Monday, December 15, 2008

In Search of Solzhenitsyn: Under a Full and Glorious Moon

Last night several of us were out searching for Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Rostov's favorite son and Nobel Laureate. Well actually, we were scouting for the bas relief plaque hung days ago in his memory.

Our hunt was under that magnificent moon, a day or two past full. Called a waning moon, if I'm not mistaken.

Wish I could say that in this fine institution our hero studied literature. In truth, the place is a vodka brewery. And so, we move right along. . .

Alexander Solzhenitsyn died in August, as you may recall. Thursday would have been his 90th birthday, so he was featured on the national news. Better yet was local Rostov coverage and I caught a snippet of information that I've long been waiting for: That a plaque had been installed in his honor here in Rostov. Friend Misha made some calls and sent the address last evening: At 88 Maxim Gorky Street we would find the plaque. But first, let's have a quick look at the life of Solzhenitsyn, thanks to the wonders of YouTube.

An even better interview is with Solzenitsyn's oldest son, below, presented by Russia Today especially for the author's 90th birthday. Somewhere I saw a photo of this son at age 10 or 12, sitting at a manual typewriter typing manuscripts from his father's notes, as I recall. As the interview shows, this son speaks fluent English, thanks to the family's years living in Vermont.

And last night after McDonald's, my dinner companions and I walked along Gorky Street and there it was. The Plaque. Now this is going to look a lot nicer in daylight.

But allelujah, we found it! And here's what it says: In this building from 1936 until 1941, in the department of physics and mathematics, studied Alexander Isaacovich Solzyenitsyn, Russian author and winner of the Nobel Prize.

But not everybody is thrilled about honoring Solzhenitsyn. Nothing personal though. Gotta pity the folks in Moscow who do business on what was, until recently, Big Communist Street. Now it's Alexander Solzhenitsyn Street and, according to Moscow Times, residents are not too happy. Can't blame them one bit. Somehow, imagine that Solzhenitsyn would have a thing or two to say about all the bureaucracy involved in changing the street name and what an inconvenience it is to locals. Come to think of it, think he would write on that subject at length and probably win a prize for it too.

PS: Today returned to the building where Solzhenitsyn's plaque is hung. It was once part of Rostov State University. And here's the view in broad daylight. Happens that this site very near the tram stop I use.

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