Dostoyevsky And Solzhenitsyn: Their Bridge Over A Troubled Century
The world has heard a great deal about Alexander Solzhenitsyn lately. His audacious works, his unconventional stance among his fellow writers, and finally his unprecedented banishment by the Soviet government have thrust him into the world's spotlight. But a great deal of misunderstanding surrounds his novels. Hailed as exposes of a morally corrupt political system, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, First Circle, and Cancer Ward have been received by the West as ideological coups. My purpose in writing this paper is to deepen a comparatively scanty understanding of contemporary Soviet literature and life-—as perceived through the writing of Solzhenitsyn—and to view it within the context of the Russian literary tradition. In my effort to link the charisma of the present to the glories of the past, I have chosen Solzhenitsyn and Feodor Dostoyevsky as my poles of study. The bond that ties these authors exists in their lives, their works, and their purposes. For what Dostoyevsky has pursued on the level of individual man—realization of guilt, public confession of wrongdoing, and redemption through suffering—can be seen in Solzhenitsyn's work on the social level. His works demand that Russia comes to grips with the horror that existed at the time of Stalinand still exists. The confession and atonement he asks for will cleanse the Russian soul. The books that I have chosen to compare, the order and way in which they are discussed, and even the words I have used in my discussion of them should convey this typical Russian process: guilt, confession, redemption through suffering.