Matryona's Place

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Cover of the 1975 Penguin edition of the English translation

Matryona's Place, ("Матрёнин двор"), sometimes translated as Matryona's Home (or House), is a novella written in 1959 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. First published by Aleksandr Tvardovsky in the Russian literary journal Novy Mir in 1963, it is Solzhenitsyn's most read short story.[1]

The narrator, a former prisoner of the gulag and a teacher of mathematics,[2] has a longing to return to live in the Russian provinces and takes a job at a school on a collective farm. Matryona offers him a place to live in her tiny, run-down home, but he is told not to expect any "fancy cooking".[3] They share a single room where they eat and sleep; the narrator sleeps on a camp-bed and Matryona near the stove. The narrator finds the farm workers' lives little different from those of the pre-revolutionary landlords and their serfs. Matryona works on the farm for little or no pay. She is forced to give a small annex of her home to a relative who wants to use the wood from it to build a house elsewhere in the village. A group of drunken farmers, with a tractor borrowed without permission, decide to move the wood at night. Matryona, typically, offers to help. During the chaos that follows she is killed by a train. Her character has been described as "the only true Christian (and) the only true Communist" and her death symbolic of Russia's martyrdom.[4]

Set in 1956, five years after the events portrayed in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,[5] the novella is considered to be one of the author's finest literary achievements.[1] It is accessible to non-native speakers who have learnt Russian to an intermediate level.[6]


  1. ^ a b Klimoff, Alexis; Edward E., Jr Ericson (2008). The Soul and Barbed Wire: An Introduction to Solzhenitsyn. Lanham, MD: Intercollegiate Studies Institute. pp. 95–96. ISBN 1-933859-57-1. 
  2. ^ As was Solzhenitsyn at the time: Scammell, Michael (1986). SOLZHENITSYN. London: Paladin. p. 321. ISBN 0-586-08538-6. 
  3. ^ Matryona's House p. 14
  4. ^ Jackson R.L., "Matryona's Home: The Making of a Russian Icon", in Feuer K. "Solzhenitisyn A collection of critical essays" p. 69
  5. ^ Moody p. 39
  6. ^ Mihalchenko, Igor S. (1985). Russian intermediate reader. Lincolnwood, Ill., U.S.A: National Textbook Co. p. 146. ISBN 0-8442-4264-0. 
  • Björkegren, Hans, and Kaarina Eneberg Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: A Biography, Henley-on-Thames: Aiden Ellis, 1973. ISBN 0-85628-005-4
  • Feuer, Kathryn (ed.), Solzhenitsyn: A Collection of Critical Essays, 1976, Prentice-Hall, ISBN 013822627X
  • Moody, Christopher. Solzhenitsyn. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1973. ISBN 0-05-002600-3
  • Scammell, Michael Solzhenitsyn: A Biography. London: Paladin, 1986. ISBN 0-586-08538-6
  • Solzhentsyn A. Matryona's House, translated by Michael Glenny, The Bodley Head, 1970, ISBN 0-370-01451-0
  • Solzhentsyn A. We Never Make Mistakes, translated by Paul Blackstock, Sphere Book, 1972, ISBN 0-7221-8028-4 Includes translations of An Incident at Krechetovka Station and Matryona's House

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