Reading series focuses on central Europe

Reading series focuses on central Europe Vermillion area readers can learn about life in central and eastern Europe by participating in the South Dakota Humanities Council Reading Series at the Vermillion Public Library. The first discussion takes place on Sunday, Jan. 23 at 3 p.m. with second and third meetings on Feb. 6 and 27.

Jamie Sullivan from Mount Marty College will lead the sessions. The discussions will cover One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn and a collection of short stories called Yolk by Josip Novakovich. Interested readers can sign up for discussions at the Vermillion Public Library and purchase books, if desired, along with a study guide for $10.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich follows a prisoner through a single day in a Siberian Labor Camp during the Stalin regime. The story is a reminder of inhumane conditions and treatment that come from an unbridled need to control a part of the world at the expense of an individual's dignity and freedom. But the story is also a reminder that the individual's will to survive can prevail over repression. The book, published in 1962, was one of the first efforts to make public the atrocities that surround a Communist government. It was an autobiographical story by Solzhenitsyn who thereafter won the Nobel Prize for his peace efforts.

The second book, Yolk, is a collection of short stories set in Croatia and the former Yugoslavia from the memories of displaced writer Josip Novakovich. The stories are sometimes bleak, sometimes disturbing and sometimes very funny all in the same tale to reveal a bit about life in an area often torn by violence. The stories are sometimes told from an innocent point of view which sharpens the sting of their bleak message.

Novakovich wrote the study guide that accompanies the books and was recorded in an interview on videotape about the books and the South Dakota series. Participating communities will view the interview at one of three meetings.

The reading series takes place in 30 South Dakota communities this spring as part of the Humanities Council's "Knowing the World through Reading." An Internet discussion also takes place at for readers, particularly those outside of communities sponsoring discussions. Readers wishing to purchase books and join the discussions can sign up at the Vermillion Public Library at 18 Church Street or call 677-7060.

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