Alexandre Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008)
“I wanted to be the memory … the memory of a people victim of an unspeakable tragedy.”
Literature, like politics, the business world, science and religion, is a privileged field for the exercise of magnanimity.
Very shortly after his arrest by the Soviet political police, Alexander Solzhenitsyn grasped the meaning and scope of his mission: to become the powerful and universal voice of the millions of innocent people, victims of communism. “I will publish everything! I will utter everything! From the dynamite piled up in the boxes of the Lubyanka, to the calls in the steppe camps in the middle of winter, in the name of all the strangles, all the shots, all the deaths of hunger, the deaths of cold. Solzhenitsyn realized he had to shout the truth, “as long as the little calf does not break its neck against the oak, unless the oak starts to crack, it does not fall. Unlikely eventuality, but that I admit, however, quite.
A writer who set such a high goal in such a place and at such a time was for Russia and for the whole world an extraordinary sign of hope. The Russian poetess Olga Sedakova, who reads Solzhenitsyn in samizdat,testifies:”This information on the unimaginable extent of the evil provoked by communism, this information communicated by Solzhenitsyn and likely to pulverize an ill-prepared person , did not exhaust the content of the message. By their very existence and their rhythm, the writings of Solzhenitsyn made us understand in the depths of our being that an evil, even of this size, and even if well armed, is not all powerful! This is what amazed us more than anything: a man alone faced with a system, almost cosmic, of lies, stupidity, cruelty and destruction. Such a situation occurs only once a millennium. And in each sentence, we perceived which side was the victory. A victory not triumphal, like those that knew this regime, but a victory paschal, the one that passes from death to life. In The Gulag Archipelago,men turned into camp dust resurrected, a country resuscitated, the truth resurrected. This resurrection force capable of exploding the universe, no one could have transmitted it as well. The resurrection of the truth in man – and the truth about man – when such a thing was totally impossible. ”
Solzhenitsyn is a remarkable example of endurance. He resisted for several decades the pressure of a totalitarian regime that had sworn to annihilate it. Solzhenitsyn’s reputation was great in Russia and abroad as long as he limited himself to criticizing Stalin, as in his first work.A Day of Ivan Denisovich.This was perfectly in keeping with the aims of Khrushchev, who at the time was leading a campaign against Stalin’s cult of personality. It was also suitable for philanthropic intellectuals in the West, who admired the October revolution, but thought that Stalin had betrayed it. In his subsequent works, Solzhenitsyn clearly stated that he was opposed not only to Stalin but also to Lenin and the October Revolution. He even rejected the February Revolution and did not hesitate to expose his heterodox views in his Open Letter to the Leaders of the Soviet Union.He thus attracted the enmity of the Soviet regime and the legions of Western intellectuals, its former supporters, sympathizers of the revolutionary cause. Exiled in the West, Solzhenitsyn faced the misunderstanding and derision caused by his refusal to pledge allegiance to materialistic ideals popular in the 1970s. The growing army of his detractors, who found intolerable a world view contradicting theirs, soon an enemy of all liberty and progress. Solzhenitsyn does not falter.
Solzhenitsyn was a deeply magnanimous being. He possessed a high sense of his own dignity at a time when the totalitarian Soviet regime was flouting this dignity in an unknown way until now. Solzhenitsyn’s mission can be summed up in these words:”I wanted to be the memory; the memory of a people victim of an unspeakable tragedy.”
Solzhenitsyn’s most talented contemporaries, captivated by Solzhenitsyn the writer, did not hide their shock at the meeting of the Solzhenitsyn man. Anna Akhmatova, the Russian poet and Nobel Prize winner for literature writes: “A light bearer! We had forgotten that such people still existed.A surprising being.A great man.”
Not only did Solzhenitsyn inform the world of the reality and extent of the evil that threatened him, but he also changed the lives of so many. By the example of his life he restored in their hearts the hope and the sense of dignity.