Our Book Recommendations for June

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, © picture alliance / NTB | Vidar Knai


In this month's edition of our newsletter, we are delighted to highlight exceptional works from Russian and American authors that delve into the critical themes of democracy and authoritarian regimes. Although our usual focus is on promoting German culture and history, today we make an exception for these two literary titans, whose books about Russia and its politics are truly exceptional. Given the current global shift towards right-wing ideologies, understanding how these movements emerge and how to effectively counter them is more important than ever. These works provide vital insights into the mechanics of authoritarianism and offer strategies for strengthening democratic institutions.

The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-56

By Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

'It helped to bring down an empire. Its importance can hardly be exaggerated' - Doris Lessing, Sunday Telegraph

“It is impossible to name a book that had a greater effect on the political and moral consciousness of the late twentieth century.” —David Remnick, The New Yorker

The Gulag Archipelago is Solzhenitsyn's masterwork, a vast canvas of camps, prisons, transit centres and secret police, of informers and spies and interrogators and also of heroism, a Stalinist anti-world at the heart of the Soviet Union where the key to survival lay not in hope but in despair.

The work is based on the testimony of some two hundred survivors, and on the recollection of Solzhenitsyn's own eleven years in labour camps and exile. It is both a thoroughly researched document and a feat of literary and imaginative power. This edition has been abridged into one volume at the author's wish and with his full co-operation.

At the Vancouver Public Library
At Amazon
At Upstart & Crow in Vancouver

“Der Archipel Gulag” - Ein Buch mit Folgen (Arte-Dokumentation)

2023 |56 Min. | Verfügbar bis zum 25/10/2024

Nur wenige Bücher haben den Lauf der Geschichte wirklich verändert; “Der Archipel Gulag” ist eines davon. Es gilt als eines der einflussreichsten Bücher des 20. Jahrhunderts. Autor Alexander Solschenizyn, selbst ehemaliger Lagerinsasse, gab damit den Millionen in Sowjetlagern Inhaftierten eine Stimme und offenbarte die grausame Realität des stalinistischen Unterdrückungssystems.

Der ehemalige Häftling und Nobelpreisträger Alexander Solschenizyn legte vor rund 50 Jahren ein erschütterndes Zeugnis von der menschenverachtenden Maschinerie des Gulags ab. Sein Werk “Der Archipel Gulag” beschreibt die stalinistischen Lager als Inseln der Unmenschlichkeit, Unterdrückung und Vernichtung, als geschlossene Räume mit eigenen Regeln und Gesetzen.

In der Dokumentation zeichnet Natalia Solschenizyn, russische Historikerin und Witwe von Alexander Solschenizyn, die Geschichte des Buches nach und schildert, wie es dem russischen Autor und Dissidenten gelang, diesen einzigartigen Meilenstein politischer Literatur trotz permanenter Überwachung durch den KGB zu schreiben.

In Russland haben Geschichtsfälschungen und eigene Narrative weiterhin Bestand. Angesichts der Verklärung der sowjetischen Vergangenheit im heutigen Russland ist Solschenizyns Meisterwerk ein halbes Jahrhundert nach seiner Veröffentlichung weiterhin von brennender Aktualität und bleibt ein herausragendes Beispiel der Widerstandsliteratur.

Anne Applebaum
Anne Applebaum© picture alliance / NurPhoto | Michal Fludra

Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism

One of Barack Obama's Favourite Books of the Year

The Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Anne Applebaum explains, with electrifying clarity, why elites in democracies around the world are turning toward nationalism and authoritarianism.

From the United States and Britain to continental Europe and beyond, liberal democracy is under siege, while authoritarianism is on the rise. In Twilight of Democracy, Anne Applebaum, an award-winning historian of Soviet atrocities who was one of the first American journalists to raise an alarm about antidemocratic trends in the West, explains the lure of nationalism and autocracy. In this captivating essay, she contends that political systems with radically simple beliefs are inherently appealing, especially when they benefit the loyal to the exclusion of everyone else.

At the Vancouver Public Library
At Amazon
At Upstart & Crow in Vancouver

Autocracy Inc.: The Dictators Who Want to Run the World

By Anne Applebaum, available as of July 23, 2024

From the Pulitzer-prize winning, New York Times bestselling author, an alarming account of how autocracies work together to undermine the democratic world, and how we should organize to defeat them.

We think we know what an autocratic state looks like: There is an all-powerful leader at the top. He controls the police. The police threaten the people with violence. There are evil collaborators, and maybe some brave dissidents.

But in the 21st century, that bears little resemblance to reality. Nowadays, autocracies are underpinned not by one dictator, but by sophisticated networks composed of kleptocratic financial structures, surveillance technologies, and professional propagandists, all of which operate across multiple regimes, from China to Russia to Iran. Corrupt companies in one country do business with corrupt companies in another. The police in one country can arm and train the police in another, and propagandists share resources and themes, pounding home the same messages about the weakness of democracy and the evil of America.

“In Autocracy, Inc., Anne Applebaum forces us to confront an uncomfortable truth: The world's dictatorships work together, and they work against democracies. We need to be thinking, now, about how to fight back.”
– Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister of Sweden

At Amazon
At Upstart & Crow in Vancouver

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