RIP Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
One of the most titanic figures of modern literature has died. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the novelist and (more importantly) chronicler of the vast system of Soviet prison camps, died in Moscow late Sunday night. John Podhoretz discusses the death and Solzhenitsyn’s autobiography The Oak and the Calf here. But that’s only the beginning: Solzhenitysn’s contributions to art and to political life are too vast and multifarious to cover with any single effort, and COMMENTARY has devoted a large amount of effort to analyzing and understanding what Solzhenitsyn meant as a moral and philosophical figure.
– Cultural critic Joseph Epstein attempts to explain his enduring importance in this 1996 article.
– COMMENTARY’S editor-at-large Norman Podhoretz examines Solzhenitsyn’s alleged anti-Semitism in "The Terrible Question of Aleksandr Solzhenitysn."
– Historian Robert Conquest reviews Solzhenitsyn’s Nobel lecture and his novel of Russia’s pre-Revolutionary crisis, August 1914.
– Literary essayist Lionel Abel reviews the second volume of Solzhenitsyn’s masterwork The Gulag Archipelago.
– Russia scholar Jeri Laber inquires after "The Real Solzhenitsyn."
– Novelist Dan Jacobson ponders "The Example of Solzhenitsyn."
Theses pieces, penetrating as they are, only start to explain the man, at once an unignorable truth-teller and an uncompromising reactionary, praised in the strongest terms by defenders of human freedom across the political spectrum, and damned by uncomprehending critics.