Sunday, August 3, 2008

RIP Solzhenitsyn

Alexander Solzhenitsyn is dead. For those unfamiliar with his literary legacy, you can check out this AP obituary (though keep your eyes peeled for a NYT obituary - it will undoubtedly be great). For now, I'll just say he was an eminently talented writer, a man who managed to internalize Russian fatalism while exposing and condemning the political institutions (many of the very worst and inhumane order) of the Soviet Union that preyed upon this fatalistic orientation toward life and society. Solzhenitsyn himself spent years in a GULAG camp and wrote simultaneously from first-person and outsider macro perspectives.

He was a better writer (and quite arguably a better person) when he was railing against the injustices of the past than when he was fighting to shape his nation's future. Nevertheless, there are few men or women of letters that molded as many minds in concrete ways that also wrote with the talent and evocative spirit as he did.

Reading his obituary makes me want to set aside a couple weeks and devour the archipelago series, or at least a couple days to immerse myself in Cancer Ward.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

Have you read The First Circle? I think it is his most brilliant work (and fascinating to read after Conrad's Under Western Eyes - they are bookends by two geniuses predicting and explaining totalitarianism).

The Gulag Archipelago will resist any effort to be devoured. It devours you instead.