A Tale of Two Commencement Addresses

At NRO, Matthew Spalding compares Solzhenitsyn's 1978 Harvard address with Hillary Clinton's recent address at Yale.

Solzhenitsyn eschewed the traditional clichés and head pats for the students, delivering instead a stunning analysis of the East and West, one which took seriously Harvard’s celebrated motto of Veritas — Truth — to speak of the imminent danger the West faced in losing not only the Cold War but also its democratic soul.
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Notre Dame to establish new American home for Solzhenitsyn research

In 2018 — the centenary of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s birth and the 40th anniversary of his prophetic Harvard commencement address — the University of Notre Dame will launch several initiatives connected to the work of this novelist, critic of Communism and 1970 Nobel laureate for literature. Through his writing on the system of forced labor camps in the Soviet Union, Solzhenitsyn brought worldwide awareness to the devastating core of totalitarianism.

The University’s plans include the acquisition and first English translations of Solzhenitsyn works, as well as major academic conferences and postdoctoral fellowships that will connect researchers from around the world to the manuscript and print collections held by the Hesburgh Libraries — which are among the most extensive holdings in the United States related to the life and work of Solzhenitsyn.  

Nobody lived a more powerful witness to the truth about the human person’s right to dignity, freedom and human flourishing than this great writer.
— O. Carter Snead
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40 Years Ago Today: When Solzhenitsyn Schooled Harvard

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At the American Conservative two days ago, Jeff Groom recapitulates the Harvard address and concludes that many of Solzhenitsyn's challenges to Western societies are yet to be met.

Forty years after a ‘World Split Apart’, as Americans search for answers to our present state of dissatisfaction, our leaders and citizens would be wise to heed the central theme of Solzhenitsyn’s message:

’It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.’

Solzhenitsyn’s Prescient Account of “A World Split Apart”

In a lecture full of striking pronouncements, this warning about the nature and quality of statesmanship stands out. The signs of a “threatened or perishing society,” Solzhenitsyn said, were two: “a decline of the arts [and] a lack of great statesmen. Indeed, sometimes the warnings are quite explicit and concrete.”
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National Review Cover Story on Harvard Address

Today marks exactly 40 years to the day that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn delivered his famous Harvard address.  In Chapter 4 of his memoirs of the West, Between Two Millstones—forthcoming in English this October—Solzhenitsyn reflects on the controversy spawned by his speech.  Those reflections are excerpted in the new issue of National Review.

Before my Harvard speech, I naïvely believed that I had found myself in a society where one can say what one thinks, without having to flatter that society. It turns out that democracy expects to be flattered. When I called out “Live not by lies!” in the Soviet Union, that was fair enough, but when I called out “Live not by lies!” in the United States, I was told to go take a hike.
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Wanda Urbanska in Harvard Magazine

A recent post on Harvard Magazine online from author Wanda Urbanska, a member of the Harvard graduating class of 1978, and present at Solzhenitsyn's famous address on 8th June of that year.

IF YOU THINK no one will remember your words next week, let alone next year, think again. In fact, try 40 years—as I was recently reminded when a startling invitation popped up in my LinkedIn account. It was in Cyrillic.
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Antoine Rault in Le Figaro

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Writing in Le Figaro yesterday, the French novelist Antoine Rault marvels at the phenomenon of Solzhenitsyn, calling him "one of the greatest writers of the 20th century".

For a writer today, at the beginning of the 21st century, when one of the greatest challenges for free societies is to fight against the falsification of history and facts, Solzhenitsyn must be read more than ever.

Caulfield and McKenna Radio Interview

Margot Caulfield, director of the Cavendish Historical Society and author of the young adult biography of Solzhenitsyn, The Writer Who Changed History, joins Vermont Edition to discuss the author's time in Cavendish.

Plus, Kevin McKenna, a Russian language and literature professor at the University of Vermont, discusses his research into the Russian writer and his path to fame, exile, and eventual return to his home country.

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Between Two Millstones to appear in English

The University of Notre Dame Press has announced the long-awaited English publication of BETWEEN TWO MILLSTONES, Book 1: Sketches of Exile—Solzhenitsyn’s memoirs of the West.  Book 1, covering the years 1974-1978, will appear in October in a first English translation by Peter Constantine. Book 2, covering 1978-1994, is slated for release in autumn 2019.

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Vermont History Museum to Host Solzhenitsyn Scholar for Talk

On Thursday, 17 May, University of Vermont Professor Kevin J. McKenna will be the guest speaker at a luncheon hosted by the Vermont History Museum. His talk is entitled, "No Man Is a Prophet in His Own Land’: Russia’s Loss Has Been Vermont’s Gain.”

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Open to the public, this event will occur in conjunction with the opening of a photo exhibit devoted to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and the time he spent living in Vermont (1975-1994). McKenna will present a general introduction to Solzhenitsyn and his life in Cavendish, as well as what his presence in Vermont meant for Vermonters.

This is the Vermont History Museum's "Third Thursday Talk" for May. The presentation will begin at 12:00pm.

Attendees will have a chance to view the Solzhenitsyn exhibit, which officially opens Saturday, 19 May. 

A Reflection on the 40th Anniversary of Solzhenitsyn's Harvard Address

In the May/June 2018 issue of Touchstone, L. Joseph Letendre reflects on the legacy of Solzhenitsyn's commencement address, "A World Split Apart", to Harvard graduates in 1978. 

