Franz Kafka

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" (Russian: Оди́н день Ива́на Дени́совича) by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Full Text in English)

The novel by Nobel Prize-winning Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, first published in November 1962 in the Soviet literary magazine Novy Mir. The story is set in a Soviet labor camp in the 1950s and describes a single day in the life of ordinary prisoner, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. 

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

The hammer banged reveille on the rail outside camp HQ at five o'clock as always.  Time to get up.  The ragged noise was muffled by ice two fingers thick on the windows and soon died away.  Too cold for the warder to go on hammering.
The jangling stopped.  Outside, it was still as dark as when Shukhov had gotten up in the night to use the latrine bucket — pitch-black, except for three yellow lights visible from the window, two in the perimeter, one inside the camp.
For some reason they were slow unlocking the hut, and he couldn't hear the usual sound of the orderlies mounting the latrine bucket on poles to carry it out.
Shukhov never overslept.  He was always up at the call.  That way he had an hour and a half all to himself before work parade — time for a man who knew his way around to earn a bit on the side.  He could stitch covers for somebody's mittens from a piece of old lining.  Take some rich foreman his felt boots while he was still in his bunk (save him hopping around barefoot, fishing them out of the heap after drying).  Rush round the storerooms looking for odd jobs — sweeping up or running errands.  Go to the mess to stack bowls and carry them to the washers-up.  You'd get something to eat, but there were too many volunteers, swarms of them.  And the worst of it was that if there was anything left in a bowl, you couldn't help licking it.  Shukhov never for a moment forgot what his first foreman, Kuzyomin, had told him.  An old camp wolf, twelve years inside by 1943.  One day around the campfire in a forest clearing he told the reinforcements fresh from the front, "It's the law of the taiga here, men.  But a man can live here, just like anywhere else.  Know who croaks first?  The guy who licks out bowls, puts his faith in the sick bay, or squeals to godfather."
He was stretching it a bit there, of course.  A stoolie will always get by, whoever else bleeds for him.
Shukhov always got up at once.  Not today, though.  Hadn't felt right since the night before — had the shivers, and some sort of ache.  And hadn't gotten really warm all night.  In his sleep he kept fancying he was seriously ill, then feeling a bit better.  Kept hoping morning would never come.
But it arrived on time.
Some hope of getting warm with a thick scab of ice on the windows, and white cobwebs of hoarfrost where the walls of the huge hut met the ceiling.
Shukhov still didn't get up.  He lay up top on a four-man bunk, with his blanket and jacket over his head, and both feet squeezed into one turned-in sleeve of his quilted jerkin.  He couldn't see anything but he knew from the sounds just what was going on in the hut and in his own gang's corner.  He heard the orderlies trudging heavily down the corridor with the tub that held eight pails of slops.  Light work for the unfit, they call it, but just try getting the thing out without spilling it!  And that bump means Gang 75's felt boots are back from the drying room.  And here come ours — today's our turn to get our boots dried out.  The foreman and his deputy pulled their boots on in silence except for the bunk creaking under them.  Now the deputy would be off to the bread-cutting room, and the foreman to see the work assignors at HQ.
He did that every day, but today was different, Shukhov remembered.  A fateful day for Gang 104: would they or wouldn't they be shunted from the workshops they'd been building to a new site, the so-called Sotsgorodok.  This Sotsgorodok was a bare field knee-deep in snow, and for a start you'd be digging holes, knocking in fence posts, and stringing barbed wire around them to stop yourself running away.  After that — get building.
You could count on a month with nowhere to go for a warm, not so much as a dog kennel.  You wouldn't even be able to light a fire out in the open — where would the fuel come from?  Your only hope would be to dig, dig, dig, for all you were worth.
The foreman went off to try and fix it, looking worried.  Maybe he can get some gang a bit slower off the mark dumped out there?  You could never do a deal emptyhanded, of course.  Have to slip the senior work assignor half a kilo of fatback.  Maybe a kilo, even.
Might as well give it a try — wander over to sick bay and wangle a day off.  Every bone in his body was aching.
Ah, but who's warder on duty today?
Oh, yes.  It's Ivan-and-a-half, the thin, lanky sergeant with black eyes.  First time you saw him you were terrified, but when you got to know him he was the easiest of the lot — never put you in the hole, never dragged you off to the disciplinary officer.  So lie in a bit longer, till it's time for Hut 9 to go to the mess.
The bunk swayed and trembled.  Two men getting up at once: Shukhov's neighbor up top, Alyoshka the Baptist, and ex-Captain (second rank) Buynovsky.
The orderlies, oldish men, had carried out both night buckets and were now wrangling over who should fetch the hot water.  They bickered like shrewish women.  The welder from Gang 20 slung a boot and barked at them: "If you two deadbeats don't shut up, I'll do it for you."
The boot hit a post with a thud, and the old men fell silent.
The deputy foreman of the gang next to them gave a low growl.  "Vasily Fyodorich!  Those rats in the food store have really screwed us this time.  It was four nine-hundreds, now it's only three.  Who's got to go short?"
