“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” — Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago.
Russian writer, and 1970 Nobel laureate, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn was born 100 years ago today. His experiences – in labor camps after having been accused of anti-soviet propaganda late in World War II, followed by internal exile for several years, undergoing cancer treatment following his release from exile – were the basis for much of his poetry, novels, and short stories. The only book that he had been permitted to publish in the USSR was One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich in 1962. (a perennial college favorite). He opted to publish his subsequent works outside of the country. He was ultimately deported from the USSR in 1974, and did not return to Russia until 1994, where he remained until his death in 2008. The Gulag Archipelago, published in 1973, drew broad attention in the West to the conditions in the Soviet labor camps. It even inspired a song by the band, Renaissance – which I’ve helpfully included below (and strangely, I was at that 1976 concert – odd what you find on YouTube).
The quote above, though, is another of my favorites (and yes, I really did read the book when it was released, but yes, it took me quite a bit of time to wade through in fits & starts). A gloomy thought worthy of a Russian novel, but profound nonetheless.
1974 photo of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn in West Germany following his deportation from the USSR borrowed from Wikipedia.