Acton Institute Powerblog

Teaching The Gulag Archipelago to American college students

In December, the PowerBlog is marking the centenary of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s birth (Dec. 11, 1918)

“Why didn’t they tell us this? I never heard this from my teachers.”

That’s the late Edward E. Ericson Jr., Solzhenitsyn scholar and Calvin College professor, describing a typical reaction in his classroom when his students first encountered Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago.

The video that follows below was found in the Acton archives. It is from the raw interview recording that ultimately was edited and published in the 2010 interview in Religion & Liberty titled, “Literature and the realm of moral values.”

In the interview, Ericson, who died in 2017 (see “Remembering Edward Ericson, Calvin College teacher and Solzhenitsyn scholar” on the PowerBlog) talked about working with Solzhenitsyn to produce an abridged version of The Gulag Archipelago. Distilled from the massive three-volume original, the abridged version appeared in 1985. In an note of appreciation, Solzhenitsyn thanked Ericson “for his generous initiative as well as his tactfulness, the literary taste, and the understanding of Western readers … “

John Couretas

is a writer and editor based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.