Thursday, August 7, 2008

Spokoinoy nochi, Solzhenitsyn

I know it's been a while since the great man died, and most people in America haven't read a word of his. I've read parts (because the whole might kill me) of The Gulag Archipelago and all of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. It stays with you, let me tell you. If nothing else, to get a taste of his work, might I suggest his Nobel speech?

The thing is, it's hard for me to get around the idea that the gulag was something that people were imprisoned during my life span. WW2 was terrible and also a 20th century event, yes, but it's been in a million movies, and it becomes tangible. Russia, for all our problems with it--we, as a nation, have never tried to understand what was going on there. Nearly every American film about 20th century Russia and Russians has been absurd. And it's unfortunate because mutual understanding would certainly benefit all parties.

With Solzhenitsyn's passing, I believe all the great Russian writers of the 20th century are now dead (and no, I'm not including sci-fi writers in that grouping). Am I wrong? I hope so.

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In summing up, I wish I had some kind of affirmative message to leave you with. I don't. Would you take two negative messages?
-- Woody Allen