Monday, August 11, 2008

Remembering Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

I've hoped for a week now that I would be able to come up with a brilliant, poignant tribute to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, an author whose impact on my life has been immeasurable. Others have done far better than I could in the week or so since he passed away. But I can't let his death go unmentioned, especially after reading a New York Times article about the absence of a national outpouring of grief in Russia, a country that owes him so very much.

I was in my 20s when the great writer was forced to leave his homeland. This is a portion of what I wrote about him in 2005 in God Between the Covers, an annotated bibliography of the books that had a significant impacted on my life:
Several years after his exile, he emigrated to the United States, where he proceeded to alternately enchant and offend the media and the masses. At first he was a media darling and a trophy émigré for the American government: “Look! A Russian who found faith in a prison camp and got out and chose to live where? In the U.S., of course!” But he fell out of favor when he began criticizing the West for its complacency, lack of moral courage, and legalistic attitudes.

I ignored the backlash and concentrated on what Solzhenitsyn had to say, mainly through One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and his monumental work, The Gulag Archipelago, a disturbing account of life in the Soviet labor camp system that was based on his observations as a prisoner as well as the experiences of other prisoners. The Soviets did not take kindly to this exposé, which is why he was finally booted out. The combination of the depth of his faith and the courage it took for him to stand up for his convictions stood in marked contrast to what I saw in the church at that time (and, well, what I saw in my own life). I thought we could use a few more troublemakers like him. I still do.
God, send us more troublemakers like Solzhenitsyn. He stands apart as one of the true heroes of the 20th century.

1 comment:

DebD said...

Hi! I'm coming over because I am currently reading your book and I remembered you writing that you had a blog (at least I *think* I remember that!!??).

I know this is old news but since you liked Solzhenitsyn I thought you might enjoy this editorial by Serge Schmemann at the NYTimes. Included at the link are 4 audios he did about the author and his legacy:

Kindest Regards.