Tuesday, August 12, 2008
The Seasons: Is August the Cruelest Month ?
August is the month when wars start.” When the late rock writer Al Aronowitz penned that line in his August Blues he spoke more truly than he knew. The current hostilities between Russia and Georgia are only the latest in a series of modern crises and conflicts that have all broken out in what the novelist Edna O'Brien called the “wicked month” when ordinary people and politicians alike should be at their most relaxed and sunning themselves on Southwold sands, but have just as often been plotting wars and starting rumours of wars.
The very name of the month has a martial ring. August is named after Augustus, first of the Roman emperors, who was himself a successful general. His adopted father, Julius Caesar, was one of the great commanders of history and, after Caesar's assassination in 44BC, it fell to Augustus to hunt down and defeat his uncle's murderers, Brutus and Cassius. He followed this up by defeating his great rival Mark Antony at the sea battle of Actium, leaving himself as the single unchallenged ruler of Rome.
The death of Solzhenitsyn resulted in hundreds of items in the media. There is no question about his courage in writing One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962), followed by The Gulag Archipelago.
The Other Side of Solzhenitsyn
Times OnLine August 5, 2008
- In common with Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn's indictment of autocracy sat oddly - to Western readers at least - with his wider philosophy. He was hostile to the notion that Russia should adopt liberal constitutionalism. He was committed to the values of the Russian Orthodox Church against the corrupting influences of Western materialism. He was fervent in his belief in the unity of Russia and the Slavic peoples. In a notorious interview last year, Solzhenitsyn defended the regime and foreign policy of Vladimir Putin. Some critics have even accused Solzhenitsyn of anti-Semitism - one parallel with Dostoevsky that is certainly unfair.
- "Russians are debating -- what should be done? Some say: Return to the roots, to the old Russia. Solzhenitsyn maintains that czarist Russia was a splendid country, "rich and flowering" (Alexander Solzhenitsyn, How to Rebuild Russia). Then, unfortunately, the Bolsheviks came and ruined everything. And yet witnesses of that earlier epoch paint a less idyllic picture of Russia." -- Ryszard Kapuściński Imperium
According to Young, Solzhenitsyn castigated the policies of Boris Yeltsin, saying the leader stripped Russia of prestige, while embracing President Vladimir Putin. “This was the sad paradox of Solzhenitsyn's final years,” Young writes. “The man who used his Nobel Prize to start a fund for political prisoners kept quiet about the new political prisoners of Putin's regime.”
In the Moscow Times, Yevgeny Kiselyov expresses a similar opinion. “Solzhenitsyn's proposals for how to improve conditions in Russia were naive, at best,” according to Kiselyov. “And how can we regard him as ‘the conscience of the people’ when he remained silent during Russia’s greatest tragedies, at times when the people needed moral support from an authoritative figure the most?” he said, citing instances like the start of the war in Chechnya and the Beslan hostage crisis.