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One word of truth shall outweigh the whole world

November 21, 2012

Fifty years ago this month Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was published in the USSR.  The book portrays a fictional day in the life of a Gulag victim and when it was published it started a process of destruction of the Soviet Union that culminated some thirty year or so years later.  Until that time the gulag experience had been silenced but under Nikita Krushchev, who attempted to distance himself (and the state) from Stalinism, Solzhenitsyn’s novel was approved and the rest, as they say, is history.  This BBC article provides more detail about the book’s impact.

Here’s a 1970 movie based on the book.

Solzenhitsyn defines the quintessential tortured artist.  He grappled with bigger topics that could never reach resolution and was tortured by the ideologies which shaped his world.  Neither a fan of communism or liberal capitalism, he also denounced the brand of democracy that emerged in post-Soviet Russia. After being expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974 he settled in Vermont, USA (home of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream) but would return to Russia in 1994.  He died in 2008.  There’s a BBC obituary here and you can read his Nobel Prize for Literature speech here.  Be warned, it’s not short.

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