Sunday, August 03, 2008

RIP - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

While 89 is a good run, particularly given you spent some of your life, no matter how briefly, in a gulag, I'm still saddened by Solzenhitsyn's death. I remember One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich as one of the best books I read in high school, and The Gulag Archipelago, which I just read earlier this year, was remarkable in the way Solzenhitsyn chronicled the horrors of the Gulags and the state that supported them while maintaining an eloquent, heartbreaking writing style that was nothing short of brilliant. While he had been in poor health recently, it's still a sad loss, and everybody should read the Gulag Archipelago.

And not to be too snarky in this, but I was a little bothered by the obit's line that read "[his books] inspired millions, perhaps, with the knowledge that one person's courage and integrity could, in the end, defeat the totalitarian machinery of an empire." For those keeping count, the "one person" in media accounts and obituaries who brought down communism has now been Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, Boris Yeltsin, and now Solzhenitsyn. Maybe after the fifth "one man" dies, they'll get the picture that the Soviet Union and Communism "fell" for a wide range of reasons.