Getting Solzhenitsyn Right

Years after his arrest by the Soviet authorities, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, while recuperating in a prison hospital after a cancerous tumor had been cut from his body, cast out the last remnant of a spiritual tumor from his soul. A prison doctor, soon to die by the hand of another zek, "fervently" recounted to Solzhenitsyn his conversion to Christianity. "I am convinced," he told the feverish cancer patient, "that there is no punishment that comes to us in this life on earth which is undeserved." "I shudder," wrote Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago. "Formerly you never forgave anyone. You judged people without mercy. . . . You have come to realize your own weakness—and you can therefore understand the weakness of others. And be astonished at another's strength. And wish to possess it yourself. . . . We are ascending."

"Solzhenitsyn is a Christian writer," wrote theologian Alexander Schmemann in 1970, before the great artist had publicly proclaimed his faith. The Christian theme of creation, fall, and redemption is indeed at the core of Solzhenitsyn's art and is invisible only to those who suffer from spiritual myopia, a condition as prevalent in the liberal democracies of the West as it was in the Soviet Union and which distorts all that is seen through the secular lense of politics. Edward Ericson, in Solzhenitsyn and the Modern World...

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