THE GATES OF HELL by Harrison E. Salisbury

THE GATES OF HELL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A fictionalized biography of Alexander Solzhenitsyn by the veteran New York Times correspondent, editor and unregenerate author. Andrei, the hero, is formed by a widowed mother of middle-class extraction who whispers, ""It was different in the old days."" He takes a boyhood trip on a crowded Soviet train and gets his face pressed into the bare crotch of a smelly pregnant peasant woman who is murdered next morning as a kulak. Andrew overcomes these traumata sufficiently to marry student Rosa: ""I do understand. I've known that there was something you wanted, something you were searching for."" Next: ""'It's'--his voice stumbled over the words--'it's war, Andrei. It's war. The Germans.'"" Rosa, though she is Jewish and a brave nurse, cannot understand why Andrei is eager to go and fight the Nazi invasion. Andrei himself reveals signs of his latent philosophical depth--the war is ""the insanity of the Mustaches""--but he performs wonders at the front. Pretty soon he ends up in the Lubyanka prison where a white-haired populist enlightens him beyond mere anti-Stalinism: ""'It was Lenin,' he hissed at Andrei. . . the words he spoke burned into Andrei's mind like letters of fire."" Although in prison camps people continue to hiss, bark, explode, and ""say with gleaming eyes,"" Andrei has time to reflect and conclude that the USSR is really run by a military-industrial complex. Rosa was already struck to perceive ""no longer the bumbling, naive schoolboy she married but a man with an iron will. She could feel the throbbing strength of his mind."" Now she divorces him and takes up with a safe professor. Andrei is released under the Khrushchev thaw and finds his other associates equally complacent, so he turns Russian Orthodox and marries ""a white birch"" and writes great books and wracks his conscience about publishing abroad. The problem is solved by his exile. Another problem remains--why anyone would bother to rewrite Solzhenitsyn's autobiographical fiction and others' narratives.

Pub Date: Oct. 21st, 1975
Publisher: Random House