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Solzhenitsyn: A Soul in Exile Paperback – April 15, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

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than the trade paperback edition of Thomas's book, and the Pearce has a special draw in that it includes previously unpublished poetry by the Russian author, which will ensure some interest.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 414 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Press; Revised, Updated ed. edition (April 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586174967
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586174965
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #317,809 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
There are lengthy biographies of Solzhenitsyn by Scammell and Thomas, and specialized studies (e.g. Ericson's). Pearce's book meets the need of public and undergraduate libraries for a very readable, concise, and up-to-date biography of this controversial Nobel Prize winner. Pearce's book includes some otherwise unavailable recent material by Solzhenitsyn -- the prose poems at the end of the book -- so graduate libraries ought to have it, also.
Individuals who have read Solzhenitsyn's own autobiographical works and open letters might not need this book, but for most readers it will be a good introduction. It has the salutary effect of prompting one to go and (re)read works such as The First Circle. Pearce doesn't go into depth in discussion of Solzhenitsyn's books, but says enough to quicken interest in them.
Pearce shows affinity between Solzhenitsyn's positive ideas and those of people such as E. F. Schumacher (Small Is Beautiful). The critique of Enlightenment progressivism and positivism isn't detailed, but there's enough to remind me of writers as otherwise diverse as Phillip Sherrard (The Eclipse of Man and Nature), Russell Kirk, and the author of Ideas Have Consequences. I was also reminded a little of C. S. Lewis's prophetic novel That Hideous Strength, where Lewis presents a distinction between Britain and Logres, as I read Solzhenitsyn as quoted by Pearce, on the souls of nations. Familiarity with these writers -- who are often not known, or well known, to persons who presume to speak of their ideas -- can help one to understand where Solzhenitsyn is coming from.
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By John Keck on February 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
Pearce's biography of A.I. Solzhenitsyn may leave off the man's rougher edges, but manages to bring to the fore the centrality of Solzhenitsyn's religious convictions. This seems to be Pearce's forte and his mission in life. In today's cultural wasteland, when nearly no one looks past their momentary needs, it is very much needed. Very edifying.
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Format: Hardcover
Solzhenitsyn: A Soul In Exile is a new biography of Alexander Solzhenitsyn portraying a complex man of integrity and faith, and whose anti-materialist stance and call for a "moral revolution" are as relevant today as they were fifty years ago. Biographer Joseph Pearce reassess this influential Russian writer who gave voice to the more than sixty million victims of Soviet terror, and who won the Nobel Prize for "the ethical force" of his literary work. Even with the collapse of Communism, Solzhenitsyn continues to be an outspoken critic of Russian leadership's role in that country's economic collapse and consequent rise of lawlessness. This impressive, highly recommended biography showcases Solzhenitsyn's life and work as a courageous stand for truth rooted in Christian and moral beliefs as evidenced in his life, poetry, plays, novels, and pronouncements.
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Format: Paperback
This brilliant biography centers on one of the most fascinating men of the 20th century, Solzhenitsyn. It's based on a series of interviews with the man himself.

Solzhenitsyn was steeped, drenched in Communism as a boy. As were all Soviet children, since it was a crime to teach Christianity. So it was perhaps inevitable that Solzhenitsyn became an ardent Communist.

Everyone, especially leftist fools in the west, admired what Communism was trying to do. H G Wells, for example, practically dribbled over Stalin in his enthusiasm during his visit and interview with Stalin.

It was during World War II, when Solzhenitsyn was a soldier, that cracks in his faith in Communism began to occur. Everywhere, he began to see the cruel horror of the regime. He rashly penned a few "derogatory comments about Stalin in a letter" (p 69), for which he was condemned to prison.

Ah yes, the always awful Soviet justice system. Always eager to punish thought crimes, like all leftists.

Years passed in the cold, ugly reality of the Gulag. Even as such western intellectuals of the west, like G B Shaw, H G Wells, and Jean Paul Sartre heaped praise on the Soviet Union, innocent millions suffered and died in the Gulag.

One day Solzhenitsyn found a swelling on his groin. It turned out to be cancer. The long agony of his recovery after the operation, all in the crudest conditions possible in prison, proved to be a turning point for him.

"In facing death he had gained an immeasureably greater understanding of life" (p 115) and real hope for the first time--a belief in God.

He was a committed Christian by the time the Communists let him out of prison.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Alenandr Solzenitsyn is a man certainly worthy of full scale treatment by a biographer. DM Thomas' biography a couple of years ago was strangely unmoving,and barely mentioned Solzenitsyn's religious views, which are at the core of his beliefs. At one time.AI solzenitsyn was the darling of the right in America,a virulent anti-communist who scorned ANYTHING resembling a welfare state{his attacks on free-market capitalism was soft pedalded by these same people}.Slowly, though, he became more and more removed from the centre of attention, and his novels became more and more obscure{and ,truth be told,rambling and quite boring.The red wheel trilogy...}This Biography places solzenitsyn's religious beliefs front and centre and the core of his being{and the reason he was able to survive the hell of the gulag}. While these are quite interesting, and really have rarely been covered in the West, Solzenitsyn's disdain for the West, his dismissal of pope John Paul II during and audience,his Tsarist tendencies and his almost messianic xenonphobia are not touched{though all are of one piece.] Solzenitsyn in many ways reminds me of Gandhi{without the charm}: wanting Holy Mother Russia to rise again to her greatness without the taint of western Decadence through a spiritual revolution. While he is a moral giant and an extraordiany example of the resilience of the human spirit, he is not served well by fawning, uncritical praise. Alexandr I solzhenitsyn deserves a full ,massive critical biography covering all of his life{his return to Russia has been bittersweet,his tv show was canceled for LACK OF INTEREST.Amazing how short peoples memories are!} This is one small step in the process. Interesting,but...
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