Adonis Diaries

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: the power of describing the toil of daily life

Posted on: December 13, 2021

A Daily Dose of History

The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. This line shifts inside us and oscillates with the years…. ”

December 11, 2021  · 

While serving in the Soviet army in the closing days of World War II, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote a letter to a friend, in which he was critical of Josef Stalin and Stalin’s conduct of the war.

The letter was discovered by Soviet intelligence authorities and Solzhenitsyn was sentenced to 8 years in a work camp. When his term ended, Solzhenitsyn was sent to internal exile in rural Kazakhstan. (No better than a prison)

While there he would experience a philosophical and religious transformation that transformed the rest of his life’s work. (Not sure of any religious impact on a sane mind)

In 1956 Solzhenitsyn was released from exile and permitted to return to Moscow, where he taught high school and secretly began writing his novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, describing life in a Stalinist work camp.

In 1960 Solzhenitsyn risked showing the manuscript to a Soviet editor. Because Khrushchev was attempting to purge the Soviet Union of Stalinism, he personally approved the book’s publication, and it became a smash hit. But Solzhenitsyn didn’t remain long in favor.

Subsequent works were prohibited as being “anti-Soviet” and after Khrushchev was removed from power, Solzhenitsyn was deemed a “non-person” and the KGB raided his home and seized his manuscripts.

During this time, Solzhenitsyn was secretly writing his Gulag Archipelago, a three-volume examination of life in Soviet labor camps, hiding portions of the manuscript at the homes of various friends.

In 1973, after the KGB had located and seized one of the three copies of the manuscript, Solzhenitsyn had a microfilmed copy smuggled out of the country and in December it was published in Paris.

The Soviet authorities felt somewhat constrained in what they could do to Solzhenitsyn, who had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970 and was an international celebrity.

The Politburo considered sentencing him to life in prison, but instead deported him to West Germany. Solzhenitsyn made his way to the United States where he lived and worked for almost 20 years.

While he praised and admired Western liberty and democratic values, Solzhenitsyn criticized the West for underappreciating, devaluing, and misusing them. He also criticized the West’s cultural weakness and its loss of religious and spiritual grounding. (I still have to read his critical opinions on the western political systems)

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia, where he was received as a hero. He died in August 2008, at age 89.

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn was born on December 11, 1918, one hundred three years ago today

.“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts.

This line shifts inside us and oscillates with the years….

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”

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December 2021

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