I didn’t manage to read a great deal of this book today. Part of that was because there is a tremendous difference between this and Powell. This is a book that has a central character that is working overtime trying to make you dislike him. At every opportunity when he could show some humanity to his brother in the camp he fails to do so.
Even after several years and all of the hardship he harbours nothing but jealously for his brother who is able to meet his wife in the House of Meetings for a night of passion in return for backbreaking work.
Even when the flashbacks stop and the narrative places the craggy old prisoner in a modern context he is still trying his hardest to provoke hateful reactions. There is real bile fuelling this book and having read Koba the Dread you sense the idea is to make the argument about the grotesque nature of the system by creating a character that is a living embodiment of everything that Amis hates about Stalinism.