Philosophy Class

"The Truth will make you odd."

Andre Solzhenitsyn

Andre Solzhenitsyn

born: December 11, 1918. Received Nobel Prize for Literature, 1970.

He an anti-Communist Russian Orthodox author sent to Siberia for his anti-Communist writings. His novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, a story about a citizen brutally abused by Stalin's regime, was written and published in Russia during a "thaw" in Soviet literary repression. His later novels, Cancer Ward and Gulag Archipelago had to be published abroad. Exiled from the Country in 1974, he spent his exile in Vermont living a semi-monastic type of life. He has stated that some day the climate in Russia would be fitting for his return there. Since the fall of the Soviet government, he is in the process of managing his return.

Writings for which he was imprisoned and exiled are :

Cancer Ward, First Circle, The Gulag Archipelago, (the latter is his monumental work)

From Lenin's Tomb by David Remnick P. 367, 368, 370:

...He was a legend, Russian intellectuals, especially, were alternately fascinated and repelled by the odd life the writer led in the woods of Cavendish, Vermont. Each new detail intrigued them. Solzhenitsyn lived in a good, but not indecently opulent house, and he put up a chain-link fence to keep away unwanted visitors and snowmobiles. But in Moscow, I often heard people talk of Solzhenitsyn's "castle" and the "great wall" that surrounded it. When he first moved to Vermont, he spoke for twenty minutes at a town meeting and apologized to the people of Cavendish for the fence. He told them that when he lived without it, scores of uninvited visitors "arrived without invitations and without warning... And so for hundreds of hours I talked to hundreds of people, and my work was ruined."

That Solzhenitsyn would insist on such a monkish life seemed incredible, especially in America, where publicity was the coin of the realm. Solemn, imperious, even righteous beyond measure, Solzhenitsyn had the nerve to make much of the contemporary literary scene look vaguely frivolous. He wrote gigantically (if not always well), as if from another age. He lacked the modern lever of irony. Instead, his rare public pronouncements were chillingly sarcastic. In political argument, disdain was his most common thread. He thundered against the "cowardice" of the West and the "liquid manure" of pop culture in the fierce voice of another area. Jeremiah was heroic, no doubt, but hard to love. He made no apologies. "The writer's ultimate task is to restore the memory of his murdered people. "Is that not enough for a single writer?" Solzhenitsyn told his biographer, Michael Scammell. "They murdered my people and destroyed its memory. And I'm dragging it into the light of day all on my own. Of course, there are hundreds like me back there who could drag it out, too. Well, it didn't fall to them; it fell to me. And I'm doing the work of a hundred men, and that's all there is to it."

To me, Solzhenitsyn had a perfectly accurate sense of his mission and place in the world. No matter how dull some of that later work on the Revolution might be, The Gulag Archipelago would never fade from the history of Russian literature of the history of Russia. No single work, including Orwell's novels, did as much to shatter the illusions of the West; no book did more to educate the Soviet people and undermine the regime...But Solzhenitsyn paid for his sense of mission and its immodest expression was mockery. Both in America and the Soviet Union, there were jokes about Solzhenitsyn's "gulag complex," speculations that he craved the isolation of prisons and prisons-of-his-own-making. He was a monarchist, an anti-Semite, a paranoiac. Voinovich wrote a satirical novel, Moscow 2042 , that featured a Solzhenitsyn-like character who seemed a cross between a fundamentalist iman and a West Virginia hermit, Solzhenitsyn felt wounded. "They lie about me as they would about a dead man," he once said.

...worrying that Russia would mindlessly pursue the road to Gomorrah because it couldn't find the off switch on the TV set: "Our young people, whom families and schools have overlooked, are growing in the direction of mindless, barbaric emulation of anything enticing coming from alien parts, if not in the direction of crime. The historic Iron Curtain protected the country superbly from everything good that exits in the West. ...However, this Curtain did not reach all the way down, and this is where the liquid manure of debased, degraded 'mass pop-culture,' most vulgar fashions and excessive public displays seeped through. It was this waste that our impoverished, unfairly deprived young people swallow greedily."