domingo, 14 de mayo de 2017

Preparing the 100th birthday anniversary of Alexander Solzhenitsyn

2018: Preparing the centenary of the birth of Alexander Solzhenitsyn

by Pablo Lopez Herrera

In the year 2018 will have already been completed a centenary of the birth of the great writer and freedom fighter. The anniversary will surely be celebrated in various parts of the world, including Russia. What is surely not going to be done in all countries where the date is remembered, is a uniform reading of this great personage, already controversial in his own life. The centenary of the birth of the writer can be an excellent opportunity to verify the validity and timeliness of his ideas, study them, review them, subject them to discussion, with particular attention to his "prophetic" view of the world and the actuality of his preaching of autolimitation as a means to correct excesses of all kinds. And it would also be a good opportunity to spread his literary work on the occasion of the printing of his complete and revised works covering about 30 volumes.

The centenary will occur in the context of a "renaissance" in many countries of a certain "national spirit" trying to revaluate own´s "identity" in the face of the threats of the great state bureaucracies, which may even form new ideologies of power. The changes that lead our nations, or those that appear before our eyes at a greater distance, present new risks of "slipping" to conflicts of unsuspected dimension in a scheme that has its similarities with that experienced at the beginning of the XX century, when the optimism for the development of science and the degree of civilization attained prevented the view and control of the avalanche of violence, wars and confrontations, which took place practically in the whole century, and which just seemed to end with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Both the international situation concerning national leadership and the Islamic expansion show the need for new analysis and the re-evaluation and updating of forms of coexistence and political organization and social issues that were not discussed until recently.

Despite the fall of the Berlin Wall, ideological struggles and wars, "political stories", the search for the application of utopian systems designed to demolish republican and democratic regimes, and the distorting and hypertrophied inclusion have not ceased in the world, puting ahead -mainly in Latin America- the concept of "people" as the criterion of political thought, even theological. And if there is a struggle that fought with all its strength and energy the Russian writer, it was against ideological thought and the construction of stories alien to anthropological, philosophical and theological realism.

For many it is a personage of the past who has passed into oblivion. Appointed at the time - among other qualifications - as reactionary, anti-Semitic, nationalist, prophet of catastrophe, ungrateful, his image is tinged with nuances that obscure his life, his "profile", his thought, and his legacy. But as Joseph Pearce puts it in his biography, "in a few instances a writer has attracted so much publicity, both good and bad throughout his life." (1) He has been enslaved or reclaimed, loved or hated,

Liudmila Saraskina argues that "It is considered that the nineteenth century ended with the First World War, just as the eighteenth century closed with the French Revolution. Solzhenitsyn was born at the very beginning of the twentieth century, and in the course of his life he appropriated all the historical space and the whole semantic horizon of that century. The twenty-first century must rediscover the hidden meaning of the lessons of the century that has just ended. And therefore he must study and understand the signs that marked the fate of Solzhenitsyn. A heavy work of access to knowledge begins.. " (2)

The number of controversies aroused around him did not help a univocal knowledge or the consensus about his contributions. The truth is that there are still many questions to answer. Among others: who was Solzhenitsyn really? An idealist disconnected from the reality and his time? a dreamer? A thinker? An intellectual? A politician who acted as a "libero"? A one-man-show "think tank"? A prophet? What was all his thinking about? What was his work? What was his legacy, if any? Was he an important character of the century?

As Saraskina says, it will be necessary "a heavy access to knowledge" and a dense intellectual work to understand the author, if some want to embrace, and receive his contributions in full.

Solzhenitsyn has a way of analyzing reality that includes Aristotelian and medieval elements that are familiar to us, such as a treatment of the subjects that he studies that includes steps that could perfectly correspond to those of lectio (information), quaestio (questioning,and the logic of reasoning and arguments) and finally contentatio (discussion).

