MARCH 1917

The Red Wheel, Node III, Book 1

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight History/Historical -

Alek­sandr Solzhen­it­syn, Univer­sity of Notre Dame Press (NOVEM­BER) Hard­cover $39 (672pp), 978-0-268-10265-4

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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