He said it quietly, but the whole gang heard and held its breath.  Somebody would find a slice missing that evening.
Shukhov just lay there on the tight-packed sawdust in his mattress.  Wish it would make up its mind: either a raging fever or an end to these aches and pains.  This is neither one thing nor the other.
While the Baptist was still whispering his prayers, Buynovsky came back from the latrine and joyfully brought the bad news to no one in particular.
"Hang in there, shipmates!  It's a good thirty below!"
That did it.  Shukhov made up his mind to go to sick bay.
But at that very moment the hand of authority whipped his jerkin and his blanket away.  Shukhov threw off the jacket that covered his face and raised himself on one elbow.  Down below, with his head on the level of the upper bunk, stood the gaunt Tartar.
Must have come on duty out of turn and sneaked up quietly.
"S hcha-854", the Tartar read our from the white patch on the back of the black jacket. "Three days in the hole, normal working hours."
His unmistakable strangled voice could be heard all over the half-dark hut — not all the light bulbs were burning — where two hundred men slept on fifty bug-ridden bunks.
All those who had not yet risen suddenly came to life and began dressing in a hurry.
"What for, citizen warder?"  — Shukhov asked, with more self-pity in his voice than he really felt.
Normal working hours was only half punishment.  You got warm food, and there was no time for brooding.  Full punishment was when you weren't taken out to work.
"Didn't get up at the signal, did you?  Report to HQ fast."  He gave his explanation in a lazy drawl because he and Shukhov and everybody else knew perfectly well what the punishment was for.
The Tartar's hairless, crumpled face was blank.  He turned around to look for victims, but whether they were in half darkness or under a light bulb, on lower or upper bed shelves, all of them were stuffing their legs into black padded trousers with number patches on the left knee, or, already dressed, were buttoning themselves up and hurrying toward the door to wait for the Tartar outside.
If Shukhov had done something to deserve it, he wouldn't have minded so much.  What upset him was that he was always one of the first up.  But it was no good asking the Tartar to let him off, he knew that.  He went on begging, for form's sake, standing there in the padded trousers he'd kept on all night (they had a shabby, greasy patch of their own stitched on above the left knee, with the number Shcha-854 traced on it in faded black ink), put on his jerkin (it had two similar numbers on it — one on the chest, one on the back), picked his boots out of the pile on the floor, put on his hat (with another such numbered rag on the front), and followed the Tartar outside.
All the men in Gang 104 saw Shukhov being led out, but nobody said a word: what good would it do, whatever you said?  The foreman might have put in a word for him, but he wasn't there.  Shukhov himself said nothing to anybody — he didn't want to irritate the Tartar.  His messmates would have the sense to save his breakfast.
They went out together.
The mist in the frosty air took your breath away.  Two big searchlights from watchtowers in opposite corners crossed beams as they swept the compound.  Lights were burning around the periphery, and inside the camp, dotted around in such numbers that they made the stars look dim.
The snow squeaked under the boots of the zeks hurrying about their business — to the latrine, to the storeroom, to the parcel room, to hand in meal they wanted cooked separately.  Heads were drawn well down into shoulders, jackets buttoned tight.  Their owners were chilled not so much by the frost as by the thought that they would be outside all day in it.
The Tartar marched steadily on in his old greatcoat with grubby blue shoulder tabs.  The frost didn't seem to trouble him.
They walked by the high board fence around the BUR (the camp's stone punishment cell), past the barbed-wire fence that protected the camp bakery from the prisoners, past the corner of the staff hut where a frosted length of rail dangled at the end of a thick wire, past the frostcovered thermometer hanging on another post, in a sheltered spot so that it would not fall too low.  Shukhov squinted hopefully at the milk-white tube; if it showed forty-one below, they weren't supposed to be marched out to work.  But it was nowhere near forty today.
They went into the HQ hut and straight through to the warders' room.  It was just as Shukhov had guessed on the way.  He wasn't bound for the hole — it was just that the floor of the warders' room needed washing.  The Tartar announced that he forgave Shukhov and ordered him to clean it.
Washing the floor was a job for the hut orderly, a zek who wasn't sent out to work.  But he had made himself so much at home in the HQ hut that he had access to the offices of the major, the disciplinary officer, and the godfather, made himself useful to them, heard a few things even the warders did not know, so for some time now he'd regarded cleaning floors for mere warders as demeaning.  They'd sent for him a time or two, then realized how things stood and started "pulling" one or another of the working prisoners to clean the floor.
The heat from the stove in the warders' room was fierce.  Two warders, stripped down to their dirty tunics, were playing checkers, and a third, still wearing his tightly belted sheepskin coat and felt boots, was asleep on a narrow bench.
Shukhov happily thanked the Tartar for forgiving him.  "Thank you, citizen warder!  I'll never sleep in again."
The rule was simple: Leave as soon as you finish.  Now that Shukhov had a job to do, his body seemed to have stopped aching.  He took the bucket, and just as he was, without mittens (he'd left them under the pillow in the rush), went out to the well.
