Aleksandr the Great

It would have been much better for Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's posthumous reputation if the KGB had killed him just before or shortly after he was expelled from the Soviet Union in February 1974. Had that happened, he would have been a figure like Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday we have just celebrated: above criticism, a martyr of sorts.

Not that being “above criticism” is really an enviable state. Solzhenitsyn, like King, was a genuinely great man and an inspiration to millions, but also all too human—as we all are. We should be able to talk about such a figure without lurching between hagiography and drive-by character assassination.

The year just gone, 2018, marked Solzhenitsyn's centenary: He was born on December 11, 1918 (an event I celebrate each year). You might suppose that this milestone would have prompted a number of meaty assessments considering many different aspects of Solzhenitsyn's life and work from various (by no means uniform!) literary, political, and religious viewpoints.

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