Gulag Literature and the Literature of Nazi Camps

Gulag Literature and the Literature of Nazi Camps

An Intercontexual Reading
Leona Toker
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 08/28/2019
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-253-04351-1
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Devoted to the ways in which Holocaust literature and Gulag literature provide contexts for each other, Leona Toker's book shows how the prominent features of one shed light on the veiled features and methods of the other. Toker views these narratives and texts against the background of historical information about the Soviet and the Nazi regimes of repression. Writers at the center of this work include Varlam Shalamov, Primo Levi, Elie Wiesel, and Ka-Tzetnik, and others, including Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Evgeniya Ginzburg, and Jorge Semprún, illuminate the discussion. Toker's twofold analysis concentrates on the narrative qualities of the works as well as on the ways in which each text documents the writer's experience and in which fictionalized narrative can double as historical testimony. References to events might have become obscure owing to the passage of time and the cultural diversity of readers; the book explains them and shows how they form new meaning in the text. Toker is well-known as a skillful interpreter of Gulag literature, and this text presents new thinking about how Gulag literature and Holocaust literature enable a better understanding about testimony in the face of evil.

Author Bio

Leona Toker is Professor of English at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is author of Towards the Ethics of Form in Fiction: Narratives of Cultural Remission and Return from the Archipelago: Narratives of Gulag Survivors.



There are very few scholars who could write such a book—who have such an immense and highly competent knowledge of both areas—the literature of the Nazi camps and the Gulag—and nothing of this scope and magnitude has yet been written.


 (Jeffrey Wallen, author of Closed Encounters: Literary Politics and Public Culture)


With great precision and pedagogic skill, Leona Toker demonstrates how literature can be read a testimony and how testimony must be read as literature. This will become a standard work for students of literature and history alike.


 (David G. Roskies, author (with Naomi Diamant) of Holocaust Literature: A History and Guide)

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Table of Contents


Inter-Contextuality: Introduction

1. The Gulag and Nazi Camps: From Improvisation to Stability

2. Two Strands of Concentration Camp Literature: A Brief History of an Entanglement

3. The Muselmann and the Dokhodiaga

4. Forced Labor

5. The Drowned and the Reprieved

6. On the Way to Resistance

7. Faith

8. Endgames

9. Survivor Guilt

Concluding Reflections

Works Cited