Richard Reinsch reviews Between Two Millstones, Book 1

Over at Law & Liberty, Richard Reinsch reviews Between Two Millstones, Book 1.

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Solzhenitsyn remained a Russian patriot. His literary mission was the restoration of his homeland to a condition of liberty and flourishing that Leninist-Stalinism destroyed. This is the ultimate truth of the recently released English edition of Book 1 of Between Two Milestones, which is Solzhenitsyn’s account of his forced exile in the West in 1974.

And by noting that atheism is the animating core of Marxism and its persecution of Christians in Russia, Solzhenitsyn touched a different nerve: that of the unofficial atheism in the chattering classes of Western capitals.

His opposition to a full tilt capitalist industrial economy should have earned him at least style points with his detractors. Except that he didn’t exactly frame it in the messianic environmental language they preferred. Solzhenitsyn spoke of self-limitation and curbing appetites and desires as much as he spoke of ecological harm. The environmental and human devastation wrought by Soviet industrial policy must have played a role in his thinking. How could it not?

From his adopted home in Cavendish he wrote prodigiously, and upcoming editions of the Notre Dame Press catalog will bear witness to it, including Book II of his exile memoirs. Upon returning to a fledgling post-communist Russia in 1994, he thanked the people of Cavendish at, where else, their town assembly. There is genuine gratitude expressed by Solzhenitsyn in this short address for the freedoms and flourishing enjoyed in the Green Mountain State. His children had grown up strong. The Solzhenitsyn’s had found their measure in Vermont, in America. Perhaps the Russian patriot touched the best of our own country while here.

Christopher Caldwell review of Between Two Millstones, Book 1

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In the forthcoming National Review, Christopher Caldwell reviews Between Two Millstones, Book 1.

Solzhenitsyn had become convinced that, far from being a reliable defender of others’ liberty, the West was at risk of fumbling away its own. He saw in the rich nations a “blindness of superiority,” a “decline in courage,” relativism, litigiousness, and a sense of responsibility to God that was growing “dimmer and dimmer.” The [Harvard] speech was a turning point in the Cold War, redrawing all its lines in a way that would anticipate the conflicts of our own time. Indeed it was with this speech during the Carter administration, not with the Putin ascendancy in the first decade of this century, that one first began to hear the progressive complaint that “the true Russia, as opposed to the Soviet Union, is a far greater danger to the West,” as Solzhenitsyn lamented. That foolish but durable view is the cornerstone of elite Western thinking about Russia today.
— Christopher Caldwell

Wall Street Journal review of Between Two Millstones, Book 1

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Bertrand M. Patenaude in today’s Wall Street Journal reviews Between Two Millstones, Book 1.

From the moment he leaves the Soviet Union and takes residence in Europe, the famous exile feels overwhelmed by unwanted attention and demands on his time, including beckoning letters from Sens. Jesse Helms and Henry Jackson. “America, the consumer of everything new and sensational, was awaiting me with open arms,” he writes. He feels torn between his urge to withdraw from public view in order to write and his desire to speak out about the dangers posed to the unwary West by détente. He is besieged by reporters hounding him for a quote and photographing his every move. “You are worse than the KGB!” he explodes.

First Things: Review of Between Two Millstones, Book 1

Ryszard Legutko in the forthcoming January 2019 issue of First Things reviews Between Two Millstones, Book 1.

It is to Solzhenitsyn’s credit that he was able to look at Western society with a sharp eye, unaffected by the homegrown clichés that lulled many Westerners into complacency. He took none of those clichés for granted—that truth and goodness are authoritarian, that we must distinguish between morality and legality, that a modern society is inherently pluralistic, and several others—and having confronted them with an elementary experience, he discovered not only that they were wrong, but also that the opposite may be closer to the truth.

New Yorker notice of Between Two Millstones, Book 1

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The New Yorkerbriefly noted” the publication of Between Two Millstones, Book 1.

In 1974, Solzhenitsyn, the novelist, dissident, and former political prisoner, was deported from the Soviet Union and stripped of his citizenship. In that moment, he was the most famous writer in the world, celebrated—and despised—for his great “literary experiment” chronicling the Gulag Archipelago and for his independence of mind. This first volume of his memoirs covers the next four years, when he lived first in Frankfurt, then in Vermont. It is distinguished mostly by Solzhenitsyn’s descriptions of the initial pain of exile, his bristling reactions to Western mores, and his search for a quiet place to finish his work and live out his life.

TLS review of Between Two Millstones, Book 1

A reflection and review by Stephen Kotkin in the Times Literary Supplement (TLS) of Between Two Millstones, Book 1.

Many – perhaps most – of Solzhenitsyn’s critics viewed him as an arch-reactionary, a nineteenth-century mind in the twentieth. But in his turn away from Western universalism to nativism and traditional values, in his revolt against liberal condescension, he appears to have foreseen the twenty-first.
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Gary Saul Morson reviews Between Two Millstones, Book 1

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The eminent Russian scholar Gary Saul Morson reviews Between Two Millstones, Book 1 in the Winter 2019 issue of The American Scholar.

