We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
The latest Solzhenitsyn book to appear in English, March 1917, focuses on the great turning point of Russian, indeed world, history: the Russian Revolution. Just a century ago, that upheaval and the Bolshevik coup eight months later ushered in something entirely new and uniquely horrible. Totalitarianism, as invented by Lenin and developed by Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and others, aspired to control every aspect of life, to redesign the earth and to remake the human soul. As a result, the environment suffered unequaled devastation and tens of millions of lives were lost in the Soviet Union alone. Solzhenitsyn, who spent the years 1945 to 1953 as a prisoner in the labor camp system known as the Gulag archipelago, devoted his life to showing just what happened so it could not be forgotten. One death is a tragedy but a million is a statistic, Stalin supposedly remarked, but Solzhenitsyn makes us envision life after ruined life. He aimed to shake the conscience of the world, and he succeeded, at least for a time.
In taking literature so seriously, Solzhenitsyn claimed the mantle of a “Russian writer,” which, as all Russians understand, means much more than a writer who happens to be Russian. It is a status less comparable to “American writer” than to “Hebrew prophet.”
Good advice. It turns out that The First Circle, which appeared in print some 50 years ago, was self-censored so the authorities would let it be published. In the last decade the uncensored version has been published. In the First Circle. From the Amazon review:
A major literary event 50 years in the making:In the First Circle is the first complete English translation of Nobel Prize–winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s “best novel” (Washington Post). With an introduction by Edward Erickson, this work by the author of The Gulag Archipelago is the story of a brilliant mathematician who finds himself locked in a Moscow prison filled with the country’s brightest minds and must decide whether to aid Stalin’s repressive state.