Monday, August 04, 2008

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

One of my favorite authors has died. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was born in 1918 and served as witness to the entire span of Soviet rule in Russia. He was imprisoned for anti-Soviet propaganda, followed by exile in Siberia. His experiences were the basis for his novels, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Cancer Ward, The First Circle, and others. His magnum opus was a the 3-volume tome The Gulag Archipelago. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1970 and was deported from the Soviet Union in 1974. He returned to Russia in 1994.

The International Herald Tribune takes a look at Solzhenitsyn's life and legacy.

Solzhenitsyn had been an obscure, middle-aged, unpublished high school science teacher in a provincial Russian town when he burst onto the literary stage in 1962 with "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich."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 five decades, 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 of the Soviet labor camp system, a chain of prisons that by Solzhenitsyn's calculation some 60 million people had entered during the 20th century. The book led to his expulsion from his native land.

Reading Solzhenitsyn was one of the few things that could keep me inside the dorm during college. He sparked my interest in Russian history as well as global politics and the philosophy of evil. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was 89.

No comments: