December 13, 2007
Solzhenitsyn Turns 89
By Kirill Bessonov
Alexander Solzhenitsyn turned 89 on Tuesday, December 11. Despite of his years, the famous Russian writer and former dissident is hard at work preparing for the publication of new editions of his works and frequently talking to journalists about the current situation in Russia, the country's past and future.
Three Russian publishing houses decided to publish a new edition of Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago this year, after the second sixteen year break. At first, Solzhenitsyn had to wait for sixteen years for the work to be published in the Soviet Union. Then, after countless publications in the Perestroika period he had to wait for another sixteen years to have the book re-published as the tastes of Russian public have switched from political issues to fiction.
The new edition will be an extended one - Solzhenitsin added the names of all people whom he could not name in Soviet times, as he feared for their security. "The list of contributors, those who had submitted their testimonies is my duty," the writer said in an interview with the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily.
Solzhenitsyn is also preparing to publish new parts of his epic novel The Red Wheel, describing Russian history from 1914 to 1917 - the First World War and the Revolution. "All facts are collected in my book, nothing important is lost, I need the people to see and learn it as soon as possible," the writer said, adding that he thinks that the new editions of his books are the best birthday present.
Apart from the above-mentioned books, Solzhenitsyn's first biography will be published early next year. The book starts as early as the 17century when Solzhenitsyn's family was first mentioned in records and goes on to describe the writer's childhood and youth, his army service during the war and his travel through Gulag prison camps.
The author of the biography, literary critic Lyudmila Saraskina, called her work a "priceless experience" and added the writer was a "summit of the 20th century".