In preparation for an upcoming Trans-Siberian journey, I’ve been polishing up my rusty Russian with the help of Duolingo. Initially, I thought the examples had been written by someone with a sense of absurd humor:
Although there definitely were Russian touches:
Soon, however, things started to get not just brusque, but positively grim.
Very grim: it appears that the author was an orphan.
An orphan scarred for life by growing up in a Soviet Union of austerity, fighting over scraps of dark Russian bread.
Soon, though, the dialogue becomes positively Kafkaesque. Imagine the dank Lubyanka cell where this interrogation took place:
The pitiless KGB interrogator is not fooled by your pathetic attempts to deny your anti-Soviet agitation.
You are guilty, and so is your entire family.
And they have ways to make you talk.
Nice mother you’ve got there. Would be a real pity if something happened to her.
The author knows that the laws of survival in the gulag are simple and harsh.
Yet like Ivan Denisovich, our hero struggles on, overcoming their sentence in the labor camp one day at a time through sheer strength of will.
And why does it say “I work like a dog” when you obviously work “like a horse”?
That was described as a difference of idioms. The native English speaker would supposedly say “I work like a dog” as in the Beatles song A Hard Day’s night.