Author: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
From the Archives of The New York
In This Feature
of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's Earlier Books
About Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Bayley Reviews 'November 1916. The Red Wheel: Knot II' (February 7,
Chapter: 'November 1916. The Red Wheel: Knot II'
REVIEWS OF ALEKSANDR
SOLZHENITSYN'S EARLIER BOOKS:
Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,' reviewed by Harrison E. Salisbury
Alexander Natruskin/ Reuters
|Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn speaks at a news conference
in Vladivostok in May 1994, shortly after his return to Russia after 20
years of exile abroad.
". . . a small, almost flawless classic employing the
eloquence of reticence and understatement . . . This quiet tale has struck
a powerful blow against the return of the horrors of the Stalin system.
For Solzhenitsyn's words burn like acid."
First Circle' (1968)
". . . it is Solzhenitsyn's camera eye, his absolute
sense of pitch, his Tolstoyan power of characterization, his deep humaneness,
his almost military discipline and Greek feeling for the unities which
(let us say it at once) make his work a classic."
Cancer Ward' (1968)
". . . some of the faults that began to be apparent in
'The First Circle' -- a lack of measure, and, sometimes, of control over
the material and a penchant for simplistic moralizing -- are accentuated
in 'The Cancer Ward.' Both 'The Cancer Ward' and 'The First Circle' badly
and Prose Poems' (1971)
"For all their interest as political documents and early
examples of Solzhenitsyn's craft, the 'Stories and Prose Poems' even at
their best never approach the literary stature of his novels."
1914. The Red Wheel: Knot I' (1972)
"'August 1914' has already been compared to 'War and
Peace.' It is a measure of Solzhenitsyn's achievement that his book is
not instantly dwarfed by such a comparison . . . Very few living writers
can match his artistic achievement; in human and moral stature he is in
a class by himself on the literary landscape of our age."
1914. The Red Wheel: Knot I,' reviewed by Irving Howe in 1989
". . . a swollen and misshapen book . . . [Solzhenitsyn]
writes out of the conviction that he has the correct view -- the only correct
view? -- of his country's tragic experience, and it becomes very hard,
indeed impossible, to respond to 'August 1914' in strictly literary terms.
Mr. Solzhenitsyn himself would probably not want that; he is after 'bigger'
in the Wind' (1973)
"The importance of 'Candle In the Wind' in Solzhenitsyn's
oeuvre is that it is one of two plays he is known to have completed --
and it is his only work that, ostensibly, does not possess Russia as its
locale . . . a minor work by one of our major writers of our time."
Gulag Archipelago' (1974)
"As a chronicle of the holocaust, 'The Gulag Archipelago'
is an extraordinary achievement. As historical explanation, it is less
successful . . . Solzhenitsyn's exposé should surprise no educated
Western reader. General and specific aspects of the atrocity have long
been known. Yet even for specialists there is a plethora of new detail,
some more terrible, some ridiculous."
Gulag Archipelago: Volume II' (1975)
"Although it has become the fashion to dismiss 'Gulag'
as 'nothing new,' this is, in fact, the first time the entire range of
the calamity has been recounted, and by a great writer, a great Russian
in Zurich: Chapters' (1977)
"The only conceivable motive for publishing these disjointed
chapters in this form is political. . . . And yet, the book is neither
a caricature nor a political broadside. Solzhenitsyn's Lenin is solidly
Nights: A Poem' (1977)
"['Prussian Nights' is] a clumsy and disjointed 1400
line narrative which can be called poetry only because it is written in
meter and rhyme. Sent to any publishing house of émigré Russian
journal bearing any name but Solzhenitsyn's, it would be rejected unhesitatingly."
Gulag Archipelago: Volume III' (1978)
"Combining history and anecdote, analysis and polemic,
with searing vignettes of so many doomed lives made all the more eloquent
by the author's intense empathy, his fiery sarcasm and moral fury, Solzhenitsyn's
'Gulag' is the kind of book that permanently alters the way we perceive
the world in which we live."
Oak and the Calf: Sketches of Literary Life in the Soviet Union' (1980)
"'The Oak and The Calf' is, in part, quite ugly. Solzhenitsyn
has an inexhaustible supply of contempt."
