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April 6, 1970

A Latter-Day Tolstoi

Author Affiliations

From the Scientific Publications Division, American Medical Association, Chicago.

JAMA. 1970;212(1):96. doi:10.1001/jama.1970.03170140052007

The Cancer Ward is not just another novel about a hospital, despite its standard cast of "character" patients, flirtatious nurses, and dedicated doctors. Rather it mirrors the whole of life in contemporary Russia, reflected from the mind of an intelligent, highly gifted writer. And it is, perhaps, ironic confirmation of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's success in accurately capturing that reflection that he has recently been expelled from the Soviet Writer's Union.

In his earlier books, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch and The First Circle, Solzhenitsyn described life first in a Siberian prison camp and second in a special prison for technological experts during Stalin's reign of terror. Both novels were based on the author's own experience in such establishments after having been indiscreet enough to criticize Stalin in personal letters. For the framework of Cancer Ward, Solzhenitsyn similarly uses observations made while a patient in a hospital in Tashkent,