Arkhipelag Gulag

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn died yesterday. Much has been (and more will be) written about his life's struggle against the Soviet oppression of Russia. As an author Solzhenitsyn perhaps contributed something toward the crumbling of that oppression; then again, perhaps as Tolstoy argued, those who consciously try to affect the world have less effect than they and others imagine. Perhaps it doesn't matter.

My strongest memory of Solzhenitsyn is a linguistic/literary/metaphorical one. I'm sitting on a bus in 1980 at the Pentagon, that famous American fortress of military bureaucracy, reading the translator's note at the front of Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago. The book's title in Russian is Архипелаг ГУЛАГ, pronounced something like "ARK-ee-PEL-ag GOOL-ag". Those simple words have a rhythm and rhyme impossible to convey in any other language. "GULag" is the Russian acronym for the USSR's "Corrective Labor Camp" administration. An archipelago is a chain of islands. Together, a perfect metaphor: the Gulag's forced-labor camps stretched like a dotted line across the vast Russian wilderness.

I'm profoundly moved ... wish I could learn a little Russian ... wish I could write a little better. I still wish for both.

(cf. Great Writers (2003-01-02), Single Digit Run (2004-01-05), ... ) - ^z - 2008-08-04


(correlates: GreatWriters, 8 Comments on Arkhipelag Gulag, StirTheStonesToSong, ...)