Passing On

It was with some sadness that I found out that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn died a couple of days ago. It’s not because I’m his biggest fan ever or think of him as a particularly big influence on my writing – I’ve only read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. However, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich  was the first ‘proper’ book that I remember reading (unfortunately I cannot seem to find an image of the paperback version I read, which had a very distinctive and disturbing cover). It was my dad’s and on a whim I took it from the bookshelf when I was about 12 and decided to read it. It’s not very long, but I remember being gripped by it for the next couple of days. I couldn’t pronounce the author’s name at the time. I can’t even remember the details of the book now, except an underlying image of drab greyness and greenness, and something about buckets…

So, I’d like to spend a moment in memory of a great author whose work persuaded a young Gav that ‘proper’ novels were worth reading too.

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn did more for exposing the gulag and Soviet atrocities than most survivors. He was a great man and a true hero. I had hoped to meet him one day, though I had never thought beyond that. It seems so shallow now, but I had simply wanted to shake his hand, or maybe stand in the same room he stood in. I suppose that’s a selfish thought…so my prayers are with his family and friends, instead.


  2. A friend of mine in Sixth Form handed me ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’ that he’d borrowed from the city library. Not a common thing for him to do and I was a bit unimpressed by the small size. “Trust me, it’s good”, he said; I’m not sure that ‘good’ is the right word, but it certainly sticks in my mind as the best example to me also that ‘proper’ novels can be worth reading too. Sadly, most are petty tripe still, and thus ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’ is still a stand-out rather than gateway novel to me. But anyone who hasn’t read it, I strongly recommend it too.


  3. Dear Gav:

    I haven’t read that much Solzhenitsyn–One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Cancer Ward, and the first volume of the Gulag Archipelago–however, I was very interested in the guy and read D. M. Thomas’ biography a few years back, which I commend to your readers.

    Upon his death I began to think about this phenomenon of “writer as saint,” or, more specifically, how we (I) tend to raise writers up and endow them with superhuman qualities, even when I haven’t read all of their work. Is this common or just a peculiarity of mine? I don’t know the answer. Maybe it has something to do with my perceived notion that writing is sacred.

    All I do know is that Solzhenitsyn lived for his writing and his thought, which in my “book” is very admirable.

    Another bizarre thought is that a man–Solzhenitsyn–referred to another man–Stalin– as that “mustache guy” and was sentenced to eight years imprisonment and exile. His experience birthed his work, which now resides as a major part of the world’s literary canon.

    Best Regards,



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