Russian literature


Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: Sage and Scourge of Communism

“Write what you know,” goes the dictum. Thus from Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn we have among many other works the following:

  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich—forced labor camps
  • First Circle (i.e., of Hell)forced labor camps for scientists
  • Cancer Ward—malady as social metaphor
  • August 1914—blunders in warfare
  • Gulag Archipelago—the definitive guide to Soviet forced labor camps.

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With such a pronounced critical voice, we can surmise that Solzhenitsyn’s writing was unlikely to win him lasting friends in the Soviet government. Before his first major work, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962), could be published, none other than Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev needed to give his permission. The timing was right; Khrushchev was still intent on denouncing the excesses of Stalinism, and Solzhenitsyn’s writing gained his favor in that political climate. But the thaw didn’t last.

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When Khrushchev was deposed in 1964, Solzhenitsyn experienced a similar downturn in his fate. By 1970 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, he didn’t dare leave the country and so had to wait until he was sent into exile in the West in 1974 before he could actually collect the prize.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: Sage and Scourge of Communism

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