Cancer Ward

Cancer Ward - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Nicholas William Bethell, David Burg Like the blood transfusion Kostoglotov received from Gangard, I literally felt this book flow through my veins. I was wary of the injection at the beginning, a bit numb in the middle and completely intoxicated toward the end.

In fact, I think this might be the best piece of literature I have come across so far in my life.

First of all - the characters. Despite being confined to the same small space and sharing a common fate, they are very colourful, different from each other and interesting in their own right. They develop beautifully, right before the eyes of the reader, through their interactions, thoughts, reactions to what life throws at them. There, in their small cancerous universe, every subtle touch, every sigh, every stare, every silence tells a story.

An allegory of the Soviet regime, 'Cancer ward' actually shows that communism and capitalism are two sides of the same coin. We are all captives of the system, it's just the bars that are made of different material. The society we have created is one big cancer ward and we are all locked up in there, everyone in their own little room, each and every one of us both a patient and a doctor. Some suffer, some hope, some battle, some despair, some live in an imaginary world, some hope to break free. And when they do, they don't know how to handle their freedom. Because they were never taught how to. Because they are suddenly left alone. Because they are this one person that laughs when ninety nine people weep. Because we are born slaves, raised as slaves and die slaves. All the way being told that freedom is the utmost human right.

'Cancer ward' is not about cancer; it is not about death either. It is about life. It is about freedom. It is about tolerance. It is about the smell of human skin, the power of a word, the companionship of a dog that gives an invisible meaning to human life. It is about fear and loneliness; about the flesh and the soul; about the equal right of life of every living creature. It is about togetherness and about diversity; about love and walls; about the human spirit flying and the human spirit dying. It is a masterfully crafted encyclopedia of humanism.