Alexander Solzhenitsyn has died at age 89. May he rest in peace.
Growing up, we had a lot of books in the house, probably in the neighborhood of several thousand. Among those books were some written by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, including The Cancer Ward, August 1914, and The Gulag Archipelago (three volumes), all of which I read as a child (it’s true, I read complicated books at a young age). While I can’t say I enjoyed them in the sense of them being a fun read, they certainly left a lasting impression.
There was a lot about Solzhenitsyn’s life that I didn’t know that I find interesting. I knew that The Gulag Archipelago was inspired by his time spent in the Gulag – eight years. But I didn’t know that, in 1974, he was stripped of his Soviet citizenship and deported for treason. What I don’t understand is why he was deported for treason instead of the traditional execution. Not that I’m complaining, mind you – just curiosity. Then in 1990, his citizenship was restored and he returned to Russia. I also didn’t know that he received the Novel Prize for Literature in 1970, although he couldn’t collect the prize until after being deported from the USSR in 1974.
I would definitely urge any of you who haven’t read his books, specifically August 1914 or The Gulag Archipelago, to read them. They provide a fascinating, if depressing, insight into the Russian and Soviet culture and history, and they are definitely worth reading.
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