Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, R.I.P.

The editors at National Review remember Solzhenitsyn, who died yesterday:

Born in 1918, Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn became the voice and conscience of the Russian people. There was no greater or more effective foe of Communism, or of totalitarianism in general. His Gulag Archipelago was a crushing blow to the Soviet Union — after its publication in the mid-1970s, the USSR had no standing, morally. The book was effective because it was true.
Because he was such a great and important man, it is sometimes overlooked how great, versatile, and prolific a writer he was. He wrote novels, novellas, short stories, poems, memoirs, essays, speeches, and more…
Truth was the essential ingredient of his controversial 1978 commencement address at Harvard: “A World Split Apart.” He told the graduates, “[T]ruth eludes us if we do not concentrate with total attention on its pursuit. And even while it eludes us, the illusion still lingers of knowing it and leads to many misunderstandings. Also, truth is seldom pleasant; it is almost invariably bitter.” Solzhenitsyn went on to discuss the multiple ailments of the West.
This speech rocked the country, with many prominent liberals — e.g., Arthur Schlesinger Jr. — denouncing him for it. Sidney Hook wrote, “Rarely in modern times…has one man’s voice provoked the Western world to an experience of profound soul-searching.”…
Malcolm Muggeridge called him “the noblest human being alive.” After passing away yesterday, he is now one of the noblest human beings on earth or in heaven. He is one of the greatest witnesses in all history. And, like all great witnesses, he was inspired by love, the crowning quality of his work and life.

His Harvard speech can be found here.
Jay Nordlinger offers a commentary from 2003 on the 25th anniversary of the speech:

…Perhaps most important in “A World Split Apart” is this business of courage — and its decline…
Solzhenitsyn says, “The Western world has lost its civic courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and of course in the United Nations.”…
And consider, for a moment, one of the most famous passages of the speech. Some people here may know it by heart: “The human soul longs for things higher, warmer, and purer than those offered by today’s mass living habits, exemplified by the revolting invasion of publicity, by TV stupor, and by intolerable music.”…
Cognoscenti may expect a National Review hand to say this, but Solzhenitsyn, in his speech, sounds, to me, very much like Whittaker Chambers. At the core of Chambers’s life and thought was the question, “God or man?” It was that stark: Would we have a God-centered world or a man-centered one? Solzhenitsyn puts the same question. For that matter, so does Paul — who, in the words of his King James translators, asks whether we will serve “the creature” or “the Creator.”…

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, R.I.P.

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brassband
brassband
12 years ago

Solzhenitsyn, Sharansky, Walesa, Wojtyla, Reagan, and Thatcher.
Among the greatest voices for morality and truth in the second half of the 20th century.
For me, reading The Gulag Archipelago, was a tremendous eye-opener.
How, I thought, if this man were telling the truth, could U.S. politicians see the U.S.S.R. as anything other than an “evil empire?”
Yet the Democrat party in this country ridiculed President Reagan for describing them in that way . . .
Whose voice in our time, I wonder, will one day be remembered as we remember Solzhenitsyn?
May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.

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