Several of the foremen reporting to the PPS had crowded around the post, and one, a youngish man, ex-Hero of the Soviet Union, had shinned up and was rubbing the frost off the thermometer.
Advice reached him from down below.
"Don't breathe on it, man, or it'll go up."
"Go up?  In a pig's ear.  That doesn't make any difference."
Shukhov's foreman, Tyurin, was not among them.  He put his bucket down, worked his hands into opposite sleeves, and watched curiously.
The man up the pole said hoarsely: "Twenty-seven and a half below, the bastard."
He looked harder to make sure, and jumped down.
"Bullshit.  It doesn't work properly," somebody said.  "Think they'd hang it where we can see it if it did?"
The foremen went their ways and Shukhov trotted to the well.  His earflaps were down but not tied under his chin and the frost made his ears ache.
There was such thick ice around the wellhead that the bucket would hardly go into the hole.  The rope was as stiff as a pole.
When he got back to the warders' quarters with his steaming bucket, there was no feeling in his hands.  He plunged them into the well water and felt a little warmer.
The Tartar was missing, but four others had gathered.  Checkers and sleep had been forgotten, and they were discussing how much millet they would be given in January.  (There was a shortage of foodstuff in the settlement, but the warders were able to buy extra supplies at discount prices, although they had long ago used up their ration coupons.)
One of them broke off to yell at Shukhov.  "Pull the door to, you shit!  There's a draft here!"
Wouldn't be a good idea at all to start the day with his boots wet, and he had no others to change into, even if he could dash over to the hut.  Shukhov had seen all sorts of arrangements about footwear during his eight years inside: you might walk around all winter without felt boots, you might never even see a pair of ordinary shoes, just birchbark clogs or the Chelyabinsk Tractor Factory type — strips off old tires that left tread marks in the snow.  But things seemed to have improved lately.  Last October he'd tagged along to the clothing store with the deputy foreman and got hold of a pair of stout shoes with hard toe caps and room for two warm foot rags in each.  He'd walked around for a whole week as though it was his birthday, making a clatter with his new heels.  Then, in December, felt boots had turned up as well: life was a bed of roses, no need to die just yet.  So some fiend in the accounts office had whispered in the big man's ear: let them have the felt boots, but only if they hand their shoes in: it's against the rules for a zek to have two pairs at once.  So Shukhov had faced a choice: either wear shoes all winter or turn them in and wear felt boots even when it thawed.  He'd taken such good care of his nice new shoes, he'd greased them to make them soft...  He'd never missed anything so much in all those eight years.  The shoes were all tossed on one big pile — no hope of getting your own pair back when spring came.  It was just like the time when they rounded everybody's horses up for the kolkhoz.
Shukhov knew what to do this time: he stepped nimbly out of his felt boots, stood them in a corner, tossed his foot rags after them (his spoon tinkled as it hit the floor — he'd had to get ready for the hole in a hurry, but he still hadn't forgotten his spoon) — and, barefoot, dived at the warders' felt-booted feet, generously splashing the floor around them with water from his floor cloth.
"Hey!  Take it easy, you crud," one of them exclaimed, quickly drawing his feet up onto his chair.
"Rice, you say?  The rice allowance is different.  There's no comparison with millet."
"Why are you using all that water, you idiot?  What a way to wash a floor!"
"Never get it clean any other way, citizen warder.  The dirt's eaten into the floor."
"Did you never see your old woman clean a floor, you moron?"
Shukhov straightened up, holding the dripping floor cloth.  He smiled innocently, showing the gaps left in his teeth by an attack of scurvy he had when he was on his last legs at Ust-Izhma in '43.  He'd thought he was done for — a bleeding diarrhea had drained all the strength out of him and he couldn't keep anything in his stomach.  Now he only had a slight lisp to remind him of it all.
"They parted my old woman and me in '41, citizen officer.  I don't even remember what she looks like."
"That's what they call cleaning a floor.  The bastards can't do any damned thing properly, and they don't want to learn.  They aren't worth the bread we give them.  Feed them on shit, I would."
"Why the hell does it have to be washed every day, anyway?  It never has time to get dry.  Listen here, 854!  Just give it a once-over, don't make it too wet, and get the hell out of here!"
"Rice, man!  There's no way you can compare it with millet!"
Shukhov made a quick job of it.
There are two ends to a stick, and there's more than one way of working.  If it's for human beings — make sure and do it properly.  If it's for the big man — just make it look good.
Any other way, we'd all have turned our toes up long ago, that's for sure.
Shukhov wiped the floorboards, leaving no dry patches, and without stopping to wring it out tossed the rag behind the stove.  He pulled his boots on in the doorway, splashed the water out on the path along which the screws walked, and took a shortcut past the bathhouse, past the dark, chilly recreation center toward the mess hut.
He had to get to sick bay while there was still time — he was aching all over again.  And he mustn't let the warders catch him outside the mess hut: the camp commandant had given strict orders to pick up stragglers and shove them in the hole.
Funny thing — no big crowd, no queue, outside the mess today.  Walk right in.
