Monday, August 04, 2008

R.I.P. Solzhenitsyn

Reading Solzhenitsyn's obituary, it strikes me that the existence of his entire career can be traced to a single decision made by, of all people, Nikita Khrushchev:
Mr. Solzhenitsyn owed his initial success to Khrushchev's decision to allow "[One Day in the Life of] Ivan Denisovich" to be published in a popular journal. Khrushchev believed its publication would advance the liberal line he had promoted since his secret speech in 1956 on the crimes of Stalin.
Khrushchev personally read and decided to permit "Ivan Denisovich" to be published as a part of the anti-Stalinist period of liberalization referred to as the "Khrushchev Thaw." Had he decided the other way, Solzhenitsyn probably would have had no career at all -- no Cancer Ward or The Gulag Archipelago or any of the other works that would end up alienating him from Khrushchev's successors and ultimately contribute to the downfall of the Soviet Union itself.

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