Now in its first complete English translation, this masterpiece chronicles life in a Soviet gulag, based on the author's own years in a USSR prison camp.
Kolyma Stories is a masterpiece of twentieth-century literature, composed of short fictional tales based on Russian writer Varlam Shalamov's fifteen years in the Gulag. This NYRB Classics edition (and an accompanying second volume forthcoming in 2019) is the first complete English translation of Shalamov's stories, based on the definitive edition of his collected works, published in Russia in 2013.
Shalamov spent six years as a slave in the gold mines of Kolyma, a far northeast region of the USSR and one of the coldest and most inhospitable places on Earth, before finding a less intolerable life as a paramedic in the prison camps. He began writing his account of life in Kolyma after Stalin's death in 1953 and continued until his own physical and mental decline in the late 1970s.
In Kolyma Stories, the line between autobiography and fiction is indistinct: Everything in these stories was experienced or witnessed by Shalamov. His work records the real names of prisoners and their oppressors; he himself appears simply as "I" or "Shalamov," or at times under a pseudonym, such as Andreyev or Krist. These collected stories form the biography of a rare survivor, a historical record of the Gulag, and, because the stories have more than documentary value, a literary work of creative power and conviction. This new complete translation of Kolyma Stories will fill a significant gap in the English-language library of Russian literature.