It was like a bathhouse inside — whenever the door opened, frosty air mingled with the steam from the skilly.  Some work gangs were sitting at tables, others were blocking the aisles waiting for vacant places.  Two or three workers from every gang shouted and shoved their way through the mob, carrying bowls of skilly and gruel on wooden trays and looking for a space to put them down on.  Must be deaf, the blockhead, take that for bumping the tray and making me spill the stuff!  That's it — use your free hand — give him one in the neck.  That's the stuff!  You there, don't get in the way looking for leftovers.
There's a young fellow at that table over there crossing himself before he dips his spoon in.  One of Bendera's lot, must be.  And a new boy at that.  The older ones give it up when they've been inside a bit.
The Russians don't even remember which hand you cross yourself with.
It's cold sitting in the mess hut.  Most men eat with their caps on, but they take their time, angling for gluey scraps of rotten little fish under the leaves of frost-blackened cabbage, and spitting the bones onto the table.  When there's a mountain of them, somebody will sweep them off before the next gang sits down, and they will be crunched to powder underfoot.
Spitting bones out on the floor is considered bad manners.
There were two rows of pillars or stanchions, down the middle of the hut.  Fetyukov, a workmate of Shukhov's, sat by one, looking after his breakfast for him.  Fetyukov was one of the lowliest members of the gang — even Shukhov was a cut above him.  Outwardly, the gang all looked the same, all wearing identical black jackets with identical number patches, but underneath there were big differences.  You'd never get Buynovsky to sit watching a bowl, and there were jobs that Shukhov left to those beneath him.
Fetyukov caught sight of him and gave up his seat with a sigh.  "It's all gone cold.  I nearly ate it for you, I thought you were in the hole."
He didn't wait around.  He knew Shukhov would polish both bowls till they shone and leave nothing for him.
Shukhov drew his spoon from his boot.  That spoon was precious, it had traveled all over the north with him.  He'd cast it himself from aluminum wire in a sand mold and scratched on it: "Ust-Izhma, 1944."
Next, he removed his cap from his shaven head — however cold it was, he wouldn't let himself eat with his cap on — and stirred up his skilly, quickly checking what had found its way into his bowl.  Could have been worse.  Not ladled from the top of the caldron, but not the dregs either.  Fetyukov could have fished out the potato while he was guarding the bowl — be just like him!
The best you can ever say for skilly is that it's hot, but this time Shukhov's was cold.  He started eating slowly, savoring it, just the same.  If the roof burst into flames, he still wouldn't hurry.  Apart from sleep, an old lag can call his life his own only for ten minutes at breakfast time, five at lunchtime, and five more at suppertime.
The skilly didn't change from day to day.  What was in it depended on which vegetable was stockpiled for winter.  Last year they'd laid in nothing but carrots in brine — so from September to June it was carrots all the way.  This time around, it was black cabbage.  June is when the zek eats best: the vegetables run out, and there's meal instead.  The leanest time is July, when chopped nettles go into the pot.
There was nothing much left of the little fish, only bones: the flesh had come away and dissolved, except for scraps of head and tail.  Shukhov left neither flesh nor scales on the brittle skeletons.  He chomped and sucked them between his lips, then spat them out on the table.  He ate every bit of every fish, gills, tails, even eyes if they were where they should be, but if they had boiled out of the head and were floating loose in the bowl — big fish eyes goggling at him — he wouldn't eat them.  The others laughed at him for it.
He'd been thrifty today.  He hadn't gone to the hut for his ration and was eating without bread.  He could wolf it down by itself later on.  More filling that way.
The second course was magara gruel.  It had congealed into a solid bar.  Shukhov broke bits off.  Magara is bad enough hot — tastes of nothing, leaves you feeling empty.  Yellowish like millet, but just grass, really.  Somebody's bright idea, serving it instead of meal.  Seemed they got it from the Chinese.  Maybe three hundred grams, boiled weight.  So make the best of it: call it what you like, it was all you were getting.
Shukhov licked his spoon clean and returned it to his boot, then put on his cap and made for sick bay.
The camp lights had chased the stars from the sky, and it was as dark as before.  The broad beams from the corner towers were still quartering the compound.  When they first set up this "special" camp, still had stacks of army surplus flares, and as soon as the light faded they would fill the air over the camp with white, green, and red fires.  It was like a battlefield.  Then they stopped throwing the things around.  Probably cost too much.
It was just as dark as at reveille, but an experienced eye could tell from all sorts of little signs that the signal for works parade would soon be sounded.  Limpy's assistant (Limpy, the mess orderly, was able to keep and feed a helper) went to call Hut No.  6 — those too unfit to leave the compound — to breakfast.  The old artist with the little beard ambled off to the Culture and Education Department for brush and ink to paint numbers.  Yet again the Tartar strode rapidly across the midway toward the staff hut.  The people had suddenly thinned out on the ground — they were all skulking inside, warming themselves in the few sweet minutes left.
