Monday, August 04, 2008

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Is Dead at 89

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Is Dead at 89

MOSCOW (AP) -- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Prize-winning author
whose books chronicled the horrors of the Soviet gulag system, has
died of heart failure, his son said Monday. He was 89.

Stepan Solzhenitsyn told The Associated Press his father died late
Sunday, but declined further comment.

Solzhenitsyn's unflinching accounts of torment and survival in the
Soviet Union's slave labor camps riveted his countrymen, whose secret
history he exposed. They earned him 20 years of bitter exile, but
international renown.

And they inspired millions, perhaps, with the knowledge that one
person's courage and integrity could, in the end, defeat the
totalitarian machinery of an empire.

Beginning with the 1962 short novel "One Day in the Life of Ivan
Denisovich," Solzhenitsyn devoted himself to describing what he called
the human "meat grinder" that had caught him along with millions of
other Soviet citizens: capricious arrests, often for trifling and
seemingly absurd reasons, followed by sentences to slave labor camps
where cold, starvation and punishing work crushed inmates physically
and spiritually.

His "Gulag Archipelago" trilogy of the 1970s shocked readers by
describing the savagery of the Soviet state under the dictator Josef
Stalin. It helped erase lingering sympathy for the Soviet Union among
many leftist intellectuals, especially in Europe.

But his account of that secret system of prison camps was also
inspiring in its description of how one person -- Solzhenitsyn himself
-- survived, physically and spiritually, in a penal system of
soul-crushing hardship and injustice.

The West offered him shelter and accolades. But Solzhenitsyn's refusal
to bend despite enormous pressure, perhaps, also gave him the courage
to criticize Western culture for what he considered its weakness and

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