We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

“But though feted and exploited by questionable allies, Solzhenitsyn should be remembered for his role as a truth-teller. He risked his all to drive a stake through the heart of Soviet communism and did more than any other single human being to undermine its credibility and bring the Soviet state to its knees.”

Michael Scammell, on a writer and survivor of Soviet brutality, and who was born on Dec 11, 1918. So on a day after what would have been his centenary birthday, let’s celebrate his birth.

13 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • CaptDMO

    Or not.
    But let the Russians celebrate his birth!

  • Andrew Duffin

    Hear! Hear!

    A great, but difficult man; one of the very greatest.

    R.I.P.

  • Back in 1973, the BBC did what seemed to me a passable dramatisation of Solzhenitsyn’s play The Love Girl and the Innocent. (It can be found on the web if anyone wishes to see it.)

  • Paul Marks

    Good post – very true.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    You can also watch the 1970 British-Norwegian film of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich on YouTube here.

    It has the distinction of having been banned in Finland lest it harm the Finnish-Soviet relationship.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Although very young at the time, and generally unconcerned about politics, i seem to remember that Solzhenitsyn got a big play back in the 1970s in the Italian press; particularly in the left-wing weekly L’Espresso, which my family used to read. That was enlightened of the Italian press.

    Which leads to my question: does anybody remember what reception Solzhenitsyn’s writings got in your country, back then?

  • Mr Ed

    Snorri

    My recollection of Solzhenitsyn was, albeit as a child, acutely aware of the horrors of the Soviet Union, that everyone knew what he wrote was true, murder and terror on a Continental scale, and it was rather embarrassing and uncomfortable to dwell on, so he was grudgingly acknowledged and then most pretended it was alright and he was quietly shoved down the memory hole.

    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich does get a passing mention in (GRU defector) Viktor Suvorov’s works, The Liberators IIRC, where a minor authority figure pretends to get the name of the book wrong when disparaging it.

    I think that Andrew D sums him up, may I echo that.

    Had he not written that offending letter, how his life might have been different. Perhaps killed in the advance to Germany.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Thank you Mr Ed for the feedback.
    Maybe the reaction was not so different in Britain and Italy:
    it’s just that i accentuated the positive, and you the negative.
    (Still, the Communist Party was the 2nd largest in Italy at the time, so one might expect Italy to be much worse than Britain at the time.)

    And now i’ll watch the movie at Natalie’s link.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Thanks for the link, Natalie.

  • bobby b

    Snorri:

    I read One Day back when I was 13. Being that it was critical of the USSR and we were in the heyday of hard-core leftist Soviet worship in the student culture of the USA at the time, it wasn’t something that I boasted of to my friends, as we were all annoying little leftists and Solz just wasn’t cool.

    But he led me into other Russian authors, and eventually into Rand, and so by 17 I’d turned into a closet Soviet-hater. Which was tough to be while also being an SDS leader. Man, I was a conflicted kid.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Bobby: I had never heard of the SDS before, but looking them up on wikipedia i found that they shut down in 1969.
    That is weird (to me) because i am pretty sure that i did not read about Solzhenitsyn before the 1970s. And yet, looking at wikipedia again (Italian version) i find that One Day was translated+published in Italian already in 1963.
    I suppose that Solzhenitsyn got a big play in Italy only when Gulag Archipelago was published.

  • bobby b

    Snorri: The SDS functioned all the way to the end of the Viet Nam war, around 1975. Our local chapters didn’t even arise until around 1972. The org was always fractured into many different subgroups, and the main eastern org – the truly radical one, with the Weathermen and their ilk – did indeed dissolve in 1969. The Worker-Student Alliance side – to which we belonged – kept going. I read AS around 1970.

  • Tedd

    Snorri:

    My first exposure to The Gulag Archipelago was when my older brother read it, shortly after the first english language edition came out. I still have not read it myself, but I did skim through my brother’s copy and we had many discussion about it. I remember being shocked because, though I was no fan of the Soviet Union or communism even then, I had no idea the scope and scale of the evil that went on there. I was only just beginning to come to grips with Naziism, at that age (mid teens). But my recollection was that there was almost no reaction to it in Canada, other than a few book reviews in “highbrow” publications. I don’t think it had (or has even had today) much impact on Canadian society, sadly.

    On the plus side, we now have Jordan Peterson reminding Canadians of Solzhenitsyn’s writings–those who will listen–perhaps just in time.

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