4 Aug 2008
RIP, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a hero, “a symbol of freedom and the durability of the human spirit,” as his obit in today’s Post has it. But let’s face it, readers, he was not a very good writer.
Did you ever actually try to read The Gulag Archipelago? It’s like being trapped down at the end of the bar, two hours before closing time, buttonholed by a blabbering drunk who keeps clutching your lapel or your sleeve. He can’t keep track of what he’s already told you, so he just keeps repeating himself, urgently, leaning in too close, breathing whiskey fumes in your face. You can’t get a word in edgeways, and you can’t get away because he’s physically blocking you. You can’t even go to the bathroom, even though your bladder’s bulging and you’re desperate to micturate. The hands clutch and tug insistently at your sleeve: No, but listen… You don’t understand… It was like this… Listen… It was like this…
It’s probably best if we honor the memory of Solzhenitsyn the man, not (unfortunately) Solzhenitsyn the writer.