Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Early Life

A Great Russian novelist, historian, and philosopher, Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn was born on the 11th of December in 1819 in Kislovodsk, former Russian SFSR. His father, Isaakiy Semyonovich Solzhenitsyn, was of Russian descent, while his mother, Taisiya Zakharovna, was Ukrainian. Unfortunately, his father died before his birth in an accident, and he was raised by his aunt and a widowed mother in strained financial circumstances. During his early years, Aleksandr witnessed the Russian Civil War, which added more to their miseries; the family had to keep their father’s army background a secret, and their property was turned into a collective farm. However, his educated mother provided him with an initial grounding in literary readings at home.

Education and Warfare

After receiving initial education from his dedicated mother, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn graduated from high school in 1936 and later attended Rostov University on the Stalin Scholarship. Although he studied physics and mathematics at the university, he followed his literary passions and produced various literary works during that time. Despite several efforts, his initial works did not receive any favorable acceptance. Later, he took part in World War II in 1945 and was arrested for writing a letter criticizing Joseph Stalin, former Soviet leader. Aleksandr spent eight years in prison and later settled in Ryazan, where he began teaching. Also, he took up writing seriously and produced various literary works.

Personal Life

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn married twice. He met his first wife, Natalia Alekseevna Reshetovskaya, at Rostov University, and the couple tied the knot in 1940. After a year, he went to the war, which took fifteen years of his life, leading him to endure imprisonment and torture at the Gulag.  Unfortunately, the couple parted ways in 1952 during these trying times. After his exile, they reunited with Natalia in 1957 but again failed to develop a lasting union and divorced a second time in 1972. The following year, he married for the second time with Natalia Dmitrievna Svetlova, and they stayed together till his death.

Some Important Facts about Him

  1. He died of heart failure on the 3rd of August in 2008 at the age of eighty-nine.
  2. He is widely known for his work, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which sold more than one million copies.
  3. He won Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970 and the Russian State Prize in 2007.

His Career

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s troublesome life shaped his creative brain and motivated him to transfer his ideas and emotions on paper. The gruesome war experiences provided him with material for his works, The First Circle and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, published in 1962. Later, he recounts the details of his arrest in The Gulag Archipelago. His other writings include For the Good of the Cause, The Love-Girl and the Innocent, August 1914, Prussian Nights, and The Oak and the Calf.

His Style

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s writing style followed 19th-century traditions, particularly the distinct moralizing style of Lev Tolstoy. Unlike Tolstoy, he also touched upon Russian classic traditional traits and philosophy in his modern characters, such as his work The Red Wheel, which presents a perfect blend of fiction and history. Similarly, his book, Gulag Archipelago, reflects the traits of 20th-century prison literature. In most of his works, he narrated the past incidents precisely how they occurred, following a logical sequence and connectivity—some of the major themes in his writings are warfare, politics, Soviet Socialist Realism, and history.

Some Important Works of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

  • Best Writings: Some of his major writings include Prussian Nights, The Love-Girl and the Innocent, The First Circle, Cancer Ward, The Red Wheel: August 1914, The Gulag Archipelago, The Oak and the Calf, Two Hundred Years Together and An Incident at Krechetovka Station.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Impact on Future Literature

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s remarkable legacy and reader’s interest in his writings speaks volumes about his influence. His literary career spans more than sixty years, giving him an ample chance to create historical writing, novellas, and short stories in prison and the camps. His historical fictions provide readers insight into the human psyche and the political pressure he bore during his Gulag years. Writers and readers, who share his interests in politics, keep his popularity going. This Russian literary czar has won critical acclaim around the globe, making him an iconic model for young writers to see the future in his style.

Famous Quotes

  1. “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years.” – The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956
  2. “Human rights’ are a fine thing, but how can we make ourselves sure that our rights do not expand at the expense of the rights of others. A society with unlimited rights is incapable of standing to adversity. If we do not wish to be ruled by a coercive authority, then each of us must rein himself in…A stable society is achieved not by balancing opposing forces but by conscious self-limitation: by the principle that we are always duty-bound to defer to the sense of moral justice.” – Rebuilding Russia: Reflections and Tentative Proposals
  3. “The meaning of earthly existence lies not, as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering but in the development of the soul.” – Cancer Ward
  4. “If only it were all so simple! 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?” – The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956