Sunday, December 04, 2011

Only in academia

Only in academia: Cambridge University will host a conference in June 2012 on the subject of The Gulag Unbound. "Like any long-term system of life management," explain the organizers, "the Gulag developed its ways of healing, entertaining, and educating its population. Inmates responded to their particular condition by developing equally specific means of artistic creativity, religious ritual, and erotic behaviour." Read it here. (That's a post at a humanities site. I can't find a Cambridge reference--perhaps they're embarrassed by it?)

I particularly like the bit about entertainment and erotic behavior. There is of course some truth to that, as Solzhenitsyn points out: "If one has no other youth but youth in camp then ... one has to be gay there too, where else?" (When he was writing, "gay" meant the careless sort of happiness that is the province of youth.) But I dread the thought of what the dons will do with it. Perhaps they'll prove that the NKVD did the zeks a favor by putting them in a spot where they could be creative, entertaining, and erotic? Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

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