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2012/05/14

The "Beauty of Siberia's Nature": For a Number of Prisoners, Writes Le Monde, the Soviet Gulag Was a Positive Learning Experience

Pour tous ceux qui sont arrivés enfants au goulag et y sont devenus adultes, ce fut un épisode douloureux mais aussi un moment de formation, une école.
After the first moment of satisfaction of learning that a book (Déportés en URSS) has been published concerning the Soviet gulag (in conjunction with the setup of an EU website), your eyes kind of, how to say this, pop open when you read in Julie Clarini's book review that the Le Monde reporter thinks nothing of describing the communist horrors in a perfectly lackadaisical fashion:
Let us remember that a large number did not survive. The others managed to adapt and the majority was freed in the middle of the 1950s.
A "large number did not survive", she writes; not "a large number were mercilessly assassinated." Later, you will notice, she mentions the (passive) "dead" and not the (actively) "murdered."

From that insouciant description — although it is not clear whether the laid-back tone of the review reflects that in Marta Craveri and Alain Blum's book — it does not take long to learn about "the insignificant amount of hatred felt by the prisoners towards the Russians" and how
Amongst the dead [not "the murdered"], the cold, the mud, and the insects, one runs into a girl who would never forget the beauty of the Siberian nature, or a boy who was proud to drive a tractor. For all those who arrived in the gulag as children and who grew up there, it was a painful episode, but also a learning experience, a sort of school.
We are then told it was a "bitter school", but the question remains, Would any reviewer have been so casual in describing the Nazis' concentration camps?! Can you imagine any reviewer thus speaking about… Guantánamo Bay?!
Au milieu des morts, du froid, de la boue et des insectes, on croise ici une fillette à jamais marquée par la beauté de la nature sibérienne, là un jeune garçon tout à sa fierté de conduire un tracteur. Pour tous ceux qui sont arrivés enfants au goulag et y sont devenus adultes, ce fut un épisode douloureux mais aussi un moment de formation, une école.

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