Russia: Reflections and Tentative Proposals,' reviewed by Daniel Patrick
"In 'Rebuilding Russia' he comes across as a thoroughly
practical man, even something of an 18th-century man. As, you might say,
Question" at the End of the 20th Century' (1995)
"What Mr. Solzhenitsyn is articulating in 'The Russian
Question' is less a political program than a sense of longing and hope
. . . In short, his answer to 'The Russian Question' is that the virtues
of the Russian character will reassert themselves spontaneously."
"It is the apparent lack of self-knowledge, or the refusal
to acknowledge the fully human dimension of his conspiratorial relationships,
that mars this book . . . Nevertheless, it contains a wealth of fresh detail
about the most exciting and dangerous period of Mr. Solzhenitsyn's life."
ARTICLES ABOUT ALEKSANDR SOLZHENITSYN:
Is Awarded Nobel Prize in Literature (October 9, 1970)
Solzhenitsyn, whose work was banned in his native Soviet
Union, was awarded the Nobel Prize. The Swedish Academy, which in 1958
had offended the Soviet Union by awarding the Prize to another dissident
writer, Boris Pasternak, praised Solzhenitsyn "for the ethical force with
which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature."
at Home (October 9, 1970)
Solzhenitsyn enjoyed brief favor during Krushchev's thaw,
when his "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" was published. But the
literary climate quickly chilled again. After years of suppression of his
work, in 1969 Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the writer's union and invited
to leave the country.
Only Living Soviet Classic' by Harrison E. Salisbury(October
This critical examination of Solzhenitsyn's work finds
him "a worthy successor to Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, Chekhov, Bunin
Is Willing to Go To Accept if Moscow Permits (October
Despite the example of Boris Pasternak, who refused the
Nobel Prize rather than risk deportation, Solzhenitsyn said he was grateful
for the award and would accept it in person if allowed by the Soviet authorities.
Explains Change in Plans (December 1, 1970)
Fearing that he would not be able to return to the Soviet
Union, Solzhenitsyn declined to accept his Nobel Prize in person.
Joins 'Rights Committee' (December 11, 1970)
Solzhenitsyn, who had never before participated in organized
resistance to Soviet policy, agreed to join Andrei D. Sakharov's human
Hailed Despite Absence At Presentation of 1970 Nobel Awards (December
Solzhenitsyn's absence from the awards ceremony only
seemed to heighten the drama in Stockholm. Dr. Karl-Ragnar Gierow, Permanent
Secretary of the Swedish Academy said that Solzhenitsyn "is of the incomparable
Russian tradition" that draws its strength from "Russia's suffering."
Writer Caught Between (September 10, 1972)
After it became clear that the Soviets were intent on
suppressing his work indefinitely, Solzhenitsyn decided to enter the fray
of the Western publishing business. Working through a literary agent who
acted as a middleman, Solzhenitsyn was able to gain a measure of control
over the financial and editorial aspects of his books' publication.
Talk With Solzhenitsyn (May 11, 1980)
In one of his first major interviews with an American
periodical about his literary output, Solzhenitsyn talked to Hilton Kramer
from exile in Vermont. He said that despite the attention his work has
received for its political implications, it has never been adequately scrutinized
for its literary qualities.
Solzhenitsyn And Other Discontents (August 28, 1989)
President Mikhail S. Gorbachev personally approved the
publication of chapters from "The Gulag Archipelago" in Novy Mir, the official
Soviet literary magazine, fifteen years after Solzhenitsyn's work was banned.
Is in Russia, Hoping for 'Ray of Light' (May 28, 1994)
Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia, after a 20 year exile.
Touch: A Life of Conflict (May 15, 1997)
There was a squabble between Solzhenitsyn's family and
St. Martin's Press, the publisher of D. M. Thomas's biography, over, among
other things, Thomas's interview with Solzhenitsyn's first wife, Natalya
Steiner Reviews D. M. Thomas's 'Alexander Solzhenitsyn' (March
"It may be too early to judge a vast textual output still
in progress and a life as yet unquenched. There is more than a hint of
courage in D. M. Thomas's attempt at a chronicle in depth."