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In From the Cold


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Solzhenitsyn’s Ivan Denisovich at 60.
Robin Ashenden
25 Nov 2022

Sixty years ago, on Saturday, November 17th, 1962, a book was published in the Soviet Union that almost certainly changed the world. It would be the first step in a writer’s public exposure of an entire political system, and it was taken at great personal risk. Almost overnight, it made its author world famous, and decades later, historians and critics would still be describing him as “the dominant writer of the 20th century,” and observing that he had helped “to bring down the greatest tyranny the world has ever known.” The book in question was One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and the writer—who would later win a Nobel Prize and sell 30 million copies of his work—was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

(Snip)

This is a story not of one Aleksandr but of two. Aleksandr Tvardovsky was Novy Mir’s legendary editor and an accomplished poet from a peasant family in Smolensk. He had achieved fame during World War II for his epic verse about a common soldier named Vasily Tyorkin, which resonated with the general public. It helped that Tvardovsky was also a convinced Stalinist at the time. “What would have become of me without the Revolution?” he was apt to wonder aloud. He had been so in love with Bolshevism from the start that he’d denounced his own father to the police. It was an act for which his later career as an anti-Stalinist editor was surely an attempt to atone.

*By the time he received Solzhenitsyn’s manuscript, Tvardovsky, like the country, had been through a sea-change. Following Khrushchev’s revelations about the great dictator, the editor had turned on his former idol. He was finally able to acknowledge to himself that his infatuation was in fact bottled-up hatred. Tormented by his own past decisions—even in the Khrushchev era he’d denounced Boris Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago, a work of genius that had nonetheless displeased the authorities—Tvardovsky berated himself and drank like a dromedary.

Yet even when drunk, he would never, said Novy Mir colleague Vladimir Lakshin, utter a word to hurt anyone “with whom he felt a sincere affinity” or speak highly of anything he “would not praise when sober.” He had, added Lakshin, a “particular dignity and moral strength,” a “simplicity and gentle sense of humour” that made him loved by those who worked under him. What made Tvardovsky a “true editor, an editor unlike others,” Solzhenitsyn said later, was that he yearned “to discover new authors, as feverishly, passionately, as any prospector longs to find gold.” But of all his discoveries, the best, brightest, and finally the most rebellious and ungrateful, would always be Solzhenitsyn, whose manuscript had just landed on his desk.

(Snip)

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* 1. It  was NOT The Man (Stalin) It was The System. The system that allowed, you could say Required a Stalin, A Lenin, A Beria. And  when he died and Khrushchev denounced him, The System went on without skipping a beat. 2. It's been 32 years since  the fall of the USSR, which means IMO unless you are over 40-45-50 you have no idea how Evil it was. 3.  The Cold War MAY be over,But the Ideology is dong quite well.

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