In commemoration of the one-hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution, the University of Notre Dame Press is releasing the first English translation of Nobel Prize-winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s epic work, March 1917, Node III, Book 1 of The Red Wheel, translated by Marian Schwartz.
Described by Solzhenitsyn as “a narrative in discrete periods of time,” The Red Wheel is comprised of four nodes. Divided into four books, March 1917 spans a single month of the Russian Revolution; Book 1 covers the events of March 8–12, 1917, the period during which Russia’s empire began to crumble.
With its cast of over fifty people, The Red Wheel offers unparalleled access to a wide range of viewpoints and experiences. It shatters the monolithic depiction of war and political movements in favor of a deeply fractured, multifaceted, often labyrinthine narrative. While some people are dying, others are conducting love affairs, recovering from illness, engaging in political lobbying, shopping, writing letters, mourning their dead, or scheming. In other words, the business of living is the work of the living, even, and maybe especially, in times of political chaos and war.
Histories tend to collapse events into a single narrative; Solzhenitsyn insists on plurality. He explodes the Russian Revolution back into myriad voices and parts, disarrayed and chaotic, detailed and tumultuous. Combining historical research with newspaper headlines, street action, cinematic screenplay, and fictional characterization, the book is as immersive as binge-worthy television, no little thanks to this excellent translation that renders its prose as masterful in English as it was in Russian.
In March 1917, Solzhenitsyn attempts the impossible and succeeds, evoking a fully formed world through episodic narratives that insist on the prosaic integrity of every life, from tsars to peasants. What emerges is a rich history that’s truly greater than the sum of its parts.
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