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Open forum May 9 presents inside view of Nobel Laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's life

May 05, 2008

Sara Miller
315 443 9038

Sara Miller

Syracuse University's College of Arts and Sciences and Lillian and Emanuel Slutzker Center for International ServicesCommencement exercises on Sunday, May 11 -- and Edward Ericson Jr., professor emeritus at Calvin College. are hosting a public forum Friday, May 9, to recognize 2008 honorary degree candidate Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn. The forum will feature Solzhenitsyn's son, Stephan -- who will accept his father's honorary doctor of letters degree at

The forum, "An Inside View of Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn: A Conversation with Stephan Solzhenitsyn," will begin at 1 p.m. in Room 500 of the Hall of Languages, and a reception will follow. Free parking will be available in the University Avenue Garage for those attending the forum.

Nobel Laureate Solzhenitsyn was born in Kislovodsk, Russia, on Dec. 11, 1918. A survivor of the Soviet gulag system, Solzhenitsyn became known to the world in 1962 with the publication of "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" (Signet, 1963). Solzhenitsyn was a captain in the Red Army and served on the front until he was arrested in 1945 for a private letter that he had written to a childhood friend in which he criticized Communist Party leader Joseph Stalin.

He was sentenced to an eight-year term, followed by permanent exile. Part of his sentence was served in a special scientific research facility, a "sharashka," where convicts were developing means of radio and phone communication. The novel "The First Circle" was based upon this experience. From 1950-53, Solzhenitsyn served in one of the special camps in Kazakhstan that provided the setting and material for "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich." In 1952, diagnosed with cancer, Solzhenitsyn spent time in a prison hospital, where he gleaned material for his future novel "Cancer Ward."

In 1956, Solzhenitsyn went to live in a village in the middle of Russia. He taught school there and lived in a house owned by Matryona Vasilevna Zakharova, a peasant woman who rose to the status of the heroine of the story "Matryona's Home," widely acknowledged as Solzhenitsyn's best-known short story.

In 1962, Aleksandr Tvardovsky, editor of the leading Russian literary journal Novy Mir, published "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich." However, by 1963, Solzhenitsyn's works were only published through the underground system widely known as "samizdat." In the late 1960s, "The First Circle" (Harper & Row, 1968) and "Cancer Ward" (Dial Press, 1968) were published in the West.

In 1970, Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature." Solzhenitsyn received the award in absentia and published the Nobel Lecture in 1974.

In 1974, shortly after the publication in the West of "The Gulag Archipelago" (Harper & Row), the three-volume investigation into Soviet labor camps, Solzhenitsyn was arrested, forcefully exiled to the West and deprived of his Soviet citizenship. In the West, Solzhenitsyn dedicated most of his time to the writing of his masterpiece, "The Red Wheel" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1989), and also finished "The Oak and the Calf: Sketches of Literary Life" (Franklin Library, 1980).

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