The First Circle
Novel by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
, the title of which is based on a quotation from Dante. It describes three or so days in the life of the Mavrino prison camp along with its occupants, most of whom are scientists or other academics who have been arrested under Article 58
of the RSFSR
Penal Code under Stalin
in the post WWII
years. The scientists endure barely humane conditions and work on various projects to help the government and generally pander to Stalin's increasing paranoia.
The book is unique in that there's no evil characters (not even Stalin himself) and, despite describing grim conditions, the author remains cool-headed and even humorous throughout, despite having endured the conditions in his own life.
The book won the Nobel Prize For Literature in 1970.