[Roger] Kimball worries whether America, now in the grips of “crowd politics” rallying to utopian promises, might be headed in the direction of what Friedrich Hayek, following Tocqueville, called “the road to serfdom.” I hope, as he no doubt hopes, that he is wrong about that. One way to ward off that dreadful prospect is to have indelibly imprinted upon our minds the life and literary legacy of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
What a fighter! What an incorrigible conspirator, and how infectious the enjoyment he got out of it! (His exclamation marks are infectious, too.) What a sense of theatre and timing! How unshakeable in his belief that he was always right, regardless of the occasional 180º turn! What a subverter of other people’s pieties (sometimes even his own)! How wickedly good at puncturing the self-regard of the intelligentsia! What a master of black humour!! What a polemical style!! In the great tradition of the arch-polemicists Marx and Lenin, but used for their undoing!!!
For political and commercial reasons, the early English-language translations of Solzhenitsyn’s writings were done at top speed and mostly by second-rate translators. Luckily, Solzhenitsyn’s authorial voice is so strong that it comes through even when muffled, and in both the third volume of The Gulag Archipelago and in Solzhenitsyn’s high-spirited memoir, The Oak and the Calf (1980), one translator, Harry Willetts, managed at last to find an English idiom adequate to the originals. (Willetts also finally did justice to Ivan Denisovich.)
We see signs of Dostoyevsky here and Shakespeare. Their evildoers know they are doing evil. But Solzhenitsyn does not think this is the real problem with our modern evildoers. Evil for them is not a product of hate or revenge or spite or jealousy. Its origin is in ideology, in the purist of motives.
Often the characters in Mr Solzhenitsyn’s books were one-dimensional, the tone sardonic, the detail turgid. But his indestructibility gave him, over the years, a prophet’s voice.
It is a bit too easy for people in the West to deplore the failure of intellectuals living in unfree societies to follow the example of a Solzhenitsyn. Such stories are rare. His arose from an unusual confluence: a great crime, a great silence, a receptive audience and personal courage well above the ordinary.
Solzhenitsyn's prison experience taught him what is already found in Genesis, that the first temptation is for us to be the causes of good and evil.
The translation [of his Harvard address] blunted the impact somewhat—in fact, there were even sporadic bursts of applause. But soon enough, outraged professors realized that Solzhenitsyn was charging them with complicity in the West's surrender to liberal secularism, the abandonment of its Christian heritage, and with all the moral horrors that followed.
the specter of statism–what Hayek, hearkening back to Tocqueville, called “the road to serfdom”–is a continuing threat, all the more insinuating today because less obviously brutal. How easy it is to forget, to neglect, to ignore that threat. Solzhenitsyn did an immense amount to bolster our memory, but creeping socialism is like the “sweet oblivious antidote” Macbeth craves for his wife.
Some might argue that Solzhenitsyn himself is partly responsible for the misinterpretation of his views. In an interview with David Remnick in 1994, he conceded that he speaks and writes with a forcefulness that is unusual in the contemporary West. Solzhenitsyn's directness can be sharp, and his sharpness may have given rise to some confusion. But in an atmosphere of moral flaccidity, his directness is attractive, and necessary.
Stepan Solzhenitsyn told Ekho Moskvy radio that his father died of heart failure late Sunday [August 3, 2008] at his home in Moscow.
Where the Romantics and Decadents self-indulgently embraced Sade as a liberator, Dostoevsky confronted and repudiated him, and reaffirmed the Christian worldview that Sade so ferociously rejected.
Zinovy Zinik and "The Solzhenitsyn Reader by Daniel J. Mahoney, On the Square, March 12, 2007, 10:30 AM
Blue-collar Solzhenitsyn by Zinovy Zinik, review of The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and essential writings, 1947–2005 edited by Edward E. Ericson, Jr, and Daniel J. Mahoney, The Times, March 7, 2007
(via Arts & Letters Daily)
Review by David Luhrssen of The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings 1947-2005 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Shepherd Express, January 18, 2007
Traducing Solzhenitsyn by Daniel J. Mahoney, First Things, August/September 2004
Traditional Prejudices: The anti-Semitism of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, by Cathy Young, Reason, May 2004
No sign of thawing in this cold war of words: Russian Nobelist, revolutionaries' daughter write dueling accounts of alliance gone awry, by Julian Guthrie, San Francisco Chronicle, January 25, 2004
Solzhenitsyn, Again; The great Russian thinker foresaw the situation which now faces George W. Bush, by Hugh Hewitt, The Daily Standard, March 12, 2003
An Interview with Alexander Solzhenitsyn, by Joseph Pearce, St. Austin Review, February, 2003
Ascent From Exile, by James F. Pontuso, reviews of Solzhenitsyn: A Soul in Exile, by Joseph Pearce; and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The Ascent from Ideology, by Daniel J. Mahoney, Claremont Review of Books, Spring 2002
Review by Robert P. Kraynak of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The Ascent from Ideology by Daniel Mahoney, First Things, December 2001