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ON FIRST READING ‘THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO’

It was time to revise our atlases.

Europe was a river of broken ice,

Russia a mouth widening to a

frozen sea. GULAG was permanent winter.

Innocent, we had traced railways to

romantic ends. The atlas of knowledge showed

obscured crimes, its charts the colours and scale

of blizzards. A new world had been shaping.

Multitudes were shunted across nations.

A chronicle of whispers is the pure

saga, epic of the supreme fiction,

where history is lost, where ten million

lives are broken like glass.

© Copyright David Selzer
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1 Response
  • Mary Clark
    March 2, 2021

    ‘. . ..traced railways to romantic ends.’ I read Maxim Gorky when I was in my 20s, back in the early 70s, and thought the people he described were pastoral, romantic, salt-of-the-earth with common sense and a heritage they could draw their ethics from, and then as the years passed, I discovered the horror and ruthlessness of the new order, which subverted and denied all that decency. Gorky was, or became, an ideologue, willing to betray the same people he so lovingly described as sitting around the campfires telling the old tales. I keep this in mind when I watch Black Lives Matter: how we must let Truth out, face the horror of what has happened (in the old order), and is still happening, and maybe then the (underground) railway will lead to freedom.

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