Реферат: Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Municipal educational establishment “High school with a profound study of the
English language № 27 ”
Main part. 3
1. Biography. 3
2. Master’s works. 8
3. The Cancer Ward. 9
"Who else, if not writers,
can censure not only their faulty
rulers but society at large?"
Solzhenitsyn (From Nobel lecture)
"We lived next door but did not understand that she was the upright person no
settlement can do without. Nor can a city. Nor the entire land..."
This excerpt from the famous short story "Matriona's Home" about a peasant
woman who gave shelter to the writer in the 1950s perfectly applies to the
writer himself. A teacher in the broadest sense of the word, a human rights
activist and a righteous man, whose principle has always been to live without
Solzhenitsyn received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1970 "for the ethical
force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian
literature." Active member of Russian Academy of Sciences (1997).
Alexander Solzhenitsyn is now 84. "A legend of the 20th century, martyr and
hero," thus the outstanding Russian scholar Dmitry Likhachyov described
Solzhenitsyn once. For us Solzhenitsyn is not simply a great writer but
rather the nation's conscience whose word strikes you not only by its
artistic value but by its message of truth. This truth is all the more
impressing since the writer's word and life are never at varience. They
complement each other. Today we came to realize that the writer's most
outstanding "work" is his own life.
"Longevity was given to me. 80 years is a longevity. At this age you have new
opportunities. You can look back at your life and open something in it that
you could not notice and understand while you were on the run. For a larger
part of our lives we act, and action interferes with our ability to take a
quiet look at things. An old age gives some scope to your soul, a chance to
evaluate your deeds."
One of the leading Russian writers of the 20th century, Alexander Isayevich
Solzhenitsyn, was born in Kislovodsk, on the 11th of December 1918 in a
family of Cossack intellectuals and brought up primarily by his mother. His
father had studied philological subjects at Moscow University, but did not
complete his studies, as he enlisted as a volunteer when war broke out in
1914. He became an artillery officer on the German front, fought throughout
the war and died in the summer of 1918, six months before his son was born.
Alexander was brought up by his mother, who worked as a shorthand typist, in
the town of Rostov-on-Don, where he spent the whole of his childhood and
youth, leaving the grammar school there in 1936. Even as a child, without any
prompting from others, he wanted to be a writer and, indeed, he turned out a
good deal of the usual juvenilia. In the 1930s, he tried to get his writings
published but he could not find anyone willing to accept his manuscripts. He
wanted to acquire a literary education, but in Rostov such an education that
would suit his wishes was not to be obtained. To move to Moscow was not
possible, partly because his mother was alone and in poor health, and partly
because of their modest circumstances.
Solzhenitsyn therefore began to study at the Department of Mathematics at Rostov
University, where it proved that he had considerable aptitude for mathematics.
But although he found it easy to learn this subject, he did not feel that he
wished to devote his whole life to it. Nevertheless, it was to play a
beneficial role in his destiny later on, and on at least two occasions, it
rescued him from death. For he would probably not have survived the eight years
in camps if he had not, as a mathematician, been transferred to a so-called
sharashia, where he spent four years; and later, during his exile, he was
allowed to teach mathematics and physics, which helped to ease his existence
and made it possible for him to write. If he had had a literary education it is
quite likely that he should not have survived these ordeals but would instead
have been subjected to even greater pressures. Later on, it is true, Alexander
Isayevich began to get some literary education as well; this was from 1939 to
1941, during which time, along with university studies in physics and
mathematics, he also studied by correspondence at the Institute of History,
Philosophy and Literature in Moscow.
In 1941, a few days before the
outbreak of the war, Solzhenitsyn graduated from the Department of Physics and
Mathematics at Rostov University. At the beginning of the war, owing to weak
health, he was detailed to serve as a driver of horsedrawn vehicles during the
winter of 1941-1942. Later, because of his mathematical knowledge, he was
transferred to an artillery school, from which, after a crash course, he passed
out in November 1942. Immediately after this he was put in command of an
artillery-position-finding company, and in this capacity, served, without a
break, right in the front line until he was arrested in February 1945. This
happened in East Prussia, a region which is linked with his destiny in a
remarkable way. As early as 1937, as a first-year student, he chose to write a
descriptive essay on "The Samsonov Disaster" of 1914 in East Prussia and
studied material on this; and in 1945 he himself went to this area (at the time
of writing, autumn 1970, the book August 1914 has just been completed).
Solzhenitsyn was arrested on the grounds of what the censorship had found
during the years 1944-1945 in his correspondence with a school friend, mainly
because of certain disrespectful remarks about Stalin, although they referred
to him in disguised terms. As a further basis for the "charge", there were
used the drafts of stories and reflections which had been found in his map
case. These, however, were not sufficient for a "prosecution", and in July
1945 he was "sentenced" in his absence, in accordance with a procedure then
frequently applied, after a resolution by the OSO (the Special Committee of
the NKVD), to eight years in a detention camp (at that time this was
considered a mild sentence).
