All of Shalamov's prose works are deeply connected to his own personal experiences in the forced labor camps of Kolyma. Most of his Kolyma Tales are autobiographical and can be viewed as both historical records and literary works. The objectivity of Shalamov's prose only adds to the chilling intensity of the stories. The tales are a testament to Shalamov's seventeen years in Stalinist Gulags. Shalamov does not tell the reader how to interpret a story. He simply tells a tale. He does not need to tell you that cutting off a man's hands is a terrible crime, he just describes the actions and allows the reader to absorb the impact as they read the cold, hard narrative. He frequently uses techniques of estrangement and paradox to augment camp experience, which reflects his belief that there is no moral, emotional or spiritual gain in suffering. Brutality and inhumanity face us, readers, when reading Shalamov, and yet, humanity and glory are likewise evident. Shalamov shows us how people remain human even in the most inhumane circumstances. His stories are also a reminder of the resiliency of man; they show how resistant people can be in circumstances of complete mental and physical oppression. Shalamov's own survival of the Kolyma death camps makes even the most painful story in Kolyma Tales much more triumphant.
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