In this article, Svetlana Boym proposes an interdisciplinary approach to the everyday practices in the gulag at the crossroads of literature, political theory, and history. Boym places Soviet accounts of the gulag in the comparative context of the twentieth-century reflection on totalitarianism and terror by drawing on Hannah Arendt's theory of the banality of evil, judgment, and imagination. There is something inassimilable in Varlam Shalamov's prose: it confronts the experience of extremity but does not offer redemption. It resorts to the mimicry of Soviet discourse and the technologies of the gulag, but only to challenge any coherent conception of Soviet subjectivity, either enthusiastic or defiant. Boym examines Shalamov's uses of clichés, attention to intonation, blemish, mimicry, and estrangement. Instead of performing ideology, Shalamov's Kolyma Tales expose the breaking points of Russian and Soviet cultural myths, giving new insight into reading historical documents and understanding gulag memory in post-Soviet Russia.