Shukhov ducked around the corner of a hut: if the Tartar spotted him, he'd give him hell again.  You had to be wide awake all the time.  Make sure a warder never saw you on your own, only as one of a crowd.  He might be looking for somebody to do a job, or he might just want to take his spite out on you.  They'd gone around every hut reading out the order: prisoners must take off their caps when they see a warder five paces away, and keep them off till they are two paces past him.  Some warders wandered by blindly, but others made a meal of it.  The hellhounds had hauled any number off to the cooler because of the "caps off" order.  Better wait around the corner for a while.
The Tartar went past, and Shukhov had made up his mind to go to sick bay, when it suddenly dawned on him that he had arranged with the lanky Latvian in Hut 7 to buy two tumblers full of homegrown tobacco that morning.  With so much to do, it had gone clean out of his mind.  The lanky Latvian had been given his parcel the night before, and by tomorrow there might be no tobacco left.  It would be a month before he got another, and it was good stuff, just strong enough and sweet-smelling.  A sort of reddish-brown, it was.
Vexed with himself, Shukhov almost turned on his heel and went back to Hut 7.  But sick bay was quite close and he made for its porch at a trot.
The snow squeaked under his feet.
It was always so clean in sick bay that you were afraid to tread on the floor.  The walls were bright with white enamel paint, and all the fittings were white.
But the doctors' doors were all shut.  Not out of bed yet, you could bet.  The medical orderly on duty, a young fellow called Kolya Vdovushkin, was sitting in a crisp white gown at a clean desk, writing.
There was nobody else around.
Shukhov took off his cap as though to a superior officer.  He had the old lag's habit of letting his eyes wander where they shouldn't, and he noticed that Kolya was writing lines of exactly the same length, leaving a margin and starting each one with a capital letter exactly below the beginning of the last.  He knew right off, of course, that this wasn't work but something on the side.  None of his business, though.
"It's like this, Nikolai Semyonich, I feel sort of poorly."  There was embarrassment in his voice, as though he was asking for something that wasn't rightfully his.
Vdovushkin raised large mild eyes from his work.  He was wearing a white cap, and white overalls with no number patches.
"Why so late?  Why didn't you come last night?  Don't you know there's no clinic in the morning?  The sick list has gone over to PPS already."
Shukhov knew all that.  He also knew that it was no easier to get off work in the evening.
"Yes, but, Kolya, it didn't start hurting last night, when it ought to have."
"What didn't?  Where's the pain?"
"Well, when I try to put my finger on it, I can't say where it is.  I just feel poorly all over."
Shukhov wasn't one of those who haunted sick bay, and Vdovushkin knew it.  But he was authorized to let off only two men in the morning.  And there were already two names under the greenish glass on top of the desk.  With a line drawn under them.
"Well, you should have started worrying about it earlier.  What's the good of coming right before work parade?  Here!"
A number of thermometers had been inserted into a jar through a slit in its gauze cover.  Vdovushkin drew one of them out, wiped off the solution, and gave it to Shukhov.
Shukhov sat on the very edge of a bench by the wall, just far enough not to tip over with it.  He had chosen this uncomfortable place unconsciously, intending to show that he wasn't at home in sick bay and would make no great demands on it.
Vdovushkin went on writing.
The sick bay was in the most out-of-the-way corner of the camp, and no sound whatsoever reached it: there was not even the ticking of a clock — prisoners are not allowed clocks.  The big boys tell the time for them.  You couldn't even hear mice scratching — they'd all been caught by the hospital cat, as was his duty.
Shukhov felt strange sitting under a bright light doing nothing for five whole minutes in such deep silence in such a clean room.  He inspected the walls and found nothing there.  He inspected his jerkin — the number on his breast had been almost rubbed away, he'd have to get it touched up before they pounced on him.  With his free hand he felt his face — his beard had come on fast in the last ten days.  So what, it wasn't in his way.  It would be bath day again in three days' time and he'd get a shave then.  Why waste time waiting your turn at the barber's?  He had nobody to make himself pretty for.
Looking at Vdovushkin's snow-white cap, Shukhov remembered the field hospital on the River Lovat — he'd gone there with a damaged jaw, and gone back into the line of his own free will, stupid clod, when he could have had five days' rest.
His one dream now was to fall sick for two or three weeks.  Not fatally, of course, and he didn't want an operation.  Just sick enough to be put in the hospital.  He could see himself lying there for three weeks without stirring, being fed on clear beef broth.  Suit him nicely, that would.
Only now, he remembered, there was no way of getting any rest.  A new doctor, Stepan Grigorich, had arrived with one of the recent batches.  He was fast and furious, always on the boil himself, and he made sure the patients got no peace.  One of his bright ideas was turning out the patients who could walk to work in the hospital precincts — putting up fences, laying paths, shoveling extra soil onto flower beds, and — in the winter — banking snow to keep the ground warm.  Work, he reckoned, was the best medicine of all.
Work is what horses die of.  Everybody should know that.  If he ever had to bust a gut bricklaying, he'd soon quiet down.
... Meanwhile, Vdovushkin went on with his writing.  It was, in fact, "something on the side," but nothing that Shukhov would have comprehended.  He was copying out his long new poem.  He had put the finishing touches to it the night before and had promised to show it to the new doctor, Stepan Grigorich, that morning.
