Kostoglotov said, “All I’m saying is that we shouldn’t behave like rabbits and put our complete trust in doctors. For instance, I’m reading this book.” He picked up a large, open book from the windowsill. “Abrikosov and Stryukov, Pathological Anatomy, medical school textbook. It says here that the link
between the development of tumours and the central nervous system has so far been very little studied. And this link is an amazing thing! It’s written here in so many words.” He found the place. “’It happens rarely, but there are cases of self-induced healing.’ You see how it’s worded? Not recovery through treatment, but actual healing. See?”
There was a stir throughout the ward. It was as though “self-induced healing” had fluttered out of the great open book like a rainbow-coloured butterfly for everyone to see, and they all held up their foreheads and cheeks for its healing touch as it flew past.
“Self-induced,” said Kostoglotov, laying aside his book. He waved his hands, fingers splayed…”That means that suddenly for some unexplained reason the tumour starts off in the opposite direction! It gets smaller, resolves and finally disappears! See?”
They were all silent, still holding their faces to the butterfly. It was only gloomy Podduyev who made his bed creak and, with a hopeless and obstinate expression on his face, croaked out, “I suppose for that you need to have… a clear conscience.”
From: Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“A literary event of the first magnitude.”–Time
“The most moving of Solzhenitsyn’s novels.”–Clifton Fadiman
“Solzhenitsyn’s characteristic strategy for subduing space is to temporize it–to transform it into time . . . This transformation of space into time allows Solzhenitsyn to present a variegated group of people who are caught in a collective situation of relative isolation by following the through their daily routine . . . These forcibly restricted milieus provide a natural and persuasive metaphor for life itself . . . How or why Solzhenitsyn is able to succeed . . . I do not know . . . It is probably finally a matter of
genius–which is to say, mystery. But the novels rise above the questions they propound and serve–as great literature always has done–to be both a challenge to and a triumph for the free spirit of man wherever it allows itself to exist.”–Earl Rovit, American Scholar
Cancer Ward examines the relationship of a group of people in the cancer ward of a provincial Soviet hospital in 1955, two years after Stalin’s death. We see them under normal circumstances, and also reexamined at the eleventh hour of illness. Together they represent a remarkable cross-section of contemporary Russian characters and attitudes. The experiences of the central character, Oleg Kostoglotov, closely reflect the author’s own: Solzhenitsyn himself became a patient in a cancer ward in the mid-1950s, on his release from a labor camp, and later recovered.
Translated by Nicholas Bethell and David Burg.
The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
Novel by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Though banned in the Soviet Union, the work was published in 1968 by Italian and other European publishers in the Russian language as Rakovy korpus. It was also published in English translation in 1968. Solzhenitsyn based Cancer Ward on his own hospitalization and successful treatment for supposedly terminal cancer during his forced exile in Kazakhstan in the mid-1950s. The novel’s iconoclastic main character is Oleg Kostoglotov, like the author a recently released inmate of the brutal forced labor camps. His fellow patients in the provincial city hospital are a microcosm of Soviet society.
Inside Flap Copy
One of the great allegorical masterpieces of world literature, Cancer Ward is both a deeply compassionate study of people facing terminal illness and a brilliant dissection of the ?cancerous? Soviet police state.
About the Author
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature, was born in 1918. In February 1945, while he was
captain of a reconnaissance battery of the Soviet Army, he was arrested and sentenced to an eight-year term in a labor camp and permanent internal exile, which was cut short by Khrushchev’s reforms, allowing him to return from Kazakhstan to Central Russia in 1956. Although permitted to publish One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich in 1962–which remained his only full-length work to have appeared in his homeland until 1990–Solzhenitsyn was by 1969 expelled from the Writers’ Union. The publication in the West of his other novels and, in particular, of The Gulag Archipelago, brought retaliation from the authorities. In 1974, Solzhenitsyn was arrested, stripped of his Soviet citizenship, and forcibly flown to Frankfurt. Solzhenitsyn and his wife
and children moved to the United States in 1976. In September 1991, the Soviet government dismissed treason charges against him; Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia in 1994. He lives in Moscow.