61 pages 2 hours read

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The Gulag Archipelago

Nonfiction | Biography | Adult | Published in 1973

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Part 1, Chapters 5-12

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1, Chapter 5 Summary: “First Cell, First Love”

Solzhenitsyn recalls the first cell of his imprisonment. He speculates on how a person can conflate love and prison in the same sentence but believes that fellow inmates quickly became like family through shared suffering. After the initial shock, a prisoner’s first cell was almost a relief. Solzhenitsyn recalls meeting his cellmates after 96 hours of interrogation. In his recollection, he shared news from the outside world with his cellmates, though he believed that one of them may have been a stool pigeon (an informer placed in the cell by the interrogators to test him). Nevertheless, Solzhenitsyn was happy to have companions after such inhuman isolation. The next day, he became acquainted with them and they discussed history, prison rules, and literature, but never anything incriminating. Each day, they were allowed 20 minutes to walk outside. One of the cellmates was an older man who recalled the time before the Russian Revolution; another was an Estonian intellectual; another was a Russian soldier who spent time in a German concentration camp. As the men tried to survive in their cell, they deduced that World War II was coming to an end.