Solzhenitsyn

One word of truth shall outweigh the world. — Russian proverb

ISI Books has released The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings, 1947-2005 (650 pages; $30). This single volume compilation includes some of the Russian author’s most significant works, including poems, stories and miniatures (prose poems), essays and speeches in their entirety. There are also excerpts from the novels, memoirs and the extensive political and historical writings.

You can order the book online here.

In their introduction to the reader, editors Edward E. Ericson Jr. and Daniel J. Mahoney put forth the claim that “more than any other figure in the twentieth century, (Solzhenitsyn) exposed the ideological ‘lie’ at the heart of Communist totalitarianism.” Although “widely misunderstood” by journalists and academics, the editors assert that Solzhenitsyn “has been a consistent advocate of the rule of law, economic development fueled by human-scale technology, and a revived local self-government in Russia along the lines of the prerevolutionary zemstvos (local and provincial councils).”

“His writings powerfully capture the nature of an ideological regime built upon lies and maintained through the most hyperbolic violence,” the editors say. To the leftist-progressive mindset this was, in many circles, blameworthy. And one of the reasons that Solzhenitsyn has been so “widely misunderstood” by journalists and academics is his insistence on faith as the bedrock of morality, public and private. In an attempt to explain the “widespread hostility” to Solzhenitsyn in Russia and the West, Ericson and Mahoney point out that the writer “is one of a series of conservative-minded thinkers who brings together a measured critique of ‘anthropocentric humanism,’ with an appreciation of the liberty that is the centerpiece of Western civic life.”

This is from Solzhenitsyn’s June 1978 commencement address at Harvard:

… in early democracies, as in American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted on the ground that man is God’s creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding one thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual be granted boundless freedom with no purpose, simply for the satisfaction of his whims. Subsequently, however, all such limitations were eroded everywhere in the West; a total emancipation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice.

State systems were becoming ever more materialistic. The West has finally achieved the rights of man, and even to excess, but man’s sense of responsibility to God and society has grown dimmer and dimmer. In the past decades, the legalistic selfishness of the Western approach to the world has reached its peak and the world has found itself in a harsh spiritual crisis and a political impasse. All the celebrated achievements of progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the twentieth century’s moral poverty, which no one could have imagined even as late as the nineteenth century.