Uncut Text of Solzhenitsyn's 'First Circle' Due in English

NEW YORK — An uncut edition of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "The First Circle," a highly praised and controversial novel published 40 years ago and heavily edited because of its story of a Soviet prison camp, is coming out in English.

"'The First Circle' is one of the most important novels of the 20th century, and we are thrilled to be making this masterpiece available in its full glory," Carrie Kania, senior vice president and publisher of Harper Perennial, said in a statement Tuesday.

Harper Perennial, a paperback imprint of HarperCollins, will release "The First Circle" in 2009. Solzhenitsyn, 89, winner in 1970 of the Nobel Prize in literature, returned to Russia in the 1990s and now lives in Moscow.

The novel, completed in 1964 and banned by Soviet officials even after Solzhenitsyn cut nine chapters, is set in a gulag where scientists and scholars have been sent for alleged subversion against the Stalinist regime. A shortened, 580-page version of "The First Circle" came out in English in 1968 — the text had mysteriously been leaked out of the Soviet Union — despite objections by the author, who believed that his work was being exploited for profit, and by scholars who feared that the book's release could jeopardize his safety.

Solzhenitsyn's struggles — the manuscript of his novel was seized by the KGB — set off an extended Cold War debate and assured "The First Circle" a welcome reception in the United States.

The full edition has long been available in Russian; mortality, not censorship, helped delay its U.S. release.

According to Harper Perennial editor Peter Hubbard, Solzhenitsyn approved a new English text a few years ago and commissioned his favorite translator, Harry T. Willetts, who had worked on Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago." But Willetts died in 2005, not long after completing the translation, and the publisher "went through some edits with Solzhenitsyn. It took a little time for the book to make its way to us," Hubbard said.