Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 1918-2008

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 1918-2008

Originally uploaded by Thomas Roche

Nobel Prizewinning author and Soviet dissident Aleksandr Sozenitsyn has died. His book ‘One Day in the life of Ivan Denisovitch,’ based on his own experiences, chronicled the horrors of the Soviet gulag.

Not to speak ill of the dead, but among Solzhenitsyn’s more interesting positions, articulated in a 1978 commencement address at Harvard, was that the American anti-war movement of the 1960s and 1970s had abetted the genocide in Southeast Asia following the US withdrawal from Vietnam. He also called Daniel Ellsberg a traitor and asserted of the NATO bombing of Serbia in the 1990s, “There is no diference whatsoever between NATO and Hitler.”

See the article in SFGate for a slightly kinder take on Sozhenitsyn, who was one hell of a writer.

Solzhenitsyn’s unflinching accounts of torment and survival in the Soviet Union’s slave labor camps riveted his countrymen, whose secret history he exposed. They earned him 20 years of bitter exile, but international renown.

And they inspired millions, perhaps, with the knowledge that one person’s courage and integrity could, in the end, defeat the totalitarian machinery of an empire.

Beginning with the 1962 short novel “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” Solzhenitsyn devoted himself to describing what he called the human “meat grinder” that had caught him along with millions of other Soviet citizens: capricious arrests, often for trifling and seemingly absurd reasons, followed by sentences to slave labor camps where cold, starvation and punishing work crushed inmates physically and spiritually.

His “Gulag Archipelago” trilogy of the 1970s shocked readers by describing the savagery of the Soviet state under the dictator Josef Stalin. It helped erase lingering sympathy for the Soviet Union among many leftist intellectuals, especially in Europe.

Image from Wikipedia.


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