Sunday, August 3, 2008


Alexander Solzhenitsyn has died. The works of his that I've read are The First Circle, which I don't remember a lot about except that it impressed me (it was a long time ago), and August 1914, the first volume of his trilogy The Red Wheel. It's not in the same class as The First Circle, but there is some very good writing in parts of it (again, it's been quite a while since I read it). I also tried once to read The Gulag Archipelago, but for whatever reason could not get going with it.

Solzhenitsyn's politics, to me, were mostly very unappealing (to use a mild word), but he will be remembered as an emblematic figure of the twentieth century and, at his best, a very gifted writer. (And yes, I do remember the controversy surrounding his speech at the 1978 Harvard commencement denouncing the West's moral flaccidity, though I note that the BBC obit did not find it worth mentioning -- probably a pretty just assessment of what is important and what is ephemeral.)

No comments: