Sunday, August 3

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008)

The death of Nobel Prize winning novelist, essayist, and historian, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn marks the end of an age. Along with Ronald Reagan, John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher, Vaclev Havel, William Buckley, and Lech Walensa, he was one of a handful of unflinching that stood steadfast against the madness of International Socialism and its Liberal supporters around the world throughout most of the twentieth century.

A prominent founding member of the Samzat movement, an underground resistance to Communist rule organized by artists and writers, Solzhenitsyn was the author of a host of brilliant, literary, evocative, and powerful books exposing the horrors of Soviet tyranny. Needless to say, the books proved to be very embarrassing to the Kremlin and the Politburo and ultimately earned him twenty years of bitter exile—but also wealth, fame, and influence.

His books, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The Gulag Archipelago, Cancer Ward, Full Circle, The Oaken Calf, and August 1914 are undeniable classics. After his exile in 1974, he briefly became a media darling in the West. But then in 1978, he created a firestorm of controversy when in a commencement address at Harvard, he indicted Liberals in the West with the same politically-correct tendencies to impose tyranny-in-the-name-of-freedom as his former Soviet masters in the Gulag. He had the courage to criticize Western culture for what he considered its weakness and decadence.

Upon his return to Russia in 1990, he devoted himself to the cause of freedom in his beloved homeland, the reformation of Russian culture, and the completion of his cycle of books about the Bolshevik Revolution.

He was a bold and prescient prophet:

“It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.”

“Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence.”

“Life organized legalistically has shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.”

“I can't say that I wrote my books in order to open the eyes of the West to what had been going on in the East. Above all, I wrote all my books for the benefit of my own people, for the Russians, because we ourselves don't know our own history.”

“I never doubted that communism was doomed to collapse, but I was always afraid of how Russia would emerge from that communism and at what price. I know I am coming back to a worn-out, discouraged, shell-shocked, Russia which has changed beyond recognition and is wandering about in search of itself.”


Unknown said...

I loved the man ever since I first learned of him when I was in high school. I am moved to tears when I remember a particular phrase where he describes the blessings he got for being in the Gulags where he learned of God. He said, "Bless you prison for having been in my life."
We will not see another like him.


Jason Smith said...

He was my entryway into the greats of Russian literature, and in some respects the greatness of the old Russian soul.

NPR reported that he never really gained a 'following' with young intellectuals because he 'scolded' too much.

(I thought that was funny.)

Bret L. McAtee said...

You forgot Whitaker Chambers

gileskirk said...

Bret: I didn't forget him--especially on the anniversary of the Alger Hiss case. I even almost wrote Whitaker Chambers into my list. But while he certainly deserves mention as a champion in the fight against Communism, he was not really of the same vintage as these others--moving all the way through the Cold War, into the saber-rattling seventies and eighties, right up to the very end of the Evil Empire.