SCHOLAR ISLAND

SOLZHENITSYN

 

 

" Something happened in 1945, in a most unlikely place: in the pine forests of East Prussia...under the cap of a Soviet captain, into the gray fur of which the metallic red star was deeply impressed. Something had crystallized in his head. A cold, crystalline thought which. . .eventually led this man far, far enough to reject the entire mental system of the world in which he was born and in which he lived, to the point here the very rulers of that enormous empire began to worry about him and fear him, while to many millions of other people he became that new thing, a light from the East. Truly a single event in a single mind may change the world. It may even bring about and not merely hasten-the collapse of the Communist system which is inevitable, though only in the long run. If so, the most important event in 1945 may not have been the division of Europe, and not the dawn of the atomic age, but the sudden opening and the sudden dawning of something in the mind of a ragged Soviet officer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn. .."

 

John Lukacs

l945:NEAR Zero

 

 

"Come to think of it, how many people in the West have read Mr. Solzhenitsyn at all? I have had students in my college English classes, students with majors in history and political science, who have never heard of the Soviet Gulag.I have talked with educated people who say that they don't read Mr. Solzhenitsyn "on principle"-by which I gather they mean on the strength of their preferred faith in the hostile articles and reviews directed against Mr. Solzhenitsyn by so many Western intellectuals. Surely the West, and especially America, is no stranger to trenchant criticism; but  I don't recall a Marxist ever coming under such fire or contempt from the intellectual community as Mr. Solzhenitsyn has encountered in the West."

(a Letter from John R. Dunlap

San Jose California)

Foreign Affairs Fall 1980

 

"Evil in Solzhenitsyn is real because it is always personal. It is not found in impersonal ' systems' or 'structures' , it is always found and caused by man. Even in the sharashka and in the cancer ward evil does not appear as some elemental force and fate to which man is absolutely subjugated and for which he is an no way responsible, and to which, after it is 'explained' and 'accepted' / it remains only to stoically resign oneself. above all and always, evil is men who have opted and continue to opt for evil , men who have truly chosen to serve evil. And therefore evil is always a fall, and always a choice. The horror of Kafka' s The Trial is that there is no escape from the anonymous , faceless, and absurd evil; the horror is that" they could, if they so chose, not torture. This is the Christian intuition of Evil. Christ was not crucified by impersonal Moira or by 'dark forces ' , but by men who had the choice not to crucify Him, and yet freely condemned Him rather than Barabbas to death. Evil in Solzhenitsyn always remains on the moral, and therefore personal and it is always related to the conscience which is in every man. It is not a failing, an absence of something, a blindness or a lack of responsibility; it is man's betrayal of his soul it is his fall. And finally, the intuition of redemption. This intuition is not, of course, a humanistic optimism, a faith in 'progress', a 'bright tomorrow' or a ' triumph of reason' . All this is alien to the Christian gospel of rebirth and salvation, as it is alien to Solzhenitsyn. Yet in his works, as in Christianity, there is an indestructible faith in the possibility of regeneration for man, a refusal to 'write off' anyone Of anything forever. All is possible, he seems to say, if only man finds his conscience, as did the debased and self-centered State -Counselor Second Rank Innokenti Volodin or the inmates of the sharashka' who found their conscience in their 'immortal zek souls' . What moved Volodin on that festal Christmas Eve, what induced him to phone a warning to the condemned? And what made several Zeks prefer the hopelessness of hard labor to the relative comfort of Mavrino. In Solzhenitsyn's art there are answers to these questions, and they come, in the final analysis, from the conscience of Solzhenitsyn himself. Conscience invisibly rules, triumphs over and illumines the horror, ugliness and evil of the ' fallen' world, As on the Cross, defeat is transformed into victory: At the end,Volodin gazes down ' from those heights of struggle and suffering to which he has been lifted. . . ' and the last words about those in the sharashka are  . . '.there was peace in their souls.' and if it is so, then nothing is closed, condemned or damned. Everything is open, everything remains possible. A final point. Ours is the time of the obvious collapse or Christian culture. This collapse is related, first of all, to the decomposition of that 'triune intuition' from which that culture grew and in which it lived. Around us ardent efforts are being made to find new soil, new roots for culture and art, and it is clear that both the ardor and the efforts are filled with an irrational hatred for the Christian roots of culture, for its ' triune intuition' . This is the time of an apostate culture! And even more frightening is that one fails to see hardly any resistance left on the Christian side. Some Christians are ready to withdraw to the catacombs and to renounce any responsibility for culture. Others are ready, even zealous, to cross over into the opposite camp, certain that Christianity itself calls them to this--writers about the 'death of God' or about the Christian justifications for 'secular society' are most often, alas, themselves Christians. Either to leave culture to the Devil, who ' from the beginning was a liar' about the world, man and life, or to benignly see him as an 'angel of light' ; such is the nightmarish dilemma in which we find ourselves. But then, in this dark night, in a country which more than half a century ago officially renounced its Christian name and calling, there arises a lone man who through his art reveals the lie and the sin of that dilemma and liberates us from it.' A writer. A Russian writer. A Christian writer. For this liberation, for this witness, and for its coming from Russia, making Russia herself again and again ours; for preserving 'unspoiled, undisturbed and undistorted, the image of eternity with which each person is born, ' our joyful gratitude to Alexander Solzhenitsyn."

Alexander Schmemann

Vestnk RSKhD (Paris NR. 98)

Book: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The Ascent from Idology...by Daniel J. Mahoney

Book: "Alexander Solzhenitsyn: A Century in His Life" by D.M. Thomas

 

2001

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