After his nonfiction forays, and while setting about his Red Wheel cycle of novels, Solzhenitsyn made fair mockery of our expectations of him. If we were going to invite him to give commencement addresses, we were going to be reminded, once again, of the special spiritual advantages of privation. We weren’t going to hear praise of our excesses, our shallowness, our engulfing vacuity. [Appropriately, I read his famous, scolding Harvard commencement address through a newspaper vending box in the Las Vegas bus station, the red lights of slot machines blinking on his face.] His message was no different than the prophet Isaiah’s: without the rudder and keel of discipline, and perhaps faith, freedom leads to its own paradoxical imprisonment: a torpor, a hollowness, a Selbstmord as real as the clang of a prison door. He wanted to put some of the dark and cold back into our brain-dissolving American sunshine.
10 October 2008
The saving grace of the dark and cold
Grateful for Richard Wirick's memorable reflection on Solzhenitsyn: