Tuesday, 5 August 2008

An honest assessment of Solzhenitsyn

I read Solzhenitsyn back in the 1980s more out of duty than pleasure. Maybe it was the translator, but his prose was never easy to like. Still, he was mooted as the enemy of Soviet totalitarianism and that was good enough. George Handlery provides a measured and honest assessment of AIS' life and worth by one who knew him well on The Brussels Journal

It's worthwhile not forgetting that AIS was above all a Russian nationalist; he opposed communism, not Russian imperialism. He strongly opposed the West's intervention in Serbia, hated the eastward expansion of Europe and strongly backed Putin's criminal cabal as providing the ruthlessly strong leadership that Russia needed:
The implied message is that Russia needs and deserves a strong leader. With this, the past mutes smoothly into the present. The man who had spent eight years in the Gulag run by the KGB detects in Putin, who is still proud of his outfit, the needed strong leader. Accordingly, Putin is the protector who shields the land from “Western encroachment”, one who assumes the burden of keeping Russia powerful in the world and in order at home. Appropriately, in 2007, celebrating the Day of Russia, the Putin-system formally expressed its gratitude for the endorsement to Solzhenitsyn by awarding him the highest civilian decoration Russia has.
Yet for all his faults he stood as an icon of resistance to totalitarianism at a time when one was sorely needed. And Handlery is fair in saying:
The physical death of AIS nudges one to pen something as laudatory as our conventions demand. Yet, the truly great deserve more than homilies: by definition, their stature rests on a firm fundament. That pedestal will withstand all aspects of the truth and its contradictions. Solzhenitsyn was a great man. However, as a man, he cannot be expected to have been free of fault. Obituaries prompt those who remember publicly to lie piously. AIS is culturally and politically too significant to require cheap homage. In view of his achievements, he deserves more than a ceremonial laudation painted in colors made more vivid than those of the reality he had shaped.

4 comments:

Sabretache said...

"Putin's Criminal Cabal" ???

I suggest you take a good hard look at the Bush White House and a dozen or more of it's servile allied 'governments' (ie criminal cabals) in the phoney 'war on terror' before coming off the fence in quite such an unequivocal fashion.

Russia has good reason to be hopping mad at the triumphalist bad faith of the so-called 'Western Alliance'. Putin may be a ruthless and cunning political operator but he enjoys vastly greater popularity in his own country than any comparable Western leader - and his alleged criminality pales in comparison to that routinely indulged by many of his western counterparts too.

Newmania said...

I could never face it myself and judging from Andrew O Hagn`s sly titter it was time well saved .


If you have not read them I would suggest Nabokov`s short stories are well worth finding and reading .Some of the best things I have ever read

Nick Drew said...

Since you were kind enough to flatter my last effort, Mr R: I've stuck up another: this one's in tribute, to a man I'm a bit equivocal about myself

Newmania said...

( That Drew is shameless )