Thursday, August 4, 2011

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn (December 11 1918-August 3, 2008)

Solzhenitsyn, 1994

Friends! Let us try to help if we are worth anything at all! Who from time immemorial has constituted the uniting, not the dividing, strength in your countries, lacerated by discordant parties, movements, castes and groups? There in its essence is the position of writers: expressers of their native language - the chief binding force of the nation, of the very earth its people occupy, and at best of its national spirit. ...

And the simple step of a simple courageous man is not to partake in falsehood, not to support false actions! Let THAT enter the world, let it even reign in the world - but not with my help. But writers and artists can achieve more: they can CONQUER FALSEHOOD! In the struggle with falsehood art always did win and it always does win! Openly, irrefutably for everyone! Falsehood can hold out against much in this world, but not against art.

And no sooner will falsehood be dispersed than the nakedness of violence will be revealed in all its ugliness - and violence, decrepit, will fall.

That is why, my friends, I believe that we are able to help the world in its white-hot hour. Not by making the excuse of possessing no weapons, and not by giving ourselves over to a frivolous life - but by going to war!

Proverbs about truth are well-loved in Russian. They give steady and sometimes striking expression to the not inconsiderable harsh national experience:


Alexandr Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970. The Gulag Archipelago had been published in 1969. This is an excerpt of his Nobel address, which was delivered to the Swedish Academy and not read publicly in a ceremony, since Solzhenitsyn feared he would not be able to return to Russia if he traveled to Stockholm. Solzhenitsyn received his prize at the 1974 ceremony after he had been deported from the Soviet Union. He returned in 1990 when his Soviet citizenship was restored. He died on August 3, 2008 at the age of eighty-nine.

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