Solzhenitsyn Was My Father

A lovely interview with Ignat Solzhenitsyn. A taste.
What shines through instead is his profound empathy: for the erotic longing of prisoners, for the guards terrified of landing on the wrong side of the prison bars, for the wives left behind, and especially for those who disagree with the author’s opinions. Solzhenitsyn’s “polyphonic” structure allows each of the 60 significant characters to speak in his or her own voice. One of the most sympathetic portraits drawn is of Lev Rubin, a Jewish communist, who passionately believes in everything that Solzhenitsyn rejected. More striking still is the portrait of Stalin. The author depicts a man haunted by his past, paranoid, isolated and fearful — almost deserving of pity. Professor Edward Ericson, in the introduction, even declares: “Dzhugashvili the onetime seminarian has turned himself into Stalin the ruler, but also the greatest victim of the infernal empire.”
I put it to Ignat that this sympathy for the tyrant is remarkable, considering how his father suffered at the hands of the regime.
“This humaneness is a very much under-appreciated facet of his world view,” he says. “There is this notion that Solzhenitsyn was so intolerant, that everything was black and white for him and, well — bollocks! He rejected flatly those who sought to reduce his art or everything that he was to a political equation. In The Gulag Archipelago he says: ‘The line between good and evil does not go between parties, it does not go between countries. It goes across the heart of each person.’ He understood that we are all capable of becoming a camp guard, or a KGB informant.”