Journey into the Whirlwind
full title · Journey into the Whirlwind
author · Eugenia Semyonovna Ginzburg
type of work · Autobiography
genre · Memoir, historical account, reportage
language · Russian, translated into English by Paul Stevenson and Max Hayward
time and place written · Written in Russia after the author’s release from prison in the mid-1950s
date of first publication · 1967
publisher · Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
narrator · Eugenia Ginzburg
point of view · The entire story is told in the first person by Ginzburg, who observed it all and recounts the events of her incarceration with an astonishing memory for detail and dialogue. At several points along the way, Ginzburg tells stories that she has herself been told by fellow inmates, but these are brief interruptions of her own personal history.
tone · Reflective, journalistic, philosophical, sentimental at times and objective at others
tense · Past tense
setting (time) · From December 1934 through mid-1940
setting (place) · Various parts of Russia: the author’s town of Kazan, the Russian city of Moscow, the prison at Yaroslavl, and the prison camps at Vladivostok, Magadan, and Elgen
protagonist · Eugenia Ginzburg
major conflict · Ginzburg’s arrest in 1937, her interrogation at Black Lake, and her trial, sentencing, imprisonment, and reassignment to the corrective labor camps of Eastern Russia
rising action, climax, and falling action
themes · The will to survive; the desire for companionship; the need for communication
motifs · Poetry; motion and stasis; food
symbols · Phone calls; watches
foreshadowing · As this work is autobiographical and historical, foreshadowing does not appear in the typical sense, though there are several significant coincidences. Julia Karepova, a fellow passenger in the Black Maria in an early section of the book, later becomes Ginzburg’s cellmate at Yaroslavl. Major Yelshin, who is so cruel to Ginzburg during her interrogation, becomes a prisoner at Kolyma while Ginzburg is working in the kitchen. Perhaps the most overt example of autobiographical foreshadowing is when Professor Elvov tells Ginzburg that he is being arrested and that he is sorry for causing her trouble because of their association. Although Ginzburg protests at the time and cannot understand why she should be worried, it is her association with Elvov that eventually dooms her.
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