Aug 4, 2008

“I was the man. I suffered. I was there.” – A. Solzhenitsyn

By rights, Solzhenitsyn should have died on the front lines of World War II, like so many of his generation. He should have died on one of the thousand islands of the Gulag Archipelago, or in a Cancer Ward after being diagnosed with near-terminal stomach cancer.

But he survived.

Solzhenitsyn’s samizdat manuscript of SHCH-854, later to be known as One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, should have died "in the drawer," on the desk of Novy Mir editor Aleksandr Tvardovsky, or at the hands of Glavlit -- the main organ of Soviet censorship.

But it survived.

Inside the Soviet Union, the Politburo had never encountered a creature like Solzhenitsyn. After his expulsion to the West in 1973, the West soon realized that they had also, had never encountered a creature like Solzhenitsyn.

George Orwell once asked, “Where is Ghandi in Stalin’s Russia?” The answer, of course, is that Ghandi is dead in the snow. Not all tyrants are as kind as the British Empire. The tyranny which Solzhenitsyn opposed turned all of its opponents into obituaries. But not Solzehnitsyn.

In the end, Solzehnistyn the symbol would become far bigger than Solzehnitsyn the man. But that symbol showed the world the titanic power of dissent.

Thus, on the day of his death, his last day on this earth, Eternal Remont is reminded of the final passage in Ivan Denisovich:

“The end of an unclouded day.
Almost a happy one.
Just one of the 3,653 days of his sentence, from bell to bell.
The extra three were for leap years.”

Farewell Aleksandr Solzehnistyn. You have finally been released.

2 comments:

Ern said...

I just hope he finally feels warm.

Pirates&Diplomats said...

To this day, I can never read that book without feeling cold and starving the whole way through.

That's impressive.