The dramatic publication in 1962 of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich catapulted an obscure Russian schoolteacher and writer into the international spotlight. That work, however, marks not the beginning but the continuation of a long period of secretive literary activity that had begun in prison, camp, and exile and that intensified after Solzhenitsyn’s return to “freedom” in 1956. Solzhenitsyn’s arrest on 9 February 1945 began an intellectual and spiritual odyssey that culminated in his definitive break with Communism and his return to the patriotic and religious convictions of his youth. Therefore, it is to his early writings that one must turn to appreciate the genesis of his remarkably multifaceted intellectual and literary project. His luminous poems from prison, camp, and exile illustrate not the end of the journey but rather the attainment of that settled “point of view” that would henceforth inform all of Solzhenitsyn’s subsequent writings. Of these, the narrative poem Dorozhen’ka (The Trail, The Road, The Way) most fully conveys the arduous path that eventually led to Solzhenitsyn’s radical and definitive break with Communism.
– From The Solzhenitsyn Reader, by Edward Ericson and Daniel J. Mahoney, ISI, 2006
The Trail is an autobiographical poem of more than 7,000 lines published in Russian in 1999. Its author composed the poem between 1947 and 1952 under the worst of circumstances: as a prisoner of the Soviet state and without the benefit of pen and paper.
Poems: Prison, Camp, and Exile
The poems composed in prison, camp, and exile provide much information that is directly autobiographical. This includes musings on incarceration as a special state of being, on the bitter irony of prisoners being forced to build more prisons, on prison as a home that effects an irreversible change in the mentality of its inhabitants, and on the counterintuitive contrast between prison and the Stalinesque world outside the barbed wire.
– From The Soul and Barbed Wire, by Edward E. Ericson, Jr. and Alexis Klimoff, ISI, 2008
Love the Revolution
Composed primarily in 1948, but not published until 1999, Love the Revolution is an unfinished novel that Solzhenitsyn penned during his time in the Marfino sharashka. An English translation by Alexis Klimoff and Michael Nicholson is currently in progress.