Tyurin stopped them. Beat a dog once and you only have to show him the whip. The cold was vicious, but it had nothing on the gang boss. They all went back to work.
A clever boss who knows his business really sweets over these work rates. You had to have brains for this and a lot of pull with the fellows who kept the work sheets. They made thousands on the deal and got bonuses on top for the officers. Like old Volkovoy, with that whip of his. And all you got out of it was six ounces of bread in the evening. Your life depended on them. They brought two buckets of water, but it froze on the way over. Pavlo figured there was no point in carrying it.
They could get it quicker by melting snow on the spot. They put the buckets on the stove. Gopchik brought along some new aluminium wire, the kind electricians used. This is good wire for spoons. Will you teach me how to make a spoon? They gave him the same sentence a grownup got. He was friendly, like a little calf, and tried to please everybody. But he could be sly too. He ate the stuff in the packages he got, all by himself, at night. But come to think of it, why should he feed everybody? They broke off some wire to make spoons and hid it in a corner.
Shukhov made a sort of stepladder out of two planks and sent Gopchik to fix the chimney. Gopchik ran up the ladder like a squirrel. He banged in a nail, threw the wire over it, and fixed it around the pipe. Then Shukhov got busy and put another piece of pipe on top where the flue came out. This stove was for them, you' see. Senka Klevshin had already made some long laths. They told Gopchik to nail them on. He climbed up the windows, the little rascal, and shouted down. The sun was higher now, the haze had gone, and there was no sign of those funny posts any more.
And it was all crimson. They put the stolen wood in the stove and lit it. It was much more cheerful like that. They were cutting the roofing-felt the wrong way. He showed them how to do it. Some of the men were crowding around the other stove and Pavlo chased them away. He gave Kilgas some helpers, and told him to make hods for carrying the mortar up. He sent someone else up to clear the snow off the scaffold and the walls. And he got another man to shovel hot sand from the stove into the mixer.
They heard a motor outside. Pavlo ran out and waved his hands to show them where to unload. Thex nailed on one strip of the felt and then an- other. But what protection do you get from roofing- felt? All the same, it made a kind of solid wall. And it was darker inside, so the stove looked brighter. Alyoshka brought some coal.
Fetyukov squatted down by the stove, and put his felt boots right up to the fire, the dope. The Captain pulled him up by the scruff of the neck and pushed him over to the hods. Before long, all three windows were covered with felt. Now the only light came from the door. And the cold came in with it. Pavlo told them to cover the top part of the door and leave the bottom part open, just enough to get in and out with your head down.
They did it. Meantime three dump trucks had brought the bricks. Now the thing was how they could get them up to the top without a hoist. Bricklaying was a job you could take pride in. Shukhov and Kilgas went up with PavIo. How the hell could they carry the mortar up? They looked to see where to start laying. The fel- lows up there were shoveling away the snow already. There wasn't much of a wind up here, but you could still feel it. Enough to go right through you when you were working.
But if you ducked down behind the wall it was a lot warmer. Shukhov looked up to the sky and gasped. It was clear, and by the sun it was almost noon. It was a funny thing how time flew when you were working! But the end of your sentence never seemed to be any closer.
They came down again and found everybody 67 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich huddled around the stove, except the Captain and Fetyukov were carrying sand. Pavlo got mad and chased out eight of the fellows to get bricks, and told two of them to put dry cement and sand in the mixer. And he sent two others for water and coal. Then they brought in a can to melt snow for the mortar. Did the sun come under their laws too? With a little more banging and hammering, they put together four hods. So sit down and get warm. The coal in the stove was really going now and giving out a steady heat.
But it only hit you near the stove — the rest of the shed was cold as ever. All four of them took off their mittens and held their hands over the stove. One thing you had to know was never to put your feet near the stove with your boots on. If they were regular boots, the leather cracked. And if you put them right up to the fire, they got burned.
Then you had to go along till spring with a hole in them. They laughed. Shukhov had taken off his left boot — the one with the hole in it— and was warming his foot-cloths. In the good old days it was always ten. But in they started slapping on twenty-five, regardless. Maybe you could last ten years and still come out of it alive, but how the hell could you get through twenty-five? Shukhov sort of liked the way they pointed at him 69 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich — the lucky guy nearly through with his sentence.
They twisted the law any way they wanted. But sometimes you got a kind of funny feeling inside. Ivan Denisovich Shukov, his central figure, is a simple peasant. His "crime" was to escape from the Germans who took him prisoner in and return to his own lines. Had he not said he had been in German hands he would have gotten a medal. By telling the truth he was sentenced to a concentration camp as a "spy.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Panther, £5.99 in UK)
Neither he nor his NKVD interrogator had ingenuity enough to figure out what kind of "spying" he was supposed to do. Now in a prison camp resembling one of the Karanga camps where Solzhenitsyn himself was confined, Ivan strives to keep alive in a milieu-ruled, as an old inmate says, "by the law of the taiga," or as we would put it, the law of the jungle. Who are the other prisoners? One is a Soviet Navy captain. His misfortune was that a British admiral sent him a Christmas present.
One man is a Baptist. His crime? Being a Baptist. A youngster took a pail of milk to some Ukrainian outlaws--and drew a year sentence. In every labor gang of 20 to 30 men there are at least five or six "spies. One man was drummed out of the Red Army as the son of a kulak or rich peasant. Later, the officers who drummed him out were shot in the purge.
Everyone cheats. Everyone steals. But there are rules of the game. Only by observing the rules with skill can a man hope to survive. If he fights back like the Naval captain he'll be thrown into the sub-zero guardhouse for 10 days. If he survives his health is ruined. Not more than a year or two of life will remain. It is not an easy world for Americans to comprehend. As Ivan muses: "How can you expect a man who's warm to understand a man who's cold?
When Shukov has gone through his day he falls asleep in a glow of contentment. It has been a lucky day. He has not been put into the punishment cells.