November 01, 1997

A Prophet and His Country

In November of 1962 – exactly 35 years ago – Novy Mir, the most authoritative Russian literary magazine at the time, published (upon the personal approval of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev) Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. The novel made Solzhenitsyn world-famous overnight, presaging his future role in Russian and world literature as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Russian writer of this century.

Russian Life is taking the anniversary of this publication – and the 80th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, which Solzhenitsyn documents in his most recent work, The Red Wheel – as an opportunity to look at the writer’s return to Russia after his twenty-year exile. Historian Roy Medvedev, who also suffered persecution under the Soviet regime, provides a retrospective of the great writer’s life and work. Medvedev, a staunch socialist, has long been a critic of Solzhenitsyn’s ideas, while respecting him as a great writer and thinker.

On the evening of February 14, 1974, a police car stopped near a house in the Bavarian Alps. It was the home of the famous German writer and Nobel laureate, Heinrich Böll. Out of the car emerged another Nobel laureate, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who had been arrested two days earlier in Moscow, accused of betraying his motherland, stripped of Soviet citizenship and exiled.

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