Jay Nordlinger on Solzhenitsyn: A life and an Example

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Over at National Review, senior editor Jay Nordlinger reflects on Solzhenitsyn’s legacy.

In 2001, I interviewed a woman named Youqin Wang, a lecturer in Chinese at the University of Chicago. She had a life project: to memorialize the victims of the Cultural Revolution.

She had been inspired by two writers: Anne Frank and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. When she was a girl in Beijing, she read Anne’s diary and started to keep one of her own. She even addressed it “Dear Kitty,” as Anne had.

It was illegal to keep a diary. You could be killed if caught with one. This was in the middle of the Cultural Revolution. But Youqin kept a diary — destroying each page, shortly after she wrote it.

At Beijing University, she found a copy of Cancer Ward. She thought she was reading about her own experience. How could this Russian understand her so well? Youqin was so excited, she couldn’t sleep. Later, she read The Gulag Archipelago, and her life was set: She knew she had to commemorate the murdered, just as Solzhenitsyn had. They should not be forgotten.

Little Anne Frank was arguably the foremost witness to Nazism. Solzhenitsyn was arguably the foremost witness to Communism. Those are the twin evils of the 20th century (and lingering, of course). Think of Youqin Wang, with those two people, Anne and Solzhenitsyn, at her back.
— Jay Nordlinger