The Incredible Power of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

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The Incredible Power of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

It has been Russian writers in particular, who for two centuries have struggled against censorship and oppression to accomplish two great tasks: to create innovative and meaningful art, and to use that art to make a statement about a specifically Russian predicament. So often the theme was political, and so many generations of Russians criticised Mother Russia for her backward ways. Vissarion Belinsky's caustic admonitions in his "Letter to Gogol" were long a rallying cry for writers: "This is why, especially among us, universal attention is every manifestation of any so-called liberal trend, no matter how poor the writer's gifts...The public...sees in Russian writers its only leaders, defenders and saviours from dark autocracy, Orthodoxy, and the national way of life." This conditional existence was the inheritance of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who followed the great Russian tradition of the intelligentsia. To awaken Russia's people and illuminate for them the deep recesses of a world which is yet unknown to them, this was, I believe, the greater part of why he chose to write One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and for it to be published first in Russia.

Solzhenitsyn's intent on writing One Day could never have been solely literary. If that were so, he would have chosen a safe topic, instead of one of the uttermost dangerous, forbidden subjects of the day. He chose an open attack on Stalin's penal system. Continuing to write in this vein eventually caused his expulsion from the Union of Soviet Writers. His expulsion made it impossible for him to earn a living as a writer where within his country. No...

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...s during the twentieth century. Every blast of cold, every scrape of hunger or wince of pain the reader experiences through the the book is but a wisp, in respect to the endurance, sickness, and deaths of Stalin's million-headed vicitm; Russia, the ancient nation, was being slaughtered. Solzhenitsyn witnessed the massacre, knew the blade's sharpness by his own trials, and rose up to meet its edge.

Works Cited

Labedze, Leopold. Solzhenitsyn: A Documentary Record. Harper and Row Publishers, New York. 1971.

Solzhenitsyn, Alexander. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

Smith, Hedrick. The New Russians. Random House, New York. 1990.

Vissarion Belinsky, "Open Letter to Gogol", 15 July 1847.

Remnick, David. Resurrection: The Struggle For a New Russia. Random House, New York. 1997.

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