Tuesday :: Aug 5, 2008

The Subversive Solzhenitsyn Laid To Rest

by Jeff Dinelli
A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

In a commendable show of last respects, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attended the wake for Nobel Prize-winning author -- and famed Soviet critic -- Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who died of a long-time illness at the age of 89 a few days ago.

Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipelago" pretty much loosened the Soviet's grip on power with its depiction of Josef Stalin's labor camps and widespread political oppression. In 1945, serving as a Red Army captain fighting the Germans, Solzhenitsyn wrote a letter criticizing Stalin that landed him in a Siberian prison camp for 8 years, followed by 3 more years in enforced exile.

Upon his return to central Russia, where he worked as a math teacher, Solzhenitsyn took advantage of the early-1960's relaxed post-Stalin culture to release "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," a day-in-the-life of a Stalin labor camp prisoner, based upon the author's first-hand experience. The novel made him an instant celebrity, since the nation had not absorbed such detail of Stalin oppression in Solzhenitsyn's simple, direct prose, and his wildly popular, authoritative stab was an inspiration to many other writers with stories to tell. It was an invaluable beginning to the world's understanding of the Stalin era.

He wrote over 20 books, and as power shifted in the USSR, so did his addresses. He was harassed by police, forced to release novels underground, had publications seized by the KGB, and when thrown out of the country again in 1974 after his arrest on charges of treason, accepted his Nobel Prize and settled in New England, where he continued to write.

In his works, Solzhenitsyn celebrated the strength of the human spirit in openly criticizing the powers-that-be and unblinkingly emphasizing the responsibility of the writer. As AFL-CIO father George Meany put it:

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is not a crusader. He is not a politician. He is not a general. He is an Artist. Solzhenitsyn's art illuminates the truth. It is, in a sense, subversive: subversive of hypocrisy, subversive of delusion, subversive of the Big Lie.

The artist has passed away. We allow the ideological methods behind his art to pass at our own risk.

Jeff Dinelli :: 2:24 PM :: Comments (9) :: Digg It!