Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn left us “too quickly,” said Jonah Goldberg in the Los Angeles Times. The dissident writer who “bravely told the world about Soviet barbarity” and others in his generation learned “hard lessons” about the evils of communism. “The amnesia bites a little deeper” as we lose them.
Solzhenitsyn, who died Sunday at 89, “once wrote that ordinary individuals have a responsibility to ‘not participate’ in lies,” said The Christian Science Monitor in an editorial, but artists have a duty to try to “defeat the lie.” And Solzhenitsyen showed that the pen carried enough power to do just that.
His Gulag Archipelago changed the world, said Anne Applebaum in Slate. It detailed how “the mass arrests and concentration camps of the Soviet Union were not an incidental phenomenon but an essential part of the Soviet system,” and made it possible for the world to ignore the “terror” that spread through the country from the time of the Russian revolution.
Solzhenitsyn bore witness to Soviet tyranny from the inside, said The New York Sun in an editorial, and reminded the world "that there is such a thing as good and evil."
“Like everyone else, he had his critics,” said National Review Online in an editorial, but he was "too humane" to brand as “a megalomaniac, a Slavophile, a right-wing nationalist, an anti-Semite.” He just searched for the truth.
That accounts for his criticism of America during his exile here, said Michael T. Kaufman in The New York Times. He’ll be remembered for challenging the Soviet leadership, starting with the book, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which thrust him onto the literary scene in 1962. But, he never stopped speaking out, even calling “the country of his sanctuary spiritually weak and mired in vulgar materialism” in a 1978 commencement address at Harvard.
Solzhenitsyn’s example will always be inspiring, said Christopher Hitchens in Slate. He “fought his way into Hitler’s East Prussia as a proud Red Army soldier” only to be imprisoned back home for making a crack about Stalin. He survived Soviet prisons and then, stricken with cancer, endured “the whole rigor and misery of a Soviet-era isolation hospital—what could you fear after that?”