Solzhenitsyn served the first part of my sentence in several correctional work
camps of mixed types (this kind of camp is described in the play, The
Tenderfoot and the Tramp). In 1946, as a mathematician, he was transferred
to the group of scientific research institutes of the MVD-MOB (Ministry of
Internal Affairs, Ministry of State Security). He spent the middle period of
his sentence in such "SPECIAL PRISONS" (The First Circle). In 1950 he
was sent to the newly established "Special Camps" which were intended only for
political prisoners. In such a camp in the town of Ekibastuz in Kazakhstan (
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich), he worked as a miner, a bricklayer,
and a foundryman. There he contracted a tumour, which was operated on, but the
condition was not cured (its character was not established until later on).
One month after he had served the full term of his eight-year sentence, there
came, without any new judgement and even without a "resolution from the OSO",
an administrative decision to the effect that he was not to be released but
EXILED FOR LIFE to Kok-Terek (southern Kazakhstan). This measure was not
directed specially against him, but was a very usual procedure at that time. He
served this exile from March 1953 (on March 5th, when Stalin's death was made
public, he was allowed for the first time to go out without an escort) until
June 1956. Here his cancer had developed rapidly, and at the end of 1953, he
was very near death. He was unable to eat; he could not sleep and was severely
affected by the poisons from the tumour. However, he was able to go to a cancer
clinic at Tashkent, where, during 1954, he was cured (The Cancer Ward, Right
During all the years of exile, Solzhenitsyn taught mathematics and physics in a
primary school and during his hard and lonely existence he wrote prose in
secret (in the camp he could only write down poetry from memory). He managed,
however, to keep what he had written, and to take it with him to the European
part of the country, where, in the same way, he continued, as far as the outer
world was concerned, to occupy himself with teaching and, in secret, to devote
himself to writing, at first in the Vladimir district (Matryona's Farm)
and afterwards in Ryazan.
During all the years until 1961, not only was he convinced that he should never
see a single line of him in print in his lifetime, but, also, he scarcely dared
allow any of his close acquaintances to read anything he had written because he
feared that this would become known. Finally, at the age of 42, this secret
authorship began to wear him down. The most difficult thing of all to bear was
that he could not get his works judged by people with literary training. In
1961, after the 22nd Congress of the U.S.S.R. Communist Party and Tvardovsky's
speech at this, he decided to emerge and to offer One Day in the Life of
Such an emergence seemed, then, to Solzhenitsyn, and not without reason, to be
very risky because it might lead to the loss of his manuscripts, and to his own
destruction. But, on that occasion, things turned out successfully, and after
protracted efforts, A.T. Tvardovsky was able to print his novel one year later.
The printing of his work was, however, stopped almost immediately and the
authorities stopped both his plays and (in 1964) the novel, The First
Circle, which, in 1965, was seized together with his papers from the past
years. During these months it seemed to him that he had committed an
unpardonable mistake by revealing his work prematurely and that because of this
he should not be able to carry it to a conclusion. After 1966, his work was not
published in the Soviet Union for many years.
The open conflict between communist regime and Solzhenitsyn erupted with his
Letter to the Fourth National Congress of Soviet Writers (May 1967), in which
he demanded the abolition of censorship, the rehabilitation of many writers
victimized during the repression, and the restoration of his archives,
confiscated by the KGB in 1965. After the publication abroad of The First
Circle (1968) and The Cancer Ward (1968-69) abroad and winning the
Nobel Prize (1970, "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the
indispensable traditions of Russian literature") the confrontation increased.
Further public statements by Solzhenitsyn (A Lenten Letter to Pimen, Patriarch
of all Russia, Letter to the Soviet Leaders, etc.) as well as the publication
of the first variant of August 1914 (1971) and the first volume of The
Gulag Archipelago (1973), led the Soviet authorities to exile him to
Germany (February 1974).
Having settled first in Switzerland, Solzhenitsyn, his wife Natalia Dmitrievna,
three sons: Ermolai, Ignat and Stepan, in 1976 moved to the United States. They
lived in Cavendish, Vermont. While in the West, Solzhenitsyn completed The
Oak and the Calf (1975) and Three Plays (1981). In 1982 an
enlarged version of August 1914 was published as the first in a series
of novels about the Russian Revolution to be called collectively The Red
Wheel. Excerpts from this work had been published in 1975 as Lenin in
Zurich. There were many public addresses and speeches also: A World Split
Apart, Misconceptions About Russia Are a Threat to America, etc. The
intellectual and moral influence of Solzhenitsyn played an important role in
the fall of communist power in East Europe and Russia.
In 1989 Gulag Archipelago was published as a serial in the literary
magazine Novy Mir. In 1990 Solzhenitsyn was again admitted the Soviet
citizenship. Then he published How to Reconstruct Russia: Reflections and
Tentative Proposals. He came back to Russia in May 1994. Among his new
works was Russian Question at the End of XX Century, Russia in the Abuss
and other publicist writing, short stories. Now the magazine Novy Mir
has began to publish his Sketches on Exile (a sequel of The Oak and
the Calf). There is a new his historical book now: 200 Years Together.
