Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn quotes

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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Birthdate: 11. December 1918
Date of death: 3. August 2008
Other names: Aleksandr Isaevič Solženicyn, Alexander Solženicyn, Aleksandr Isaevic Solzhenitsyn

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn was a Russian novelist, historian, and short story writer. He was an outspoken critic of the Soviet Union and communism and helped to raise global awareness of its Gulag forced labor camp system. He was allowed to publish only one work in the Soviet Union, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich , in the periodical Novy Mir. After this he had to publish in the West, most notably Cancer Ward , August 1914 , and The Gulag Archipelago . Solzhenitsyn was awarded the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature". Solzhenitsyn was afraid to go to Stockholm to receive his award for fear that he would not be allowed to reenter. He was eventually expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974, but returned to Russia in 1994 after the state's dissolution.

Works

The First Circle
The First Circle
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Cancer Ward
Cancer Ward
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
The Oak and the Calf
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
The Gulag Archipelago
The Gulag Archipelago
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
The Red Wheel
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Two Hundred Years Together
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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„Who will co-ordinate these value scales, and how? Who will create for mankind one system of interpretation, valid for good and evil deeds, for the unbearable and the bearable, as they are differentiated today? Who will make clear to mankind what is really heavy and intolerable and what only grazes the skin locally? Who will direct the anger to that which is most terrible and not to that which is nearer?“

—  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Nobel lecture (1970)
Context: Who will co-ordinate these value scales, and how? Who will create for mankind one system of interpretation, valid for good and evil deeds, for the unbearable and the bearable, as they are differentiated today? Who will make clear to mankind what is really heavy and intolerable and what only grazes the skin locally? Who will direct the anger to that which is most terrible and not to that which is nearer? Who might succeed in transferring such an understanding beyond the limits of his own human experience? Who might succeed in impressing upon a bigoted, stubborn human creature the distant joy and grief of others, an understanding of dimensions and deceptions which he himself has never experienced? Propaganda, constraint, scientific proof — all are useless. But fortunately there does exist such a means in our world! That means is art. That means is literature.
They can perform a miracle: they can overcome man's detrimental peculiarity of learning only from personal experience so that the experience of other people passes him by in vain. From man to man, as he completes his brief spell on Earth, art transfers the whole weight of an unfamiliar, lifelong experience with all its burdens, its colours, its sap of life; it recreates in the flesh an unknown experience and allows us to possess it as our own.
And even more, much more than that; both countries and whole continents repeat each other's mistakes with time lapses which can amount to centuries. Then, one would think, it would all be so obvious! But no; that which some nations have already experienced, considered and rejected, is suddenly discovered by others to be the latest word. And here again, the only substitute for an experience we ourselves have never lived through is art, literature. They possess a wonderful ability: beyond distinctions of language, custom, social structure, they can convey the life experience of one whole nation to another. To an inexperienced nation they can convey a harsh national trial lasting many decades, at best sparing an entire nation from a superfluous, or mistaken, or even disastrous course, thereby curtailing the meanderings of human history.

„Here, lads, we live by the law of the taiga. But even here people manage to live.“

—  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, book One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Kuziomin, in the Ralph Parker translation (1963).
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962)
Context: Here, lads, we live by the law of the taiga. But even here people manage to live. D’you know who are the ones the camps finish off? Those who lick other men’s left-overs, those who set store by the doctors, and those who peach on their mates.

„We, holding Art in our hands, confidently consider ourselves to be its masters“

—  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Nobel lecture (1970)
Context: We, holding Art in our hands, confidently consider ourselves to be its masters; boldly we direct it, we renew, reform and manifest it; we sell it for money, use it to please those in power; turn to it at one moment for amusement — right down to popular songs and night-clubs, and at another — grabbing the nearest weapon, cork or cudgel — for the passing needs of politics and for narrow-minded social ends. But art is not defiled by our efforts, neither does it thereby depart from its true nature, but on each occasion and in each application it gives to us a part of its secret inner light.

„Our Twentieth Century has proved to be more cruel than preceding centuries, and the first fifty years have not erased all its horrors.“

—  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Nobel lecture (1970)
Context: Our Twentieth Century has proved to be more cruel than preceding centuries, and the first fifty years have not erased all its horrors. Our world is rent asunder by those same old cave-age emotions of greed, envy, lack of control, mutual hostility which have picked up in passing respectable pseudonyms like class struggle, racial conflict, struggle of the masses, trade-union disputes. The primeval refusal to accept a compromise has been turned into a theoretical principle and is considered the virtue of orthodoxy. It demands millions of sacrifices in ceaseless civil wars, it drums into our souls that there is no such thing as unchanging, universal concepts of goodness and justice, that they are all fluctuating and inconstant. Therefore the rule — always do what's most profitable to your party. Any professional group no sooner sees a convenient opportunity to BREAK OFF A PIECE, even if it be unearned, even if it be superfluous, than it breaks it off there and then and no matter if the whole of society comes tumbling down.

„In different places over the years I have had to prove that socialism, which to many western thinkers is a sort of kingdom of justice, was in fact full of coercion, of bureaucratic greed and corruption and avarice, and consistent within itself that socialism cannot be implemented without the aid of coercion.“

—  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Interview with Joseph Pearce, Sr. (2003)
Context: In different places over the years I have had to prove that socialism, which to many western thinkers is a sort of kingdom of justice, was in fact full of coercion, of bureaucratic greed and corruption and avarice, and consistent within itself that socialism cannot be implemented without the aid of coercion. Communist propaganda would sometimes include statements such as "we include almost all the commandments of the Gospel in our ideology". The difference is that the Gospel asks all this to be achieved through love, through self-limitation, but socialism only uses coercion. This is one point.
Untouched by the breath of God, unrestricted by human conscience, both capitalism and socialism are repulsive.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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