The Legacy of Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Aug 11, 2019 by

by Joseph Pearce, The Imaginative Conservative:

Solzhenitsyn: The Historical-Spiritual Destinies of Russia and the West by Lee Congdon (164 pages, Northern Illinois University Press, 2017).

This December will mark the centenary of the birth of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. It is, therefore, good to see the publication of a book which encapsulates Solzhenitsyn’s intellectual engagement with the twentieth century through an integration of his corpus into its historical, political, philosophical, and religious context.

[…]  Dr. Congdon’s approach is implicitly Christian, which is refreshing in itself, and is suffused with a sympathy for the Orthodoxy that beats at the heart of Solzhenitsyn’s life and work. This is evident in the two epigraphs at the start of the book. The first is by Dostoevsky (“Without God… everything is permitted.”) and the second by Solzhenitsyn (“Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”) This juxtaposition of Dostoevsky with Solzhenitsyn is also appropriate as an indication of the comparative and intertextual approach which animates Dr. Congdon’s discussion of Solzhenitsyn’s place in the wider cultural context. So, for instance, the first chapter “Revolution and War” begins with Solzhenitsyn’s birth in 1918, but proceeds backwards into the immediate past, discussing the upheavals of the preceding year, and then goes further back to the birth of Lenin in 1870 and the cultural backdrop to Lenin’s life. We hear of the place of “so-called Tolstoyan religion, which accepted the teachings of Jesus but not his divinity” and of Lenin’s splenetic hatred of Christianity in general and of Russian Orthodoxy in particular. “Every religious idea,” Lenin wrote to Maxim Gorky, “every idea of God, even every flirtation with the idea of god is unutterable vileness.”

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