I finished the first part of Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago" trilogy, which, until I neared the end of it, I thought was the whole work. Since this first part is 600-plus pages, I was a bit crestfallen to realize it comprises only the first two of seven parts. The second book has parts 3-4, the third book parts 5-7. But mostly I was happy to think there is so much more to read and learn, and was left in even greater awe of Solzhenitsyn's achievement. This has to be one of the greatest works of investigative journalism in history.
"The Gulag Archipelago" traces the development and flowering of the penal system in the Soviet Union, from the time of the Russian Revolution and the leadership of V.I. Lenin through the 1950s. It is both a wonderful work of art, filled with humor, grace and horror, and a powerful work of historical investigation and journalism, as Solzhenitsyn recounts testimony from scores of people he interviewed inside and outside the prison system. The scope of his achievement is even greater when you consider that the gulag system was a state secret, and writing about it could land you back inside the gulag, or worse. (In 1971, the Soviets tried to assassinate Solzhenitsyn with ricin, but although he got sick, he survived.)
The book was an international sensation when it was published in 1973 and it caused, among other things, a reconsideration of the legacy of Lenin among leftists around the world who had celebrated him.