Between Two Millstones, Book 1
Sketches of Exile, 1974–1978
480 pages, 6.14 x 9.21
Hardcover | 9780268105013 | October 2018
eBook | 9780268105037 | October 2018
eBook | 9780268105044 | October 2018
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 12, 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 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.
Born December 11, 1918, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a Soviet political prisoner from 1945–1953. He set himself firmly against the anti-human Soviet system, and all anti-human ideologies, from that time forward. The publication of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich in 1962 made him famous, and The Gulag Archipelago, published to worldwide acclaim in 1974, further unmasked communism and played a critical role in its eventual defeat. Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel Prize in 1970 and was exiled to the West in 1974. He ultimately published dozens of plays, poems, and novels, as well as works of history, nonfiction, and memoir, including Cancer Ward, In the First Circle, and The Oak and the Calf. Few authors have so decisively shaped minds, hearts, and world events as did Solzhenitsyn. The New York Times called Solzhenitsyn a “literary giant” after his death on August 3, 2008.
Peter Constantine is a literary translator and editor, and the director of the Literary Translation Program at the University of Connecticut.
Daniel J. Mahoney is professor of political science at Assumption College.
"As a former political prisoner fresh out of the USSR, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was consumed with the desire of making the West see the dangers of communism. But an increasing number of Western commentators found his views too harsh in this respect, as well as 'insufficiently liberal' in general. Controversies concerning Solzhenitsyn began erupting with ever greater frequency, reaching a crescendo of sorts after the Harvard speech. In Between Two Millstones, Solzhenitsyn revisits these polemical battles with gusto and in fascinating detail." ~Alexis Klimoff, emeritus, Vassar College
“Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn took to Vermont, and Vermonters took to him. I felt it a privilege to have met with him in his new Vermont setting, and I know that our state’s forested beauty reminded him of home. We are proud that he believed that his homeland, and the world, could learn from the local self-government that is embodied in Town Meeting Day in towns and hamlets across the Green Mountain State.” ~Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont)
"Like the man himself, the translated memoir of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is an indispensable part of history. Solzhenitsyn's words, now accessible to English readers for the first time, are a lasting testimony to his unbending moral courage, his persistence, and his persuasiveness—all of which helped bring down Communism.” ~Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defense (1975–1977, 2001–2006)
"These 'sketches of life in exile' were written during the events described and are informed with the same energy and vivid powers of description that characterized Solzhenitsyn's acclaimed memoir The Oak and the Calf. Between Two Millstones has appeared in Russian, French, German, Italian, and Romanian, but not in the country where Solzhenitsyn spent eighteen years of his western exile. It is one of the great memoirs of our time and a distinguished work of art in its own right." ~Daniel J. Mahoney, Assumption College
"Between Two Millstones describes the years when Solzhenitsyn, banished but unbowed, defied Western decadence as eloquently as he had Soviet brutality." ~The Weekly Standard
"For those wishing to know more about the literary genius and political giant who was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, this autobiographical account of his years of exile in the West is a wish come true. Up until now, we have only had Solzhenitsyn's account of his years as a dissident in the Soviet Union, prior to his expulsion from his homeland. As for the years from 1974 to 1994, we have had to content ourselves with mere scraps and fragments. Now, at long last, we are being served the feast for which we have hungered." ~Joseph Pearce, author of Solzhenitsyn: A Soul in Exile
"Solzhenitsyn's account of his early years of exile is informed by a refusal to be swept along by the swift-moving currents of modernity and an ever-increasing awareness of the West's loss of a moral compass. It should be high on the reading list of every thinking American." ~Lee Congdon, author of Solzhenitsyn: The Historical-Spiritual Destinies of Russia and the West