When Solzhenitsyn called for gradual change to democracy and observed that “it is not authoritarianism that is intolerable, but . . . arbitrariness and illegality,” Western journalists gasped. When he castigated the shallowness of reporters, they accused him of opposing a free press. And when they discovered he had embraced Russian Orthodox Christianity, and hoped for a Russian spiritual rebirth, they called him a dangerous, perhaps fascist, nationalist. This charge particularly mystified Solzhenitsyn, because in his “Letter” he recommend Russia give up its domination over Eastern Europe and let the “peripheral nations” of the Soviet Union go their own way: “Let us find the strength, sense, and courage to put our own house in order before we busy ourselves with the cares of the entire planet.” What sort of nationalist calls for his country to give up its empire?
— Gary Saul Morson

Spectator review of Between Two Millstones

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“Solzhenitsyn, Russian Nobelist and noblest Russian”: The Spectator reviews Between Two Millstones, Book 1.

I don’t know if this is relevant, to use a Sixties word, to the emigres of our own scattering age, though our rulers might profit from this injunction of Solzhenitsyn’s:

‘The aims of a great empire and the moral health of the people are incompatible. We should not presume to invent international tasks and bear the cost of them so long as our people is in such moral disarray.’

The Soviets at whom he directed this were as obdurately indifferent as Bushes and Clintons to the moral health of their countrymen and the corrosive effects of empire.
— Bill Kauffman, Spectator

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.

"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.

Claremont Review of Books: MARCH 1917, BOOK 1

Guy Burnett reviews March 1917, Book 1 in tandem with Catherine Merridale's Lenin on the Train.

There was no shortage of blame, but Solzhenitsyn shows how the most dangerous blunders leading up to October 1917 were the Czar’s. He presents Nicholas II as a naïve but devoted family man, a great neighbor but poor leader, whose faith in the protestors was his undoing.

The Quarterly Conversation: March 1917, Book 1

The novelist Jeff Bursey reviews March 1917, Book 1, suggesting that it is very much a modernist novel, even as History herself emerges as a "skillfully drawn character in this portrait of Russia on the eve of its transformation".

What we have, so far, of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s mega-novel The Red Wheel is correspondingly inventive, despairing, sharp, acidic, lyrical, and panoramic, with shafts of insight illuminating murky or forgotten corners.
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Will Morrisey Review of March 1917, Book 1

A probing review of March 1917, Book 1posted today.

Solzhenitsyn has made this mob of characters and passions, this kinesis of revolution, intelligible. For this his work deserves to be read not only in Russia but everywhere. The thoughts of the characters, their understandable confusion, their elation or despair, come through without any resort to moral relativism. In scenes that parallel one another, Solzhenitsyn gives us mind after mind, capturing the insights but also the illusions of each. When he intervenes in his own voice he speaks not with narrative omniscience, which he leaves to God, but with narrative judgment, which as a Christian he shares a bit with God, thanks to God.

Daniel J. Mahoney Reviews March 1917, Book 1

Insightful review of March 1917, Book 1 from renowned Solzhenitsyn scholar Daniel J. Mahoney in the new issue of National Review.  

This volume consists of 170 chapters (out of 656 in March 1917 as a whole), most of them relatively brief. One experiences on every page the frenzied pace of events spiraling completely out of control.

Review of March 1917, Book 1 at Foreword

Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers reviews March 1917, Book 1 at Foreword.

In March 1917, Solzhenitsyn attempts the impossible and succeeds, evoking a fully formed world through episodic narratives that insist on the prosaic integrity of every life, from tsars to peasants. What emerges is a rich history that’s truly greater than the sum of its parts.
— Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers
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Why Did the Russian Revolution Occur?

James Pontuso, writing at the Victims of Communism blog: "Solzhenitsyn’s multi-volume The Red Wheel attempts to answer the question: why did the Russian Revolution occur?”

It was in this chaotic situation that the peculiar talents of Vladimir Lenin came into play. Solzhenitsyn portrays Lenin throughout The Red Wheel as disciplined, self-assured, cunning, and ruthless.
— James Pontuso

Judging Communism and All Its Works: Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago Reconsidered

A reconsideration of Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago that talks about its continuing relevance to Russia and the West, published yesterday at voegelinview. The piece's writer, Daniel J. Mahoney, is a Solzhenitsyn scholar who also serves as the Vice President of The Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Center.

Macbeth’s self-justifications were feeble—and his conscience devoured him. Yes, even Iago was a little lamb, too. The imagination and the spiritual strength of Shakespeare’s villains stopped short at a dozen corpses. Because they had no ideology.

Ideology—that is what gives villainy its long-sought justification and gives the villain the necessary steadfastness and determination…

Thanks to ideology, the twentieth century was fated to experience villainy on a scale calculated in the millions.
— Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago