Remembering Solzhenitsyn

Solzhenitsyn deserves to be paid homage for The Gulag Archipelago and associated fictional works. They are amazing. Is the Gulag Archipelago history? it is a work written with fury, scorn and contempt, although its description of individual incidents has stood up well. Does it provide a description of the average Gulag experience, of numbers imprisoned etc. ? No, but that is not the point. Consider how the Australian right is so outraged by those who chronicle the experience of indigenous dispossession in Australia since 1788, they have the same motives as Solzhenitsyn’s detractors. Does his industry and dedication as a compiler of the Gulag mean that we should accept his Slavophile politics, his estimates of the Soviet threat or his preoccupation with Jews (for some critical comments on this see here and here overall it doesn’t look good) . No, but again that is not the point in the evaluation of his best work. Anytime we are inclined to try to salvage anything from the Communist wreckage we should go back to Solzhenitsyn, anytime also that we are inclined to tell ourselves that we have only gone a little down the road of torture and lawlessness and that are intentions are good. The way that Solzhenitsyn describes how ‘the law’ grew from child to man is a devastating metaphor.

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