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East & West by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn.

Title: East & West: The Nobel Lecture on Literature, A World Split Apart, Letter to the Soviet Leaders and a BBC Interview.
Author: Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn.
Genre: Non-fiction, politics, political dissent, lecture, letter, interview.
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Summary:

My rating: 8.5/10
My Review:



♥ Who would dare to say that he has defined art? Or has enumerated all its aspects? Moreover, perhaps someone already did understand and did name them for us in the preceding centuries, but that could not long detain us: we listened briefly but took no heed; we discarded the words at once, hurrying - as always - to replace even the very best with something else, just so that it might be new. And when we are told the old once again, we won’t even remember that we used to have it earlier.

♥ All those prognosticators of the decay, degeneration, and death of art were wrong and will always be wrong. It shall be we who die; art will remain. And shall we even comprehend before our passing all of its aspects and the entirely of its purposes?

Not everything can be named. Some things draw us beyond words. Art can warm even a chilled and sunless soul to an exalted spiritual experience. Through art we occasionally receive - indistinctly, briefly - revelations the likes of which cannot be achieved by rational thought.

It is like that small mirror of legend: you look into it but instead of yourself you glimpse for a moment the Inaccessible, a realm forever beyond reach. And your soul begins to ache…

♥ Dostoevsky once let drop an enigmatic remark: “Beauty will save the world.” What is this? For a long time it seemed to me simply a phrase. How could this be possible? When in the bloodthirsty process of history did beauty ever save anyone, and from what? Granted, it ennobled, it elevated - but whom did it ever save?

There is, however, a particular feature in the very essence of beauty - a characteristic trait of art itself: the persuasiveness of a true work of art is completely irrefutable; it prevails even over a resisting heart. A political speech, an aggressive piece of journalism, a program for the organization of society, a philosophical system, can all be constructed - with apparent smoothness and harmony - on an error or on a lie. What is hidden and what is distorted will not be discerned right away. But then a contrary speech, journalistic piece, or program, or a differently structured philosophy, comes forth to join the argument, and everything is again just as smooth and harmonious, and again everything fits. And so they inspire trust - and distrust.

In vain does one repeat what the heart does not find sweet.

…So perhaps the old Trinity of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty is not simply the decorous and antiquated formula it seemed to us at the time of our self-confident materialistic youth. If the tops of these three trees do converge, as thinkers used to claim, and if the all too obvious and the overly straight sprouts of Truth and Goodness have been crushed, cut down, or not permitted to grow, then perhaps the whimsical, unpredictable, and ever surprising shoots of Beauty will force their way through and soar up to that very spot, thereby fulfilling the task of all three.

And then no slip of the tongue but a prophecy would be contained in Dostoevsky’s words: “Beauty will save the world.” For it was given to him to see many things; he had astonishing flashes of insight.

Could not then art and literature in a very real way offer succor to the modern world?

Tags: interviews, lectures, letters, my favourite books, non-fiction, political dissent, politics, totalitarian regimes
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