REVIEWSrnGettingrnSolzhenitsynrnRightrnby Wayne AUenswoithrnSolzhenitsyn and the Modern Worldrnhy Edward E. Ericson, jr.rnWashington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway;rn433 pp., $24.00rnYears after his arrest by the Soviet authorities,rnAleksaiidr Solzhenitsyn,rnwhile recuperating in a prison hospitalrnafter a cancerous tumor had been cutrnfrom his body, cast out the last remnantrnof a spiritual tumor from his soul. Arnprison doctor, soon to die by the hand ofrnanother zek, “fervently” recounted tornSolzhenitsyn his conversion to Christianity.rn”I am convinced,” he told thernfeverish cancer patient, “that there is nornpunishment that comes to us in this lifernon earth which is undeserved.” “I shudder,”rnwrote Solzhenitsyn in The GulagrnArchipelago. “Formedy you never forgavernanyone. You judged people withoutrnmercy…. You have come to realize yourrnown weakness—and you can thereforernunderstand the weakness of others. Andrnbe astonished at another’s strength. Andrnwish to possess it yourself…. We are ascending.”rn”Solzhenitsyn is a Christian writer,”rnwrote theologian Alexander Schmemannrnin 1970, before the great artistrnhad publicly proclaimed his faith. ThernChristian theme of creation, fall, and redemptionrnis indeed at the core ofrnSolzhenitsyn’s art and is invisible only tornthose who suffer from spiritual myopia, arncondition as prevalent in the liberalrndemocracies of the West as it was in thernSoviet Union and which distorts all thatrnis seen through the secular lense of politics.rnEdward Ericson, in Solzhenitsynrnand the Modern World identifies thern”motive force” behind Solzhenitsyn’s actrnas Christianity; it is the writer’s religion,rnnot his politics, that Ericson calls thern”bedrock” of his “moral universe.” InrnSolzhenitsyn’s wodd—the world of homornreligiosus—the central conflict ofrnmodernity is not between communismrnand capitalism, nor between Stalinismrnand socialism or welfare-statism, butrn”between rejection of God and acceptancernof Cod.” “This concept is morerndifhcult for the secular modern West torncomprehend than is the atheism of thernBolsheviks,” writes Ericson, which explainsrnthe strange parallel dualism of reactionsrnto Solzhenitsyn’s art in the SovietrnUnion and in the West in the eadyrn1960’s. When Solzhenitsyn’s work wasrnviewed as anti-Stalinist or anti-totalitarian,rnrather than as anti-communist, antisocialistrnor—worst of all—anti-modern,rnhe was praised by the Khrushchev regimernand by Western critics. But the Sovietrnmachine turned against him as his worldrnview became clearer. He was denouncedrnas an anti-Soviet traitor, a Jew (the KGBrnwould spread the rumor that his realrnname was Solzhenitzer), a tool of thernWest; ironically, after a period in whichrnWestern writers and critics defendedrnhim as anti-totalitarian, he was denouncedrnby his former defenders asrn”anti-Western,” “authoritarian,” andrneven “anti-Semitic.” The arrogant havingrncleared the way for the ignorant, suchrncharges are still commonplace, and so itrnis largely to the ignorant of the West—rnmeaning the West as a political, economic,rnand geographic, but not a spiritualrnor cultural, entity—that Dr. Ericsonrnaddresses his much-needed exposition.rnEricson masterfully counters the preposterousrncharges leveled at Solzhenitsynrnby carefully and gently explaining to hisrnsemi-educated audience that the biblicalrnand classical sources that help to shapernthe writer’s “moral universe” are apparentrnin his work. Solzhenitsyn is a patrioticrnRussian writer who works in the traditionrnof Dostoevsky and Tolstoy (whichrnis to say the “broad Western literary tradition”)rnand an admirer of Switzedand’srndecentralized political system, of thernNew England town meetings, and of thernAmerican Founders who hopes for therndevelopment in Russia of an organicrncivil society. Like Edmund Burke, hernhas no faith in the ability of social engineersrnto build society from above, and hernsees such efforts as attempts to replacernCod as the architect of the universe, asrnmanifestations of Adam’s sin. ForrnSolzhenitsyn Russia is attached to thernWest by Christianity, and his admirationrnfor the Christian West, as well as hisrncriticism of post-Christian liberalrndemocracy, makes him the most pro-rnWestern of Russophiles.rnEricson’s apologia is a scholar’s extensionrnof Solzhenitsyn’s artistic message, arnreflection of the artist’s hope that thernWest can learn from Russia’s suffering byrnrecognizing the source of its own moralrndecay and seeking redemption. Solzhenitsyn’srnhonest criticism of the contemporaryrnWest is at a people who shouldrnknow better, at countries who sufferrnfrom cultural amnesia and spiritualrnemptiness, a condition that manifestsrnitself in the flabby tyranny of the consumeristrnwelfare state. Ericson’s gentlernprodding is a hopeful counterattackrnaimed at enlightening those to whomrnSolzhenitsyn is a mystery, a literaryrnsphinx who speaks riddles in a nowforgottenrnlanguage. The message is thatrnthe West is not synonymous with liberalrnmass democracy, that freedom is a conditionrn(a condition, Solzhenitsyn wouldrnsay, whose prerequisite is personal conversion),rnnot a process. For the arrogant,rnof course, the most savage opponents ofrnall that Solzhenitsyn believes, Ericson’srnbook will not be news. They know veryrnwell that when Solzhenitsyn speaks ofrnadmiring the West he means Christendom.rnWhen they say that Solzhenitsynrnis the enemy of the West, they understandrnperfecriy which “West” they mean.rnThey will have none of his glorifyingrnDead White Males, none of his archaicrnreligious moralizing. It is the defendersrnof the contemporary West who arernthemselves anti-Western.rnWayne Allensworth is an informationrnofficer at the Foreign BroadcastrnInformation Service in Washington,rnD.C. The views expressed are his alone.rn38/CHRONICLESrnrnrn