Have Gitmo Authorities Banned Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago?

The World
How It Works
Aug. 21 2013 2:33 PM

Solzhenitsyn Banned at Gitmo?

Exiled Soviet dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn gives a press conference in Paris on Jan. 4, 1975

Photo by -/AFP/Getty Images

The British prisoners’ rights group Reprieve has issued a statement accusing authorities at Guantánamo Bay of blocking the delivery of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Soviet-era classic The Gulag Archipelago:

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

The legal team for Shaker Aamer, a British resident who has been detained in Guantanamo without charge or trial for 11 years, attempted to deliver a copy of The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn during a recent visit.


However, Mr Aamer has now told his lawyers that he never received the book. […]

Mr Aamer’s lawyers, from human rights charity Reprieve, often bring him books during visits—he has previously described George Orwell’s1984 as one of his favourite reads. However, Guantanamo authorities have the ability to ban any book from the prison.

Aamer, a 44-year-old originally from Saudi Arabia and the last British resident left at the camp, has been held at Guantánamo since 2002, though he was cleared for release in 2007. According to a 2006 New York Times article, he’s known around the camp as “the professor” due to his eloquence and extensive reading. (He’s also the subject of a recent P.J. Harvey song.)

The Gitmo library has been the subject of continual public fascination for years. In 2010 Time reported that “the Harry Potter series has been one the most popular titles among the 18,000 books, magazines, DVDs and newspapers on offer from the prison library.” In 2012 librarians told the Miami Herald that DVDs of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air were flying off the shelves. More recently a congressional delegation reported that the 50 Shades of Grey series is a hit with the detainees.

Last August author John Grisham wrote an outraged editorial in the New York Times after learning that some of his legal thrillers were not being allowed into Guantánamo because of “impermissible content.” A Pentagon spokesman later blamed it on “a misunderstanding by some junior staff of what constitutes permitted reading materials” and the books have now apparently been allowed in.

For obvious reasons Solzhenitsyn's epic investigation of the communist-era prison camp system—a book banned for decades in the Soviet Union—carries a bit more symbolic weight. Let’s hope it’s another “misunderstanding.” 



Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

Walmart Is Crushing the Rest of Corporate America in Adopting Solar Power

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 1:47 PM The Best Way to Fry an Egg
Oct. 21 2014 5:38 PM Justified Paranoia Citizenfour offers a look into the mind of Edward Snowden.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.