August 5, 2008, 11:43 am
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Russian novelist and winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize for literature, died yesterday at the age of 89.
I have for a long time considered Solzhenitsyn to be one of my intellectual heroes. His novels moved me deeply, particularly One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which at a slim 200 pages packs a more devastating punch than most novels three times its length and has a place on my list of 10 Books that Changed My Life. His novel The First Circle is another favorite for its brutal clarity about life as an intellectual political prisoner in Stalinist Russia. All of his novels lead me into a deep appreciation of the freedoms which I too often take for granted today.
He combined his powerful writing with an authentic faith and moral courage which enabled him not only to stand up to the soul-crushing effects of political imprisonment but also to look Western…
June 30, 2008, 2:52 pm
As part of an extremely witty column on the most despised books of literary critics, Simon Jenkins has this to say about Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment:
I have lost count of the number of times I have taken Crime and Punishment on holiday and ended up throwing it in the pool. Every page seems calculated to depress the spirit, and its sense of place reeks of poverty, treachery, decay and death. It is as far removed from a beach, the sun, good company and relaxation as could be imagined. I am sure it is fine for a weekend suicide break to Siberia, a sort of Karamazov without the laughs. But please, not for a holiday.
C&P happens to be my favorite novel of all time, but I have to admit, that’s a pretty funny send-up. Even funnier is Stephen Amidon’s assessment of Virginia Woolf’s The Waves:
The Waves by Virginia Woolf is everything a novel should not be – and so much less. After the…