Gulag update

by Andrea Elizabeth

I’ve reached page 450 of The Gulag Archipelago Volume 1. I probably wouldn’t have been able to get into this book before recently because of the technical content. I wouldn’t have now if Solzhenitsyn in his experimental way hadn’t made it literary instead of dry. He has a feel for when to add sensory descriptions to his names and dates. Even though the descriptions are of torture, it is then he makes eye contact. He doesn’t go into as much detail as modern authors would, and I’m thankful for that. It’s a delicate balance where an author respects his audience to know what they need to know and to trust them to gain proper appreciation without extraneous detail. Spielberg went too far in Schindler’s List, in my opinion. It feels as if it is a therapeutic retelling of his ordeal in prison, but he also tells the story of Russia as a country being taken over by the Soviets, and of many other individuals’ plights. It’s quite an accomplishment. There is a thread of “if only”, but not as much as I get from other accounts of regret of what could have been done to stop it. Maybe because he had hope in the revolution in his youth. He obviously comes to believe that things were better under the Tsars before that. I’m afraid to speculate about Russia, not only because of my ignorance, but because any kind of critique that finds anything positive about the Revolution seems to lend some justification for all the tortures. Better to be a backwards, in the worst judgments, Tsarist, or Orthodox for that matter, than to be a savvy, competitive,  torturing, murderering atheist.

While driving home from Church I read aloud to George Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard lecture containing his critique of the west. Some of the militant predictions seem to not be coming true, but his critiques of materialism are.