Solzhenitsyn’s passing remark… that universities were becoming as much a slave to intellectual/political fashion as the press had become has only grown more pertinent.

"Reading Solzhenitsyn": Lyndon State College to Host Conference in September

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From September 6-9, 2018, the Institute of Russian Language, History, and Culture of Lyndon State College and Northern Vermont University will host a conference welcoming Solzhenitsyn researchers, including members of the academic community, writers, and museum officers. This International Scientific Conference is titled "Reading Solzhenitsyn" and it seeks to commemorate the contributions of the author, who would have turned 100 this year. 

The official languages of the conference will be English and Russian. Presented papers will be included in a book to be published after the conference. The organizing committee is accepting applications currently. 

View more details (.PDF)

Class on Solzhenitsyn's Fiction to Be Taught at University of Vermont During Fall 2018 Semester

Professor Kevin J. McKenna, a professor in the Department of German and Russian at the University of Vermont, plans to teach a semester-long course devoted to the fiction writing of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

The course description, provided by the department:

"Often compared both to Fyodor Dostoevsky as well as Leo Tolstoy, the fiction of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970. His works remain to this day so central to Russian literary culture that in 2006 Russian national television named them, along with Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, as the major national literary achievements in Russian fiction. In 2011, Time Magazine described Solzhenitsyn’s literary works as the main artistic achievements of the 20th century. To this day Solzhenitsyn’s writings are credited with exposing and “bringing down” the Soviet Union.  

The primary goal of this World Lit. 018/118 course will be to derive an understanding of the interplay between 20th-century history, society, and art as depicted in the fictional universe of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s novels, Cancer Ward) and In the First Circle). Closely related in theme, style and substance to the novels, his short story “Matryona’s House” and novella One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich will complete the reading list for this course. At all points of contact with Solzhenitsyn’s fiction one cannot help but pose one of Tolstoy’s original questions: “By what do we [humans] live/ Чем мы живём” and the 20th-century Soviet-era correlation “how does one survive with his/her conscience intact?” To better understand why a literary giant like Solzhenitsyn could not publish his fiction in his own country, this course will also consider the major philosophical, ethical and political constructs of Soviet “socialist realism” as practiced in the USSR in the 20th century."

 

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March 1917, Book 1:2017 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award Finalist

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Foreword Reviews recently announced their 2017 Indie Finalists; they have named March 1917: The Red Wheel, Node III, Book 1 as a finalist in the History category. Foreword Reviews highlights the best of the indie book publishing industry, including independent publishers and university presses. University of Note Dame Press published Book 1 of March 1917 in November 2017 as the first volume in its ongoing The Center for Ethics and Culture Solzhenitsyn Series.

Histories tend to collapse events into a single narrative; Solzhenitsyn insists on plurality. He explodes the Russian Revolution back into myriad voices and parts, disarrayed and chaotic, detailed and tumultuous. Combining historical research with newspaper headlines, street action, cinematic screenplay, and fictional characterization, the book is as immersive as binge-worthy television, no little thanks to this excellent translation that renders its prose as masterful in English as it was in Russian.
— Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers, November/December 2017

  

 

 

"A Witness and Prophet for History": A March 1917 Review

A review of March 1917, Book 1 by Lee Trepanier was recently published at VoegelinView.

Although it too can be distorted, literature has the unique capacity to persuade us of its truth when our own experience of life confirms it: it “bears within itself its own verification.”... March 1917 accomplishes this feat by concretely portraying the chaos, confusion, and tumult of the February Revolution. Solzhenitsyn’s depiction of the bread riots is an example where literature can portray more accurately–and more beautifully–than a historical analysis.

Solzhenitsyn Historian to Speak At The Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow 

Professor Brian McKenna of University of Vermont will speak at the The Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences at a seminar their task force is hosting in Moscow on 29 May 29 at 3PM.  McKenna's presentation is entitled, "No Man Is a Prophet in His Own Land: Vermont’s (USA) Centennial Observance of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Birth and Life". 

From the presentation's abstract:

"December 12, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of Nobel Prize Laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s birthday.  Born in Kislovodsk, Russia, Solzhenitsyn late in life became a resident of Cavendish, Vermont where he and his wife (Natalia Dmitriyevna) raised their three sons over the course of 18 years.  Why did this famous and brilliant Russian writer select Vermont for his new “home?” What was life like for a Russian-born writer in the verdant hills and valleys of  Vermont?  While Solzhenitsyn was certainly a “prophet” in his native Russia in the 1960s-1970s, why did the United States turn its “back” on their “new prophet” following his Harvard Commencement Lecture in 1978?  What explains the decision of everyday Vermonters in Cavendish to refuse to abandon Solzhenitsyn following the Harvard Lecture? And in Russia itself, was its proverbial prophet abandoned upon his return to his homeland in 1994? Can, indeed, “prophets” return to their homeland, be it Russia or Vermont?  And, if so, how did Russian proverbs sustain the daily life, and influence the literary works of this famous and invaluable Russian writer?  To address these questions, analysis will turn to the role of proverbs in Solzhenitsyn’s Nobel Prize Lecture, Мир спасёт красота/ "Beauty Will Save the World" as well as to his novella, Матрёнин двор/ "Matryona's Home"."