Study Guide

Prisoner Kh-123 in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

By Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Prisoner Kh-123

Though we never learn this prisoner's name, he has a very interesting and thematically important conversation with Tsezar about film, of course. Tsezar pretty much has no other conversation topics. In this conversation, the two prisoners discuss film and art under Soviet dictatorship. Tsezar argues that a director named Eisenstein is a genius while Kh-123 angrily counters that he sold out to the government and is just spouting off bad political ideas. This is one of the very few times that art and culture is addressed in the novel; the other notable example is Vdovushkin's poetry, which he has to write in secret. The Soviet government definitely suppresses people's freedom of expression. And the key issues touched upon by Tsezar and his debating partner, Kh-123 is the moral dilemma of whether or not a person should compromise with the government, be it in art or life itself.