My latest read is Apricot Jam: and other stories by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn.
I have been reading almost anything I could find from Solzhenitsyn as he is one of my favorite authors. At the first glance, Apricot Jam looks to be another glimpse of the marvelous piece of writing about the Russian life depicted by the Russian master. While diving deep into it, things aren’t as strong as in his previous books though. However, the Solzhenitsyn legacy still stands in this book, one if his last though.
Apricot Jam is a collection of short stories , spanning from early 21st century up until the 90s and the fall of the Soviet Union. The stories depict a single character or an event, and sometimes they are made of two parts which are connected in a way, either by passing of time, or by the same character in another period of time, or the same place with different characters. I can feel that the author somehow changed a bit of his attitude since the 1950’s when he wrote his first books. This time the events depicted here, although very similar with ones in the First Circle or the Gulag Archipelago, are somehow easier to accept and easier for the characters to accept and cope with. Even if some events are terrible, the characters somehow get to be at peace with what is happening.
The stories cover motifs like the incarceration in early Stalinist regime and the political police that took place in Russia; the miserable life of woman, where Natasha, a poor girl, is handed from man to man until she can find a glimpse of happiness; or war and front line war, with fights, death, injury, pain, and disease.
I can notice that his style has changed also in the dialogues and character coloring. The reader is left with much more to imagine than before. His exactitude in painting the characters has somehow faded, and the people are drawn in sketches, in strong lines and without depth. This is also most likely because the short story style does not allow much development of the character.
Another thing that leaves me after reading Apricot Jam is another very strong feeling of patriotism from the author, even if he always opposed what was going on with the regime, he always loved his country and felt he was belonging to it.
An easier read than the Gulag Archipelago or other books of his, Apricot Jam isn’t a very deep read, but a window into Solzhenitsyn’s themes and perhaps opening up interest for his other books , for someone who isn’t so familiar about him as I am.