August 4th, 2008

Politics

One of the people who made me what I am...

...has died, and I really don't have the right words to explain what Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhensitsyn meant to me. It's not enough to say that part of the reason I wanted to be a Russian linguist was because I wanted to read Arkhipelag GULAG in the original; or that that book and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich changed the way I looked at the Soviet Union and Communism. Fortunately, James Lileks went through somewhat the same experience. I ran into Solzhenitsyn earlier than Lileks, and already knew the Soviets were bad news (I was, after all, an Air Force brat whose father worked at the Pentagon as a scorekeeper for the SIOP) but just how bad...holy mother of God, pray for us.

EDIT
Bitter words of wisdom:
Oh, Western freedom-loving "left-wing" thinkers! Oh, left-wing labourists! Oh, American, German and French progressive students! All of this is still not enough for you. The whole book has been useless for you. You will understand everything immediately, when you yourself — "hands behind the back" — toddle into our Archipelago.

This. One million times, this. (Wikiquote, via King Banaian There are also links to the Russian text of the book; wonder how long they'll last on those .ru servers.)
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