Between Two Millstones, Book 2
Exile in America, 1978-1994
680 pages, 6.12 x 9.25
Hardcover | 9780268109004 | November 2020
eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268109035 | November 2020
eBook (EPUB) | 9780268109028 | November 2020
This compelling account concludes Nobel Prize–winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s literary memoirs of his years in the West after his forced exile from the USSR following the publication of The Gulag Archipelago. The book reflects both the pain of separation from his Russian homeland and the chasm of miscomprehension between him and Western opinion makers. In Between Two Millstones, Solzhenitsyn likens his position to that of a grain that becomes lodged between two massive stones, each grinding away—the Soviet Communist power with its propaganda machine on the one hand and the Western establishment with its mainstream media on the other.
Book 2 picks up the story of Solzhenitsyn’s remarkable life after the raucous publicity over his 1978 Harvard Address has died down. The author parries attacks from the Soviet state (and its many fellow-travelers in the Western press) as well as from recent émigrés who, according to Solzhenitsyn, defame Russian culture, history, and religion. He shares his unvarnished view of several infamous episodes, such as a sabotaged meeting with Ronald Reagan, aborted Senate hearings regarding Radio Liberty, and Gorbachev’s protracted refusal to allow The Gulag Archipelago to be published back home. There is also a captivating chapter detailing his trips to Japan, Taiwan, and Great Britain, including meetings with Margaret Thatcher and Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Meanwhile, the central themes of Book 1 course through this volume, too—the immense artistic quandary of fashioning The Red Wheel, staunch Western hostility to the historical and future Russia (and how much can, or should, the author do about it), and the challenges of raising his three sons in the language and spirit of Russia while cut off from the homeland in a remote corner of rural New England. The book concludes in 1994, as Solzhenitsyn bids farewell to the West in a valedictory series of speeches and meetings with world leaders, including John Paul II, and prepares at last to return home with his beloved wife Natalia, full of misgivings about what use he can be in the first chaotic years of post-Communist Russia, but never wavering in his conviction that, in the long run, his books would speak, influence, and convince. This vibrant, faithful, and long-awaited first English translation of Between Two Millstones, Book 2, will fascinate Solzhenitsyn's many admirers, as well as those interested in twentieth-century history, Russian history, and literature in general.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918–2008), Nobel Prize laureate, was a Soviet political prisoner from 1945 to 1953. His story One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962) made him famous, and The Gulag Archipelago (1973) further unmasked Communism and played a critical role in its eventual defeat. Solzhenitsyn was exiled to the West in 1974. He ultimately published dozens of plays, poems, novels, and works of history, nonfiction, and memoir, including In the First Circle, Cancer Ward, The Oak and the Calf, and Between Two Millstones, Book 1: Sketches of Exile, 1974–1978 (University of Notre Dame Press, 2018).
Clare Kitson is a Russian literary translator. She has also translated part of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s epic cycle, The Red Wheel.
Melanie Moore is a Russian and French translator, and she has produced a number of Russian literary translations.
Daniel J. Mahoney holds the Augustine Chair in Distinguished Scholarship at Assumption College.
“When you read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn you know that you are reading and being read by one of the greatest men of the bloody 20th century. . . . He wouldn’t be muzzled. . . . He is also frank. Solzhenitsyn never hesitated to reveal to his readers the truth of things, including his own soul.” —The American Conservative
"The Solzhenitsyn forcibly deported to Germany in 1974 now faces a disconcertingly gaudy array of Western images and effigies of himself. In characteristically vivid and pugnacious vein he tells of twenty years of exile—storm-tossed between the snarling Soviet Scylla and the vertiginous frustrations and perils of this Western Charybdis—nursing the seemingly forlorn hope that he might yet end his days in his homeland. A gripping read!" —Michael Nicholson, co-editor of Solzhenitsyn in Exile
"If Solzhenitsyn did not welcome exile, if he felt torn, as always, between the two millstones of the Soviet 'Dragon' . . . and an uncomprehending and increasingly hostile West, he nonetheless found solitude and happy refuge in his eighteen years in Cavendish, Vermont. It was there that he worked on, and eventually finished, his other great work of historical and literary investigation, The Red Wheel. . . . Eventually Solzhenitsyn would be . . . the enemy of Sovietism par excellence, . . . the last major anti-Communist writer to appear in print." —Daniel J. Mahoney, from the foreword
"Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn—perhaps the most significant literary exile since Dante—is a figure of incalculable importance to world history. Yet in these pages, we enter into the life and times not of an austere statue or a respectable oil portrait but of a flesh-and-blood Russian patriot struggling to defend his vision and his humanity amid the loneliness of his American exile and the remorseless grinding of two rival empires. Between Two Millstones, Book 2 is not only an invaluable addition to Solzhenitsyn studies but also an intimate self-portrait of the great-souled man." —Rod Dreher, author of Live Not by Lies