It was the sort of thing that happens only in camp: Stepan Grigorich had advised Vdovushkin to call himself a medical orderly and had given him the job.  Vdovushkin was now practicing intravenous injections on ignorant prisoners and meek Lithuanians and Estonians, to whom it would never occur that a medical orderly could be nothing of the kind, but a former student of literature, arrested in his second year of university.  Stepan Grigorich wanted him to write in prison what he hadn't had a chance to write outside.
... The signal for work parade could barely be heard through double windows shuttered by white ice.  Shukhov sighed and stood up.  He still felt feverish, but he could see that he wasn't going to get away with it.  Vdovushkin reached for the thermometer and looked at it.
"There you are — neither one thing nor the other.  Thirty-seven point two.  If it was thirty-eight, nobody would argue.  I can't let you off, but you can stay if you feel like risking it.  The doctor will look you over and let you off if he thinks you're ill, but if he reckons you're fit, you'll be in the hole for malingering.  I'd go to work if I were you."
Shukhov rammed on his hat and left without a word or a nod.
Can a man who's warm understand one who's freezing?
The frost was cruel.  A stinging haze wrapped around him and set him coughing.  The air temperature was twenty-seven below and Shukhov's temperature was thirty-seven above.  No holds barred!
He trotted to the hut.  The midway was empty right across.  The whole camp looked empty.  It was that last, short, painfully sweet moment when there was no escape but everybody still pretended that work parade would never come.  The guards would still be sitting in their warm barracks, resting their sleepy heads on their rifle butts.  Teetering on watchtowers in such a hard frost was no fun either.  The sentries in the main guardhouse would be shoveling more coal into the stove.  The warders would be smoking one last cigarette before the body search.  And the zeks, dressed up in all their rags and tatters, girded with lengths of rope, muffled from chin to eyes in face rags to keep the frost out, would be lying boots and all on top of their blankets, eyes shut, lost to the world.  Waiting for the foreman to yell, "We're off!"
Gang 104 dozed with the rest of Hut 9.  Except for Pavlo, the deputy foreman, who was moving his lips as he added up something with a pencil, and Alyoshka, the well-washed Baptist, Shukhov's neighbor, who was reading the notebook into which he had copied half the New Testament.
Shukhov dashed in but without too much noise and went over to the deputy foreman's bed.
Pavlo raised his head.  "Didn't land in the hole, then, Ivan Denisovich?  Still among the living?" (Western Ukrainians never learn.  Even in the camps they speak to people politely.)
He picked up Shukhov's portion of bread from the table and held it out.  A little hillock of sugar had been scooped onto it.
Shukhov was in a great hurry, but still thanked him properly.  (The deputy foreman was one of his bosses, and more important to Shukhov than the camp commandant.) Nor was he in too much of a hurry to dip his lips in the sugar and lick them, as he hoisted himself up with one foot on the bed bracket to straighten his bedding, or to view his bread ration from all angles and weigh it on his hand in mid-air, wondering whether it contained the regulation five hundred and fifty grams.  Shukhov had drawn a few thousand bread rations in jails and prison camps, and though he'd never had the chance to weigh his portion on the scales, and anyway was too timid to kick up a fuss and demand his rights, he knew better than most prisoners that a bread cutter who gave full measure wouldn't last long at the job.  Every portion was underweight — the only question was by how much.  Twice a day you looked at it and tried to set your mind at rest.  Maybe they haven't robbed me blind this time?  Maybe it's only a couple of grams short?
About twenty grams light, Shukhov decided, and broke the bread in two.  He shoved one half into a little white pocket stitched inside his jerkin (prison jerkins come from the factory without pockets).  The other half, saved from breakfast, he thought of eating there and then, but food swallowed in a hurry is food wasted, you feel no fuller and it does nothing for you.  He made as if to stow the half ration in his locker, but changed his mind when he remembered that the hut orderlies had been beaten up twice for stealing.  A big hut is about as safe as an open yard.
So, without letting go of the bread, Ivan Denisovich slipped out of his boots, deftly leaving spoon and foot rags in place, scrambled barefoot onto the top bunk, widened the hole in his mattress, and hid his half ration amid the sawdust.  Then he tugged off his cap and unsheathed a threaded needle — also well hidden.  (They'd feel your cap during the body search.  A warder had once pricked himself and nearly smashed Shukhov's skull in his rage.) Stitch, stitch, stitch and he'd tacked up the hole over the hidden half ration.  By then the sugar had melted in his mouth.  Every fiber in his body was tensed to the utmost: the work assignor would be bellowing at the door any moment now.  His fingers were wonderfully nimble, and his mind raced ahead, planning his next moves.
The Baptist was reading his Bible, not altogether silently, but sort of sighing out the words.  This was meant perhaps for Shukhov.  (A bit like political agitators, these Baptists.  Loved spreading the word.)
"But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God."
Alyoshka was a champion at one thing: wiggling that little book of his into a crack in the wall so neatly that it had never been found by searching warders.
