From Publishers Weekly
Once a darling of the West for his high-profile rejection of Sovietism, Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn lost some of his elevated status when his religious views became known. This comprehensive if uncritical biography of the winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize in literature is based in part on Pearce's exclusive interviews with his subject. Pearce details Solzhenitsyn's transformation from an ardently Marxist youth into a literary anachronism in post-Soviet Russia, with the bulk of the text focusing on the author's mid-century experiences. Solzhenitsyn spent years in a Soviet labor camp, then in exile in the gulag after being jailed for anti-Soviet sentiments found in his letters, and eventually was able to leave for the U.S. He emerged as a vociferous critic of the Soviet regime and a writer of international renown, with his memoir of his life in the gulag, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, among his most famous works. Pearce explores Solzhenitsyn's literary output, emphasizing its cultural context and impact. During the 1970s, Solzhenitsyn lost critical support when he began to denounce what he considered from a religious standpoint the selfish materialism of the West. Ever the scholar, he located the origin of the problem in the transition between the sensibilities of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Pearce, who has penned biographies of J.R.R. Tolkien and G.K. Chesterton, gives little credence to Solzhenitsyn's critics. So readers will gain a detailed impression of one of the leading intellectuals of the mid-20th century, but only an incomplete understanding of his latter-day contexts. B&w photos. (Feb. 1)Forecast: This book could be a tough sell, with a bio of Solzhenitsyn already in print, from a major writer (D.M. Thomas). However, Baker Book House has made the wise move of pricing its title low for a hardcover--lower even than the trade paperback edition of Thomas's book, and the Pearce has a special draw in that it includes previously unpublished poetry by the Russian author, which will ensure some interest.
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The publication of this updated version of Joseph Pearce's biography of the great Russian writer is most welcome, indeed. With impressive clarity, Pearce conveys the fullness of a life lived at the service of freedom of the will and service to the truth. Where other critics and biographers have lamented Solzhenitsyn's departure from the modern progressive consensus, Pearce allows Solzhenitsyn to speak for himself. He presents an evocative portrait of a "pessimistic optimist" whose final words are catharsis and hope. The four new chapters in this edition give a good sense of the range of Solzhenitsyn's concerns during the last decade of his life and will correct many misunderstandings. --Daniel J. Mahoney
, Author of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The Ascent From Ideology
Pearce has grasped with great insight the spiritual core of Solzhenitsyn's achievement as a writer, and indeed as a prophet to Russia and the world. He writes with warm sympathy for Russia's greatest literary voice in modern times. --David Aikman
, Author, Great Souls: Six Who Changed the Century
Joseph Pearce is best on what matters most about Solzhenitsyn: the centrality of the author's Christian faith. It is no wonder that Solzhenitsyn chose to... provide Pearce with fresh information. Newcomers to Solzhenitsyn should start with this biography. They will find here a highly readable rendition of one of the most sensational lives of the twentieth century. --Edward E. Ericson Jr.
, Author, Solzhenitsyn and the Modern World