Lumen Magazine_Winter 2020

In Solzhenitsyn and the American Culture there is an essay by Julianna Leachman. She compares the southern gothic mode of American Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor with Solzhenitsyn’s depiction of the gulags. Both authors show us the peril and terror of the human conundrumbut also a golden thread of the human potential – of human virtue in the negative space. These two writers reveal to their readers the best remedy for a world estranged: reality. Art can speak where propaganda cannot, its secret ingredient being the beauty of truth. For the Christian, truth is unconquerable, and so in times of desolation it can emerge all the more starkly.

I believe that this is what Solzhenitsyn meant when he quoted Dostoevsky’s “Beauty will save the world.” Solzhenitsyn drew on his Russian Orthodox faith and argued that turmoil, suffering and political unrest are ultimately brittle, their own sort of antithesis. In the Nobel lecture he went on to say, “Awork of art bears within itself its own verification: Conceptions which are devised or stretched do not stand being portrayed in images, they all come crashing down, appear sickly and pale, convince no one. But those works of art which have scooped up the truth and presented it to us as a living force – they take hold of us, compel us, and nobody ever, not even in ages to come, will appear to refute them.”

This past October, Murphy Institute, a partnership between the Center for Catholic Studies and the School of Law, hosted a book launch for the recently released Solzhenitsyn and American Culture: The Russian Soul in theWest . The program featured several contributing authors who spoke on their respective chapters and was facilitated by editors Jessica HootenWilson and David Deavel. Published by Notre Dame Press, it is available for purchase at books/P03241 .

Truth is unconquerable, so in times of desolation it can emerge all the more starkly.

St. Thomas Lumen Winter 2020 Page 25

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