“For those who see more in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s works than out-of-fashion views about dusty history presented in what appears to be a traditional novel form, the break in the translation logjam and the consequent flood of words, especially with regards to The Red Wheel . . . presents much to consider, to examine with new eyes, and to, quite simply, delight in.” —Big Other
"In terms of the effect he has had on history, Solzhenitsyn is the dominant writer of this century. Who else compares? Orwell? Koestler? Where Solzhenitsyn’s intuition proved keenest was in his prediction when he arrived in the West that his books would surely be published in the Soviet Union and, what was more, that he would himself return to a liberated Russia. It was a firm and intimate belief that even contradicted Solzhenitsyn’s dire analysis of Soviet ruthlessness and Western accommodation. Is it too much of an embarrassment in the age of irony to think that his homecoming is somehow Biblical?" —David Remnick, from
“The Exile Returns” in The New Yorker
"The Solzhenitsyn who emerges in Between Two Millstones is no longer the triumphant and ebullient fighter we saw in The Oak and the Calf. Though ready for battle as ever, his assurance in the efficacy of his word is shaken not only by Westerners with their deeply embedded biases but also by his own countrymen who turn a deaf ear to his warnings. A great read!" —Alexis Klimoff, coauthor of The Soul and Barbed Wire
“[Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn] delineates his idyllic time in rural Vermont, where he had the freedom to work, spend time with his family, and wage a war of ideas against the Soviet Union and other detractors from afar. At his quiet retreat with Natalia, his wife and intellectual partner, and three sons, the Nobel laureate found . . . ‘a happiness in free and uninterrupted work.’” —Kirkus Reviews
"This brave, courageous, and heroic man who spoke and wrote the truth to power at great risk to himself discovered that he was 'between two millstones' in Russia and the West. . . . Russia has never had a greater, more devoted patriot than Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn." —New York Journal of Books
“In Between Two Millstones Solzhenitsyn blends several literary genres—autobiography, essay, and a touch of diary. . . . Readers encounter a great-souled Russian and Christian man in medias res, as he thinks, feels, lives his way through the years of separation from his beloved homeland.” —Will Morrisey Reviews
"In these pages, readers meet one of the great men of the twentieth century. Exiled, misunderstood, and often attacked, Solzhenitsyn drew courage from his devotion to truth, his loyalty to his vocation as a writer, and his indomitable belief in the dignity of the Russian people." —R. R. Reno, editor-in-chief, First Things
"Between Two Millstones provides a unique peek into Solzhenitsyn’s life in Cavendish, a small rural Vermont town whose people collectively chose to keep the location of his home a secret from the prying eyes of the press and the curious. This compelling memoir answers some of the locals’ own questions about life behind Solzhenitsyn’s chain-link fence and provides a glimpse into how it was possible for him to conduct research and to write in such a remote location." —Margaret Caulfield, director, Cavendish Historical Society
“This long-awaited translation does not disappoint, offering insights into [Solzhenitsyn’s] work on The Red Wheel, his family life in Vermont, and his responses to the rapidly evolving political circumstances of what proved to be Soviet Communism’s waning years. . . . Between Two Millstones provides interesting insights into not just Solzhenitsyn but also the landscape he inhabited . . . [and] may be the most pleasurable read in his catalog—an opportunity to spend time with the writer in pleasant refuge.” —The American Spectator
"Solzhenitsyn covers Russian history, corruption in the Soviet Union, and the vacuity of Western culture alongside humorous anecdotes about friends and acquaintances. Each page pulses with intellectual rigor and life energy. It becomes difficult to imagine how Russian literature, and the world’s view of life inside of the Soviet Union, would be without the undying devotion and work of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn." —Foreword Reviews (starred review)
"We know Solzhenitsyn the prisoner of the Gulag and the survivor of cancer. We know Solzhenitsyn the Russian patriot and resolute foe of the tyranny that deformed his country. In the second volume of Between Two Millstones we meet Solzhenitsyn the husband and father, Solzhenitsyn the writer. Here we meet a great soul overcoming not crisis but the quotidian, the banal, the small, a Solzhenitsyn for anyone who struggles against the enervating drag of the ordinary in our culture of distraction." —Will Morrisey, author of Churchill and de Gaulle
"This is a happy book. An epic of small spaces, great issues, and large accomplishments, the concluding volume of Between Two Millstones covers the years 1978 to 1994, when Solzhenitsyn was living on his beloved Vermont property. At the heart of the memoir lies a touching portrait of his wife Natalia. Between Two Millstones is enlivened by the author’s impressions of famous figures like Andrei Sakharov, Heinrich Böll, Margaret Thatcher, and Princess Diana." —Richard Tempest, author of Overwriting Chaos