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Alexander Solzhenitsyn R.I.P.
Posted by: Lance on Sunday, August 03, 2008

The impact of this man on the world is not part of the memory of many today. I'll be breaking out a few of his books this week in his memory. A true Giant has passed away.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, whose stubborn, lonely and combative literary struggles gained the force of prophecy as he revealed the heavy afflictions of Soviet Communism in some of the most powerful works of fiction and history written in the 20th century, died late Sunday in Russia, his son Yermolai said early Monday in Moscow. He said the cause was a heart condition. He was 89.

He outlived by nearly 17 years the state and system he had battled through years of imprisonment, ostracism and exile.

Mr. Solzhenitsyn had been an obscure, middle-aged, unpublished high school science teacher in a provincial Russian town when he burst onto the literary stage in 1962 with “A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.” The book, a mold-breaking novel about a prison camp inmate, was a sensation. Suddenly, he was being compared to giants of Russian literature like Tolstoy, Dostoyevski and Chekov.

Over the next four decades, Mr. Solzhenitsyn’s fame spread throughout the world as he drew upon his experiences of totalitarian duress to write evocative novels like “The First Circle” and “The Cancer Ward” and historical works like “The Gulag Archipelago.”

“Gulag” was a monumental account and analysis of the Soviet labor camp system, a chain of prisons that by Mr. Solzhenitsyn’s calculation some 60 million people had entered during the 20th century. The book led to his expulsion from his native land. George F. Kennan, the American diplomat, described it as “the greatest and most powerful single indictment of a political regime ever to be leveled in modern times.”
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Solzhenitsyn was very bitter about his exile to the United States partly because he felt his works were wedded to Mother Russia. As you probably know, he moved to rural Vermont (pre-Yuppie) and kept to himself. The locals, who knew where he lived, refused to tell the press. Before he returned to Russia, ths very private man thanked the people of America and particularily his New Hampshire neighbors who respected his privacy.

I have every book he published here in the US and although they are long and hard to read, they provide a grim look at life inside the Soviet Union. My favorite part of the First Circle is the discussion between the engineer and the Colonel in charge of the prison. In Cancer Ward, I was stunned by the chapter on Vera, the female doctor whose fiance, like most of his generation, went to war and never came back, leaving a generation of unmarried women. I bought the first volume of Gulag as he was being exiled and I was stunned that he would dare speak that much truth to that much power. Only the Zeks were truly free.
Written By: arch
URL: http://
’One Day In The Life...’ was made into a movie in the early 70’s. It was a great movie, but I don’t think it did too well; it was just a bit depressing.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://

Hollywood won’t be making Cancer Ward into a musical anytime soon either. It’s somber stuff.
Written By: arch
URL: http://
"...It’s somber stuff."

Yep. That’s why I didn’t finish it, or The First Circle either. Oddly enough, I had no trouble finishing (and rereading) The Gulag Archipelago, a truly impressive work.
Solzhenitsyn was indeed a great man, not just for his literary accomplishments, but also for surviving all that he went through and still remaining a decent human being who still openly opposed the Communist tyranny. Not to be too awfully flippant, but he makes macho, semi-talented poseurs like Norman Mailer look like pansies.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://

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