"Kolyma Tales" by Varlam Shalamov is the kind of book that stuns you twice.
First, for its content.
And then for its style.
The hardship endured by the author is excruciating but the tone of the book is far from being that of a victim.
I don't know how much richer Shalamov's prose is in Russian. All I know is that his talent is unmistakable.
In the following English translation excerpt, Shalamov's originality comes through in his description of the surreal and Godless environment to which he has been confined.
The final sentence alone is almost a work of art by itself.
"I remember the old northern legend of how God created the taiga while he was still a child. There were few colors, but they were childishly fresh and vivid, and their subjects were simple. Later, when God grew up and became an adult, he learned to cut out complicated patterns from his pages and created many bright birds. God grew bored with his former child's world and he threw snow on his forest creation and went south forever."
from Kolyma Tales by Varlam Shalamov