Written by matwil

Monday, 11 January 2010

image for 'One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich' by Alexander Solzhenitsyn republished
The Moanin

'Ivan Denisovich checked he had his only possession safely in the pocket of his tattered coat - a stainless steel spoon - and then went out into the yard with the other prisoners of the Macsow Gulag labour camp. As always it was bitterly cold with ice and snow packed onto the ground by months of feet walking over it, feet like Denisovich's which were only wrapped in bits of dirty cloth.

'Putin, Brezhnev, Tolstoy and Denisovich, to the salt mine', came from the camp orderly, and soon the four of them were digging into the near-frozen earth with picks and shovels. It was backbreaking work, but at least it stopped them from getting frostbite, thought Ivan, and around midday there was a ten minute break for lunch back in the old redbrick detention centre.

As he sat down at a table with his fellow workers he took out his spoon and began to eat the watery broth that the prisoners always had, the lidl zup, followed by some mouldy black bread and the only bit that was nice - a deep-fried piece of grey-looking chocolate and a glass of poisonous orange juice that the prisoners called 'iron brew'.

'Hurry up, comrades', another orderly said to the room, 'lunch break will be over soon', and five minutes later Denisovich and the other workers were trudging along the ungritted path, holding on to a fence to stop themselves from slipping on the ice.

'You'd think the Party would at least use some of the salt we dig up on the paths', he muttered to the others, 'but every winter it's always the same. Our masters in the Moanin talk about 'cutbacks', but their streets are all free of ice and snow.'

'Careful what you're saying', Putin said to him, 'people have been deported to Zetland for such comments', and Denisovich shuddered at the thought of that island archipelago where the sun began setting at one in the afternoon in the winter.

Although the prisoners in that frozen part of the Soviet Union didn't have to work in camps, so many men and women had been sent there that it had become a notorious place for interbreeding and even worse happenings involving children, making the Gulags not seem so bad after all. Soon the group were back at work, digging in the sub-zero temperatures but hardly noticing the cold.

At nine at night the orderly blew a whistle to signal the working day was over, and Denisovich and the others went back into the cold brick building. 'I wonder what's for supper?', Brezhnev muttered.

'Maybe roast pheasant and baby new potatoes with broccoli in a hollandaise sauce, washed down with a half bottle of Dom Perignon champagne?', Denisovich suggested. 'Or it might be a sun-dried red pepper and tomato quiche with a side salad, drenched in a Greek dressing of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice', Putin said.

'Followed by a chocolate cheesecake topped with double cream and brandy', came from Brezhnev, as they collected their meals and sat down at a table. 'Nope', Denisovich said, 'looks like it's the same old white pudding supper with 'iron brew' and a Tunnokov's tea cake. And a pint of tea that I could stand my spoon up in', which he did to show the others just how strong his tea was.

Soon the meal was over and Denisovich went to his cell to read a book that he had managed to get smuggled in by bribing a guard with a rare copy of 'The Three Healthy Recipes of Northern Europe, and How To Find Someone That Eats Them', by Ukranian dissident Obesitei Glaschu Zmoker. Denisovich's book was carefully hidden under a pile of old rags, and soon he was reading 'Why Does A Parliament Exist?' by Alexei Salmonov.

In it Salmonov argued that a Parliament that makes no decisions about taxation, about defence, or about anything at all except for inventing endless regulations about dogs barking after dark and safety at road crossings was a total waste of time and money. Denisovich was much impressed with such counterrevolutionary ideas, and knew that if the book was found by the guards he wold be taken out into the yard and shot for treason against the Party.

Temperatures had fallen drastically after dark, and he guessed it was around minus 22 Centigrade, not that it mattered - like all in the Soviet Union he barely noticed such cold and ice and snow, and used to laugh when TASS printed stories of how people in decadant Western countries like England actually made snow a major news item!

Those soft capitalists wouldn't last long in Kilmarnov or East Lothianski, he thought, and went back to his book, he only had another five minutes before the single light bulb in the cell would be turned off.

'The future of far Northern countries lies not in free trade and doing business with neighbours', he read, 'it lies in sending people to the USA to get days of celebration to rival Irish ones, and for leaders to appear every few days on state-owned television to talk about 'independence'. For that will keep such northern countries firmly and healthily in the 1700s, and will never -', but he had to stop reading, as the light suddenly went out.

Trying to get himself warm with his one thin prison blanket, plus still in all of his clothes, Ivan Denisovich wondered what would be for breakfast tomorrow, as food was just about the only pleasure for the inmates of the Macsow Gulag labour camp.

Maybe it would be freetrade multigrain toast and marmalade with a cappuccino latte sprinkled with cocoa, or eggs benedict with mineral water and a small cup of Darjeeling tea. Or maybe it would just be what they had had yesterday, a bowl of soggy asda cereal made in Belarus with a glass of milk with green bits in it, and a half-eaten macaroon bar past its sell-by date by 30 years.

Ivan Denisovich then fell asleep after a hard day's labouring and began having a strange dream about England, where what had once been a worker's paradise for many years was turned into a nation of simpering men, women and children, that can't even open schools or go to work when a few snowflakes fall on that once-great country.

All thanks to the Party there, which was almost as feeble as the one in the Soviet Union. He then had a nightmare about the Soviet Union collapsing and woke up for a minute in a cold sweat, as that would mean the end of dissident writers and plagiarists and anti-Semites like himself being feted across the Western world for opposing the Bolsheviks.

'Lucky it's only a bad dream', he thought to himself, and sent himself back to sleep by counting Nobel Prizes.'

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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