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

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