With the same rapid movements, Shukhov draped his overcoat over the end of his bed, pulled his mittens out from under the mattress, together with another pair of flimsy foot rags, a rope, and a rag with two tapes attached to it.  He did a lovely job of smoothing down the bumps in the mattress (the sawdust was heavy and close-packed), tucked the blanket under all around, tossed the pillow into place, and, still barefoot, lowered himself and began putting on his boots — first, though, the good, new foot rags, with the worn ones over them.
That was when the foreman stood up and barked: "Rise and shine, 104!  Let's have you outside!"
Every man in the gang, nodding or not, rose to his feet, yawned, and made for the door.  After nineteen years inside, the foreman wouldn't hustle his men out a minute too early.  When he said "Out," you knew there was nothing else for it.
While the men tramped wordlessly one after another into the corridor, then through the entryway out onto the porch, and the foreman of No.  20, taking his cue from Tyurin, called "All out" in turn, Shukhov had managed to pull his boots over the two layers of foot rags, put his overcoat on over his jerkin, and tie a length of rope tightly around his waist.  (If you arrived in a special camp with a leather belt, it was taken away from you — not allowed.)
So he was ready on time, and caught up with the last of his gang as their numbered backs were passing through the door onto the porch.  In single file, making no effort to keep up with each other, every man looking bulky because he was muffled up in every piece of clothing he possessed, they trudged across to the midway with not a sound except for the crunch of snow underfoot.
It was still dark, although a greenish light was brightening in the east.  A thin, treacherous breeze was creeping in from the same direction.
There is no worse moment than when you turn out for work parade in the morning.  In the dark, in the freezing cold, with a hungry belly, and the whole day ahead of you.  You lose the power of speech.  You haven't the slightest desire to talk to each other.
The junior work assignor was restlessly pacing the midway.  "Come on, Tyurin, how long have we got to wait for you?  Dragging your feet again, eh?"
Somebody like Shukhov might be afraid of the junior work assignor, but Tyurin wasn't.  Wouldn't waste breath on him in that frost.  Just tramped ahead without a word.  And the whole gang tramped after him: stomp, stomp, crunch,crunch.
Tyurin must have handed over the kilo of fatback, though — because, looking at the other teams, you could see that 104 was in its old position.  Some other lot, poorer and more stupid, would be shunted off to Sotsgorodok.  It would be murder out there — twenty-seven below, with a mean wind blowing, no shelter, and no hope of a warm!
The foreman needed plenty of fatback — for the PPS, and to keep his own belly purring.  He might not get parcels himself, but he never went short.  Every man in the gang who did get a parcel gave him a present right away.
It was that or perish.
The senior work assignor was ticking off names on his board.
"One sick, Tyurin, twenty-three on parade?"
The foreman nodded.  "Twenty-three."
Who was missing?  Panteleyev.  Who said he was sick, though?
A whisper went around the gang.  Panteleyev, that son of a bitch, had stayed behind in camp again.  He wasn't sick at all, the security officer had kept him back.  He'd be squealing on somebody again.
Nothing to stop them sending for him later in the day and keeping him for three hours if necessary.  Nobody would be there to see or hear.
They could pretend he was in sick bay.
The whole midway was black with prison jackets as the gangs slowly jostled each other toward the checkpoint.  Shukhov remembered that he'd meant to freshen up the number on his jerkin, and squeezed through the crowd to the other side of the road.  Two or three zeks were lining up for the artist already.  Shukhov stood behind them.  Those numbers were the plague of a zek's life.  A warder could spot him a long way off.  One of the guards might make a note of it.  And if you didn't get it touched up in time, you were in the hole for not looking after it!
There were three artists in the camp.  They painted pictures for the bosses, free, and also took turns painting numbers on work parade.  This time it was the old man with the little gray beard.  The way his brush moved as he painted a number on a cap made you think of a priest anointing a man's forehead with holy oil.  He would paint for a bit and then stop to breathe into his glove.  It was a thin knitted glove, and his hand would get too numb to trace the figures.
The artist renewed the Shcha-854 on Shukhov's jerkin.  He wasn't far from the search point, so he didn't bother to fasten his jacket but overtook the rest of the gang with his rope belt in his hand.  He suddenly spotted a chance of scrounging a butt: one of the gang, Tsezar, was smoking a cigarette instead of his usual pipe.  Shukhov didn't ask straight out, though.  Just took his stand near Tsezar, half facing him and looking past him.
He was gazing at something in the distance, trying to look uninterested, but seeing the cigarette grow shorter and the red tip creep closer to the holder every time Tsezar took an absentminded drag.
That scavenger Fetyukov was there too, leeching onto Tsezar, standing right in front of him and staring hot-eyed at his mouth.
Shukhov had not a shred of tobacco left, and couldn't see himself getting hold of any before evening.  He was on tenterhooks.  Right then he seemed to yearn for that butt more than for freedom itself, but he wouldn't lower himself like Fetyukov, wouldn't look at Tsezar's mouth.
