I'm not sure how much coverage U.S. commercial media is giving to the death of Alexander Solzhenitsyn
, but the BBC and NPR both devoted significant time to retrospectives on his impact on Russian society and Western awareness of Soviet atrocities. The phrase "Russian author" carries a certain expectation of greatness like "French chef" and "Italian fashion designer." Solzhenitsyn may be the golden exemplar of that category for the Soviet era.
The only Solzhenitsyn work I've read is One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
. As a 16-year-old, my literary preferences tended to the grand and fantastic, authors like Tolkien and Poe. Ivan Denisovich was a very different sort of story, one intensely personal and practical. Solzhenitsyn wrote so well that I was thoroughly engrossed in the matter of a prisoner's spoon for page upon page. I remember sitting in the back of the dark multi-purpose room during Midsummer Night's Dream rehearsal, reading the challenges of a gulag prisoner by the light of the sound booth. Along with Bartleby, the Scrivener
, Ivan Denisovich opened my sensibilities to the personal existential story. Thanks, Pfoots.