Anger as a Fuel

On life in a Soviet Gulag labour camp in the Russian Far East:

We were all sick of the barracks food. . . Any human feelings – love, friendship, envy, charity, mercy, ambition, decency – had vanished long along with the flesh we had lost during our prolonged starvation. The minuscule layer of muscle that was still left on our bones, and which allowed us to eat, move, breathe, even saw beams, fill barrows with spadefuls of stone and sand, even push a barrow up an endless wooden ramp in the gold mine, had only enough room for resentful anger, the most lasting of human feelings.

– From the short story entitled Field Rations in the new collected edition of Kolyma Stories by Varlam Shalamov, translated by Donald Rayfield. New York Review of Books, 2018.

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On the Nature of Public Service

In Kazan and Poltava provinces, the governors had nervous breakdowns. Others lost their head. “You risk your life, you wear out your nerves maintaining order so that people can live like human beings, and what do you encounter everywhere?” complained Governor Ivan Blok of Samara. “Hate-filled glances as if you were some kind of monster, a drinker of human blood.” Moments later Blok was decapitated by a bomb. Placed in a traditional open casket, his twisted body was stuffed into his dress uniform, a ball of batting substituted for his missing head.

– Stephen Kotkin’s 2014 publication Stalin: Paradoxes of Power 1878 – 1928, volume I of III.