Between Two Millstones, Book 1
Sketches of Exile, 1974–1978
The Center for Ethics and Culture Solzhenitsyn Series
Published by: University of Notre Dame Press
480 pages, 156.00 x 235.00 mm
- ISBN: 9780268105020
- Published: October 2021
Russian Nobel prize–winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918–2008) is widely acknowledged as one of the most important figures—and perhaps the most important writer—of the last century. To celebrate the centenary of his birth, the first English translation of his memoir of the West, Between Two Millstones, Book 1, is being published. Fast-paced, absorbing, and as compelling as the earlier installments of his memoir The Oak and the Calf (1975), Between Two Millstones begins on February 13, 1974, when Solzhenitsyn found himself forcibly expelled to Frankfurt, West Germany, as a result of the publication in the West of The Gulag Archipelago. Solzhenitsyn moved to Zurich, Switzerland, for a time and was considered the most famous man in the world, hounded by journalists and reporters. During this period, he found himself untethered and unable to work while he tried to acclimate to his new surroundings.
Between Two Millstones contains vivid descriptions of Solzhenitsyn's journeys to various European countries and North American locales, where he and his wife Natalia (“Alya”) searched for a location to settle their young family. There are fascinating descriptions of one-on-one meetings with prominent individuals, detailed accounts of public speeches such as the 1978 Harvard University commencement, comments on his television appearances, accounts of his struggles with unscrupulous publishers and agents who mishandled the Western editions of his books, and the KGB disinformation efforts to besmirch his name. There are also passages on Solzhenitsyn's family and their property in Cavendish, Vermont, whose forested hillsides and harsh winters evoked his Russian homeland, and where he could finally work undisturbed on his ten-volume dramatized history of the Russian Revolution, The Red Wheel. Stories include the efforts made to assure a proper education for the writer's three sons, their desire to return one day to their home in Russia, and descriptions of his extraordinary wife, editor, literary advisor, and director of the Russian Social Fund, Alya, who successfully arranged, at great peril to herself and to her family, to smuggle Solzhenitsyn's invaluable archive out of the Soviet Union.
Between Two Millstones is a literary event of the first magnitude. The book dramatically reflects the pain of Solzhenitsyn's separation from his Russian homeland and the chasm of miscomprehension between him and Western society.
"Between Two Millstones is the name of the autobiography that picks up where The Oak and the Calf left off. . . . Published in Russian periodicals in the late 1990s and now translated into English, the book charts a striking transformation in how Western readers saw Solzhenitsyn, and how he, in turn, saw himself." —National Review
“. . . we must be grateful for these sketches and the insight into the times that they offer, as well as the all-too-rare and occasional glimpses of the lovable man behind the publicly impenetrable mask.” —Chronicles
“Solzhenitsyn remained a Russian patriot. His literary mission was the restoration of his homeland to a condition of liberty and flourishing that Leninist-Stalinism destroyed. This is the ultimate truth of the recently released English edition of Book 1 of Between Two Millstones, which is Solzhenitsyn’s account of his forced exile in the West in 1974.” —Law & Liberty
“We can be thankful to the University of Notre Dame Press for publishing, late last year, Between Two Millstones, Book I: Sketches of Exile, 1974-1978, translated by Peter Constantine and with an introduction by the Solzhenitsyn scholar Daniel J. Mahoney. . . . Between Two Millstones is an entirely different category. While March 1917 is a crucial episode in the work that Solzhenitsyn relentlessly devoted himself to for decades of research and writing, the former is much more causal—not a journal, precisely, but full of incident.” —First Things
“[Solzhenitsyn] is a writer with a necessarily solitary occupation, yet he is put upon by outside forces that feel to him as inexorable as Soviet oppression. . . . This will be enjoyed by serious readers of this author.” —San Francisco Book Review
“Constantine’s formidable translation of the first volume of Solzhenitsyn’s memoir is a birth-centennial tribute to the great Russian writer. . . . This memoir is a timely and propitious antidote to the current perplexing world situation, which is marked by the rise of neo-Nazism, international wars, criminal activities on the part of governments, and callous disregard for the law and constitutional traditions.” —Choice
“Between Two Milestones is a testament not only to the courage and clear-sightedness of Solzhenitsyn but also to the evils of the Soviet Union and the pathologies that still plague the West. . . . Insightful, surprisingly humorous at places, and always focused on those things that make life work living—family, God, culture, and one’s own country—Between Two Milestones illuminates the struggles one faces when living in the West and what one can make of it in this free but empty civilization.” —Voegelin View
“[Solzhenitsyn] was a polymath, an able scientist, and mathematician who devoured literature in many languages. . . . For readers who seek to understand one of the pivotal geniuses of the 20th century, Between Two Millstones is a treasure.” —Claremont Review of Books
"An engaging tale of Solzhenitsyn's initial exposure to Western ways." —Rain Taxi
"Here we meet Solzhenitsyn the writer, a man searching for a quiet place to gather his thoughts, refine them, and put them on paper. . . . In this book above all others, perhaps, Solzhenitsyn shows how he subtly shifted the emphasis of Russian Orthodox Christianity toward a path of greater sobriety." —Society
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