After return he tried to influence the modern Russian politics and met
President Yeltsin (1994) and President Putin (2000).
Literature, however, was not
Solzhenitsyn's first profession. He graduated from Rostov University (and with
honors) and in the 50s taught mathematics, physics and astronomy. Perhaps, this
explains the logic always present in his literary work. The idea of every short
story or epic novel is always crystal clear. The author's stand is never
ambiguous. The celebrated One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which
made the writer famous overnight, is a wild protest against Stalin's
concentration camps and, in a broader sense, against suppression of any
personality. But this protest is expressed in amazing artistic form, where
every word is richly colored.
One Day and Matriona's Home have been read by millions of people
in this country, while the large-scale novels In Circle One, Cancer
Ward, The GULAG Archipelago and The Red Wheel are a hard
nut to crack and on the whole have not become national bestsellers. Certainly,
many readers were discouraged by the size of these books; The Red Wheel
alone consists of 10 volumes. Besides, after all the revelations of the
perestroika period, after scandals and masses of compromising material daily
supplied by the media, many people simply don't have the energy to go deep into
the events of the past, which were even more frightening that those of the
present. The writer himself has an approximately similar opinion on the issue.
As for the Russian literature of the Soviet period on the whole, he believes
that "After 1917 life and people changed greatly. But literature produced a
very poor reflection of these changes. The truth was suppressed and lies
encouraged. Thus we arrived in the 1990s, knowing next to nothing about this
country. This explains the great number of surprises."
There is still another reason why many people remain strangers to
Solzhenitsyn's work. His major books are not entertaining reading. In fact,
they are political and philosophical essays. The writer believes his mission
is to keep things under constant scrutiny.
I would life to tell you about one of my favorite novels by Alexander
Solzhenitsyn. It is The Cancer Ward.
The story takes place in the men's cancer ward of a hospital in a city in
Soviet Central Asia. The patients in Ward 13 all suffer from cancer, but
differ in age, personality, nationality, and social class (as if such a thing
could be possible in the Soviet "classless" society!). We are first
introduced to Pavel Rusanov, a Communist Party functionary, who enters the
hospital because of a rapidly growing neck tumor.
We soon learn, however, that the book's central character is Oleg
Kostoglotov, a young man who has recently been discharged from a penal camp
and is now "eternally" exiled to this particular province. Only two weeks
earlier, he was admitted to the ward in grave condition from an unspecified
tumor, but he has responded rapidly to radiation therapy. Among the doctors
are Zoya, a medical student; Vera Gangart, a young radiologist; and Lyudmila
Dontsova, the chief of radiation therapy.
Rusanov and Kostoglotov respond to therapy and are eventually discharged;
other patients remain in the ward, get worse, or are sent home to die. In the
end Kostoglotov boards a train to the site of his "eternal" exile: "The long
awaited happy life had come, it had come! But Oleg somehow did not recognize
Solzhenitzyn himself was released from a labor camp in early 1953, just
before Stalin's death, and was exiled to a village in Kazakhstan. While
incarcerated, he had been operated on for a tumor, but was not told the
diagnosis. He subsequently developed a recurrence, received radiotherapy in
Tashkent, and recovered.
In The Cancer Ward Solzhenitzyn transforms these experiences into a
multifaceted tale about Soviet society during the period of hope and
liberalization after Stalin's death. Cancer, of course, is an obvious
metaphor for the totalitarian state. The novel also provides an interesting
look at mid-century Soviet medicine and medical ethics.
The novel also explores the personal qualities and motivation of physicians,
and the issue of intimate relationships between doctors and patients.
Probably the book's strongest points are its insight into human nature and
the believability of its characters.
Solzhenitsyn is disappointed with Russian literature: "On the one hand, our
Russian literature is very high because it has not lost its ethic standard.
On the other hand, partly under the influence of Gogol, with his merciless
attitude toward public vices, Russian literature lost its creative message.
We have Oblomov, Onegin, Pechorin, all the so-called "useless people", but
where are the builders, the creators? Russia was created as a mighty power
stretching east to Siberia, where back in the 18th century we had educational
institutions, talented people and culture. Then under Gogol's influence there
appeared a succession of satirists and ironists. Saltytkov-Shchedrin, for
example, with his scathing look at the negative is simply mustard."
Today Solzhenitsyn continues working, preparing his diaries for publication,
writing letters to the former fellow-inmates and helping thousands of people.
The Solzhenitsyn foundation is based on the royalties of The GULAG
Archipelago, published in 30 countries. It supports thousands of former
political prisoners across Russia.
"Giving is far more important than taking," says the writer's wife, Natalia.
"As for him, he has popular love. He receives wonderful letters and knows
there are many people who are grateful to him. But he works not for this
gratitude. We are happy to be back home. We never feel lonely, nor do we bear
any grudge. We feel as if we had never left the country."
1. Нива Ж. Солженицын. – М., 1992.
2. The New York Times, May 15,1997.
3. The New York Times, March 1, 1998.
4. Encyclopedia Britannica.
5. Профиль, 12 января 1998, №1.