Sunday, August 10, 2008

Forgotten Posts from the past: Christopher Hitchens on Solzhenitsyn

"Every now and then it happens. The state or the system encounters an individual who, bafflingly, maddeningly, absurdly, cannot be broken. Should they manage to survive, such heroes have a good chance of outliving the state or the system that so grossly underestimated them. Examples are rather precious and relatively few, and they include Nelson Mandela refusing an offer to be released from jail (unless and until all other political detainees were also freed) and Alexander Solzhenitsyn having to be deported from his country of birth against his will, even though he had become—and had been before—a prisoner there....

To have fought his way into Hitler's East Prussia as a proud Red Army soldier in the harshest war on record, to have been arrested and incarcerated for a chance indiscretion, to have served a full sentence of servitude and been released on the very day that Stalin died, and then to have developed cancer and known the whole rigor and misery of a Soviet-era isolation hospital—what could you fear after that?...

As time went by, he metamorphosed more and more into a classic Russian Orthodox chauvinist, whose work became more wordy and propagandistic and—shall we be polite?—idiosyncratic with every passing year.

more in Slate, about the man who helped expose the death and despair of the Soviet system, who later became a supporter of the post-Soviet authoritarian system that now grips Russia in its cold, dark, strangle of fiction and fear.

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