Sunday, August 3, 2008

Alexander Solzhenitsyn - RIP

Eugenia Ginzburz

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the famous Russian dissident and author of The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, has died. His seminal books were, for most of the world, the first glimpse into the horror of the Soviet Gulag. Ilya Somin of the Volokh Conspiracy writes about him here.

While I found these books to be fact filled and dry, what I really learned about life inside the Gulag came from the books of Eugenia Semyonova Ginzburg who spent almost 20 years as a prisoner.

Her book Journey Into The Whirlwind chronicles her life as an educator and stalwart communist party member in Kazan who was arrested in Stalin's great purge in 1937 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. After being subjected to a Moscow show trial she was sent on a prison train across the Soviet Union to a work camp in Siberia. Within the Whirlwind is the continuation of her life in the Gulag where she eventually met another prisoner, a German doctor who saved her life and who she eventually married.

I always wondered why her books, which are written in such a cinematic way with scenes rich with detail, were never made into films. Hollywood gives us one banal boring movie after another and rarely a film based on a true story that is historically interesting and emotionally uplifting.

Hint to Steven Spielberg: If you ever decide to produce Journey Into The Whirlwind, Rachel Weisz would be perfect as Eugenia Ginzburg.

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