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The Warsaw Voice » Society » August 13, 2008
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From the editor
August 13, 2008   
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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is dead. Poland has a long list of writers who did their best to open the eyes of the West to the brutal reality of Soviet labor camps. We had the likes of Józef Czapski, Gustaw Herling Grudziński and Aleksander Watt to tell us, and anyone else who cared to listen, about the horrors of the system from personal experience. In the political arena things were clearer. There was the hysteria of Senator McCarthy. It took Solzhenitsyn, however, to finally smash intellectuals and artists in the face with the reality.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was first published in the Soviet Union in 1962 during a brief political thaw under Nikita Khrushchev. It was published by Poland's Polityka weekly soon afterwards, causing an uproar. Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970 and his magnum opus, The Gulag Archipelago, was published in Paris from 1973. Solzhenitsyn was arrested and banished from the Soviet Union. He returned home in 1994 in the wake of Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of glasnost.

It seemed that Solzhenitsyn was something of a new Leo Tolstoy, at once a bard, an oracle and a moral guiding light. Solzhenitsyn was immersed in the Russian soul and it finally swallowed him up. Although he brought the horrors of the Gulag Archipelago to the world, he did not show the younger generation the way ahead and never became the prophet of a new Russia. He is ultimately a tragic figure.
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