It’s about time

by Andrea Elizabeth

Though I’m in the middle of Bleak House, after hearing the Gulag Archipelago recommended again, yesterday I impulsively made a trip to the Library, which luckily has all 3 volumes. I like how Solzhenitsyn is telling the story for the sake of those who lived through it. What happens matters, as he describes further in the introduction:

By an unexpected turn of our history, a bit of the truth, an
insignificant part of the whole, was allowed out in the open. But
those same hands which once screwed tight our handcuffs now
hold out their palms in reconciliation: “No, don’t! Don’t dig up
the past! Dwell on the past and you’ll lose an eye.”

But the proverb goes on to say: “Forget the past and you’ll
lose both eyes.”

Decades go by, and the scars and sores of the past are healing
over for good. In the course of this period some of the islands
of the Archipelago have shuddered and dissolved and the polar
sea of oblivion rolls over them. And someday in the future, this
Archipelago, its air, and the bones of its inhabitants, frozen in
a lens of ice, will be discovered by our descendants like some im-
probable salamander.

I would not be so bold as to try to write the history of the
Archipelago. I have never had the chance to read the documents.
And, in fact, will anyone ever have the chance to read them?
Those who do not wish to recall have already had enough time —
and will have more — to destroy all the documents, down to the
very last one.

I have absorbed into myself my own eleven years there not as
something shameful nor as a nightmare to be cursed: I have come
almost to love that monstrous world, and now, by a happy turn
of events, I have also been entrusted with many recent reports
and letters. So perhaps I shall be able to give some account of
the bones and flesh of that salamander — which, incidentally, is
still alive.

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