August 12, 2008

More on Solzhenitsyn's Legacy

Here are two great articles on the late Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

--Solzhenitsyn and the Battle for the Human Soul, By Robert P. Kraynak from First Things.

--The Legacy of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, an interview with Daniel J. Mahoney from U.S. News and World Report.

I found especially interesting Mahoney's response to Solzhenitsyn's place in Russian Literature:
In the West, comparisons are readily made to both Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, and of course I think Solzhenitsyn belongs to that tradition—one, by the way, that is less concerned with creating fictional worlds out of nothing than with elucidating questions about the human soul and the ethical dilemmas of modern society, a tradition that makes no fundamental distinction between nonfiction and fiction. But there are real differences between Solzhenitsyn and Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. All of The Red Wheel, Solzhenitsyn's cycle of books on the sources of the Russian Revolution, is a response to Tolstoy. Tolstoy in War and Peace believed in historical fatalism, where things happen beyond human control. Solzhenitsyn really believed that human beings could make a difference, that there was nothing inevitable or inexorable about the Bolshevik Revolution, that human action, agency, and statesmanship could have made a difference.

He was probably closer to Dostoyevsky in his great themes, although I'd say, contrary to a certain legend that developed in the West, Solzhenitsyn was much friendlier to the West and the cause of political liberty than Dostoyevsky.

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