SOLZHENITSYN AT HARVARD: The Address, Twelve Early Responses, and Six Later Reflections by Ronald--Ed. Berman

SOLZHENITSYN AT HARVARD: The Address, Twelve Early Responses, and Six Later Reflections

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Solzhenitsyn's 1978 Harvard commencement address--reprinted here in the same translation published earlier by Harper & Row--drew an immediate response from newspapers and magazines suddenly thrown on the defensive by the Nobel novelist's assault on Western politics and culture. A sampling of this reaction is reprinted here, including editorials from the New York Times (which called Solzhenitsyn a ""zealot"" intent upon a ""holy war""), Washington Star, and National Review, and columns by James Reston, Mary McGrory, George F. Will, and others. Of these ""early responses,"" Will's is interesting for its dogged effort to place Solzhenitsyn's attack on low culture and democracy within a Western tradition which includes Tocqueville and Henry Adams--an attempt which doesn't distort Solzhenitsyn so much as it does Tocqueville and Adams. Olga Andreyev Carlisle, author of a book on Russian poets and one of the early promoters of Solzhenitsyn in the U.S., hits closer to home in a Newsweek article in which she argues that Solzhenitsyn's remarks were directed more to a Russian audience than to an undergraduate one. As Carlisle sees it, Solzhenitsyn is the premier spokesman for the Russian ""new right""--nationalist, anti-Semitic, and, more concerned with ""inner"" freedom than with democratic forms; proponents of a political religiosity. Carlisle notes that this new right is well-placed, with adherents in the military and KGB as well as the Party bureaucracy--casting doubt on Solzhenitsyn's image as a solitary crusader. The ""reflections"" by six academics--Sidney Hook, Michael Novak, editor Berman, Richard Pipes, William H. McNeill, and Harold J. Berman--take no note of Carlisle's critical points and treat Solzhenitsyn's comments with devout seriousness. They wind up falling into the same two camps as the journalists. Overall, a lot of pious reflection has been expended upon very little.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1980
Publisher: Ethics & Public Policy Center (1211 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036)