Solzhenitsyn 1918 - 2008

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Solzhenitsyn 1918 - 2008

1tomcatMurr
Ago 4, 2008, 8:17 am

Any thoughts on the passing of this great giant of 20th century Russian literature?

"I'm not specifically accusing the youth of Russia; it's a universal law - intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility."

August 1914

2europhile
Ago 4, 2008, 9:33 am

A giant indeed and he lived a long life, especially when you consider what he experienced. The First Circle is one of the best and most memorable novels I've ever read.

By the way that's a great quote - very applicable to someone I know!

3xkyzero
Editado: Ago 4, 2008, 10:17 am

A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The First Circle, and Letter to the Soviet leaders were the first Russian Lit books to have a big impact on me. My friends quickly got sick of my overly frequent references to those 3 books. More than (ok, a lot more than) several years later I still get the occasional "what would Solzhenitsyn say?", which they seem to think is very funny.

Anyway, we all got over it and I used Solzhenitsyn to move on to other Russian authors - many of whom I prefer. But I can still pick up The First Circle and feel some of that excitement of seeing the world through eyes that, however new, really connected to feelings I'd never had a voice for before.

But that being said, there is no doubt Mr. Solzhenitsyn was a bit of a curmudgeonly wack job. Of course 8 years in a labour camp would probably do that to any of us. And I don't think the beard helped much either.

He certainly led a long full life. Rest in peace Mr. Solzhenitsyn.

4timjones
Ago 5, 2008, 8:12 am

Solzhenitsyn was the first Russian author I read. In my high school library, the upstairs section was reserved for senior students (Forms 6 and 7 - now, in New Zealand terms, Years 12 and 13), and it was there that several of Solzhenitsyn's books were held. I got special permission to access this section when I was in Year 11, and promptly borrowed The Gulag Archipelago. That, and August 1914, had a huge effect on my reading, and sparked my continuing interest in Russia and Russian literature. For that, I owe AS a considerable debt.

5john257hopper
Ago 5, 2008, 10:25 am

I have read Gulag Archipelago, One Day in the Life and First Circle. As soon as I read of his death, I resolved to read some more of his work. I have Cancer Ward, August 1914, For the Good of the Cause and the non-fiction Invisible Allies about the dissident movement in the 1960s. If I fancy something short, For the Good of the Cause is the one to go for, but I may tackle Cancer Ward as I have had it longest and it's on the 1001 list.

Incidentally, does anyone have November 1916, the sequel to August 1914? It never seems to come up anywhere, whereas the 1914 one is always cropping up in secondhand bookshops. Indeed, I have bought it twice in the same Oxfam shop, once in HB (which I gave away on BookMooch) and once in PB.

6rebeccanyc
Ago 5, 2008, 4:58 pm

I now regret that I didn't read any Solzhenitsyn while he was alive. Does any one have any recommendations of which book to start with?

7timjones
Ago 5, 2008, 5:13 pm

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a good place to start - it's shorter (and less didactic) than many of the others.

8wandering_star
Ago 28, 2008, 5:03 pm

I recently bought a box of secondhand books which turned out to contain two versions each of The First Circle (translations by (a) Michael Guybon and (b) Thomas P Whitney) and of Cancer Ward (translations by (a) Nicholas Bethell & David Burg and (b) Rebecca Frank). I wondered if anyone here had any views on which of the translations was better?

9bjbookman
Jun 5, 2017, 4:50 pm

Great news about Solzhenitsyn's epic The Red Wheel novels. For the first time in English, March 1917 will be published in November. The University of Notre Dame is publishing the third knot, translated by Marian Schwartz.

10languagehat
Jun 5, 2017, 5:16 pm

I can't imagine a better translator!

11bjbookman
Nov 3, 2018, 1:27 pm

Norte Dame University Press has published Between Two Millstonesbook one of sketches of exile 1974-1978. my copy arrived November 1, 2018.

12kaggsy
Nov 3, 2018, 3:16 pm

>11 bjbookman: Oooh! Thanks for the heads up!

13marell
Nov 5, 2018, 2:37 pm

I read One Day in the Life many years ago, and, although I have never forgotten it, I had read nothing else by him until I bought for 50 cents Stories and Prose Poems, translated by Michael Glenny at my public library bookstore.

The prose poems are short and exquisite. My favorite stories so far are Matryona's House and The Easter Procession. I'm a tiny bit bored by For the Good of the Cause but haven't finished it so I may change my mind. To me, his writing is heartbreaking and beautiful.

14bjbookman
Mar 16, 2019, 11:44 am

Norte Dame University will publish Solzhenitsyn’s book two of The Red Wheel March 1917 in November of this year.

15helenco
Out 22, 2021, 7:29 pm

My Solzhenitsyn story started about 40 years ago, but I didn’t know it. Of course, I read A Day in the Life in school. Everyone my age had to. It was the height of the Cold War and we needed to be indoctrinated appropriately. Then in my late twenties, I was in a library unsure what I wanted to get so I randomly grabbed the first book on each of five shelves without looking at the title or author. One of them stuck with me, haunting me, Cancer Ward. I didn’t remember who the author was or that I would come to think of him as the best writer ever. It all came together when I read August 1914.

By profession, I am a History professor that specializes in World War I. It seems natural that I would be drawn to this, but I have had to replace my copy half a dozen times over the years. At one point, I had a rubber band around it to keep it together.

Once I fell for August 1914, I began to look for other works and realized I had already read Ivan and Cancer Ward, both of which had made a lasting impression and I was hooked for life. First Circle was my next and it is still my biggest wish to teach a comparative studies class on Ivan and First Circle. The two character’s experiences were so different.

One thing I really love about him is his sense of humor and the subtle digs you can find about the Soviet regime.

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