Tsezar was a mixture of all nationalities.  No knowing whether he was Greek, Jew, or gypsy.  He was still young.  Used to make films, but they'd put him inside before he finished his first picture.  He had a heavy black walrus mustache.  They'd have shaved it off, only he was wearing it when they photographed him for the record.
Fetyukov couldn't stand it any longer.  "Tsezar Markovich," he drooled.  "Save me just one little drag."
His face was twitching with greed.
... Tsezar raised his half-closed eyelids and turned his dark eyes on Fetyukov.  He'd taken to smoking a pipe to avoid this sort of thing — people barging in, begging for the last drag.  He didn't grudge them the tobacco, but he didn't like being interrupted when he was thinking.  He smoked to set his mind racing in pursuit of some idea.  But the moment he lit a cigarette he saw "Leave a puff for me!" in several pairs of eyes.
... He turned to Shukhov and said, "Here you are, Ivan Denisovich."
His thumb eased the glowing butt out of the short amber holder.
That was all Shukhov had been waiting for.  He sprang into action and gratefully caught hold of the butt, keeping the other hand underneath for safety.  He wasn't offended that Tsezar was too fussy to let him finish the cigarette in the holder.  Some mouths are clean, others are dirty, and anyway his horny fingers could hold the glowing tip without getting burned.  The great thing was that he'd cut the scavenger Fetyukov out and was now inhaling smoke, with the hot ash beginning to burn his lips.  Ah, lovely.  The smoke seemed to reach every part of his hungry body, he felt it in his feet as well as in his head.
But no sooner had this blissful feeling pervaded his body than Ivan Denisovich heard a rumble of protest: "They're taking our undershirts off us."
A zek's life was always the same.  Shukhov was used to it: relax for a minute and somebody was at your throat.
What was this about undershirts?  The camp commandant had issued them himself.  No, it couldn't be right.
There were only two gangs ahead waiting to be searched, so everybody in 104 got a good view: the disciplinary officer, Lieutenant Volkovoy, walked over from HQ hut and barked at the warders.  They had been frisking the men halfheartedly before Volkovoy appeared, but now they went mad, setting upon the prisoners like wild beasts, with the head warder yelling, "Unbutton your shirts!"
Volkovoy was dreaded not just by the zeks and the warders but, so it was said, by the camp commandant himself.  God had marked the scoundrel with a name to suit his wolfish looks. He was lanky, dark, beetle-browed, quick on his feet: he would pop up when you least expected him, shouting, "Why are you all hanging around here?"  There was no hiding from him.  At one time he'd carried a lash, a plaited leather thing as long as your forearm.  They said he thrashed people with it in the camp jail.  Or else, when zeks were huddled outside the door during the evening hut search, he would creep up and slash you across the neck with it: "Why aren't you lined up properly, you scum?"  The crowd would reel back like an ebbing wave.  The whipped man would clutch his burning neck, wipe the blood away, and say nothing: he didn't want a spell in the hole as well.
Just lately he'd stopped carrying his lash for some reason.
In frosty weather, body searches were usually less strict in the morning than in the evening; the prisoner simply undid his jacket and held its skirts away from his body.  Prisoners advanced five at a time, and five warders stood ready for them.  They slapped the sides of each zek's belted jerkin, and tapped the one permitted pocket on his right knee.  They would be wearing gloves themselves, and if they felt something strange they didn't immediately pull it out but lazily asked what it was.
What would you expect to find on a zek in the morning?  A knife?  They don't carry knives out, they bring them in.  Just make sure he hasn't got three kilograms of food on him, to run away with — that's all that matters in the morning.  At one time they got so worried about the two hundred grams every zek took with him for dinner that each gang was ordered to make a wooden chest to hold the lot.  Why the bastards thought that would do any good was a mystery.  They were probably just out to make life more miserable, give the men something extra to worry about.  You took a bite and looked hard at your bread before you put it in the chest.  But the pieces were still all alike, still just bread, so you couldn't help fretting all the way to work in case somebody switched rations.  Men argued with each other and sometimes came to blows.  Then one day three men helped themselves to a chest full of bread and escaped from a work site in a truck.  The brass came to their senses, had the chests chopped up in the guardhouse, and let everybody carry his own ration again.
Another thing the searchers looked for in the morning: men wearing civilian dress under prison clothes.  Never mind that everybody had been stripped of his civilian belongings long ago, and told that he'd get them back the day his sentence ended (a day nobody in that camp had yet seen).
And one other thing — prisoners carrying letters for free workers to smuggle out.  Only, if you searched everybody for letters, you'd be messing about till dinnertime.
But Volkovoy only had to bawl out an order and the warders peeled off their gloves, made the prisoners unbelt the jerkins under which they were all hugging the warmth of the hut and unbutton their shirts, and set about feeling for anything hidden underneath contrary to regulations.  A zek was allowed two shirts — shirt and undershirt; everything else must come off.  That was the order from Volkovoy relayed from rank to rank.  The teams that had gone past earlier were the lucky ones.  Some of them were already through the gates, but for those left behind, it was "Open up!"  All those with too much on underneath must take it off right there in the cold.