Georges Nivat emphasizes realism as one of the characteristics of the "Solzhenitsyn phenomenon" (3), who, as a good scientist, moves throughout his life with a certain obsession to approach to reality, which turns out to be his main source, Interlocutor "and" referent. "

In order to get close to the real-world universe, he devotes enormous efforts to recording everything that he thinks is important in his elucubraciones: facts, places, people the events of his own life and those of his next, and takes notes in chips. Or when it is impossible to write files the data in his prodigious memory. He then orders, analyzes and interprets the data with a vision of the world in constant movement and evolution, but that progresses throughout his life in an ascending way that allows him to gain height to acquire an increasingly broad and universal perspective. And finally he presents and publishes his statements, and his literary work with the calculation and precision of a gunner who points his cannon at the heart of ideologies, revolutionary utopia, or against lies and their political use.

With that realism he moves in three concentric circles: that of the world of nature, that of thought, and in the supernatural world. It could be said that all his work has "all reality" as the main "source". If reality is "irrefutable" and "the only truth is reality", approaching reality to know it in all its aspects is the best method to approach the "truth". Solzhenitsyn felt comfortable and secure with "permanent truths." And taking into account that the constitutive variables of the reality of "being", "doing", "knowing" or "believing" do not change, their validity - that is, the validity of truth - is permanent. Hence the assurance of their claims.

How is Solzhenitsyn coming to reality? Georges Nivat tells us that it is through the "look". He observes everything that happens, all the relevant people involved in the stories, all ways of thinking and acting in the face of the same facts. In a way, his method leads us to the Aristotelian theory of knowledge, in particular to the perception of reality through the senses, and more specifically of the view. His physical, intellectual and supernatural gaze of existence is shaped by the accumulation of maps, plans, photos, testimonies, travels, meetings, dialogues and animated debates, and exhaustive visits to the places where the historical events took place, searching for relevant information.

But he is aware that those who come into contact with reality are people different from each other, and that everyone participates in the same reality in circumstances that are their own, with different beliefs, and that are both voluntary and involuntary protagonists of it. In many respects human experiences are the forced fruit of external coercive factors beyond their control and will. Consequently, it is necessary to analyze the different approaches and experiences so as not to become a kind of monochrome and autistic "oracle", with ears closed to other convictions and reasonings.

Moreover, without denying the knowledge of truth through his own reasoning, Solzhenitsyn gives a place of privilege to what he considers an evidence, namely that truth arises from the trials to which men and women are subjected. Nations and concrete lifes histories: every man is tried and has to be defined often with choices that "compel" him to choose, and to put on the side of truth and justice, or of lying and arbitrariness. And from this test comes the knowledge of the true and the just. The tests to which men and nations are subjected give them the opportunity to choose between accepting or rejecting discourses and stories that stand between them and reality, with the risk of being trapped by ideologies, or truly free.

Freedom for Solzhenitsyn thus transcends external circumstances and thus leads him to bless the prison in which he was forced to choose between the narrative - as a filter - or approaching the same reality, enemy of any ideology.

The realism of Solzhenitsyn leads to the use of an almost "filmographic" resource in his works. In many of his important writings we see his figure as that of an author, director and protagonist of films in which he himself walks virtually with his "literary camera" in chosen scenarios, as in the real cinema did Alexander Sokurov in "Russian Ark "(2002), which runs the Hermitage of St. Petersburg in a single shot. Or in the manner of Sergei Bondarchuk in "War and Peace" (1966), that "walks" through the story narrated by Leon Tolstoi in 1869, penetrating with realism facts, people, feelings and history.

Daniel J Mahoney, Raymond Aron Award 1999, states that Solzhenitsyn did not confuse moral progress with technological development, and that "... it must be read in the light of Russian literary and intellectual traditions, and in light of the great tradition of political thought which began with Plato and Aristotle, and continues with Montesquieu, Burke and Tocqueville. " For his complete experience and profound analysis of a century that has suffered with ideologies, "his message has not lost anything of its actuality, for a humanity that continues to seek a meaning" (4).

The actuality of his thought will make the centenary an opportunity for anyone to whom this thinker, fighter, prophet, polemicist and patriot means something to him.

(1) "Solzhenitsyn, a soul in exile" - by Joseph Pearce, Ciudadela, 2007
(2) "Alexandre Soljénitsyne" by Lioudmila Saraskina Fayard 2010
(3) "Le Phénomène Soljénitsyne" by Georges Nivat Fayard 2009
(4) "Alexandre Soljénitsyne: En finir avec l'idéologie" by Daniel J Mahoney Fayard 2008

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