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Solzhenitsyn's Memoir: Navrozov Is a Scorpion Who Stung Him

Friday, 02 March 2007 12:00 AM

Who is Solzhenitsyn?

Before the advent of the Nobel Prizes and of the mass communication media, genius outside exact sciences and technology was proclaimed by a circle of cognoscenti. Today, the world fame is often "succés de scandale." The cognoscenti pronounced Pasternak a poet of genius in 1912. He died in 1960.

In those 48 years, he did not receive a Nobel Prize for his poetry as Tolstoy or Chekhov did not receive it for their prose. Indeed, the first translation of his poetry into English (translation, and not the substitution of English for Russian words by a university professor of Russian) was done by my son Andrei Navrozov and published in London in 1990. No "scandale"!

On the other hand, Pasternak's novel "Doctor Zhivago" was smuggled out of Russia and published in Italy in 1957. A world "scandale"! Pasternak was expelled from the Union of Soviet Writers and became an outcast, excoriated by the Soviet powers that be for the entire world to hear. "Doctor Zhivago" is not prose of genius on a par with Tolstoy or Chekhov. But in 1958 the Nobel Prize duly followed.

In the case of Solzhenitsyn, his first "scandale" was not regarded by the powers that be as hostile. On the contrary, it was created by Khrushchev, who succeeded Stalin.

What was Khrushchev's motivation?

After Stalin died (in 1953), there ensued a struggle for succession: those whom he had promoted shortly before his death expected to succeed him and wanted him to be glorified posthumously as much as when he was alive, while those who had been demoted in this reshuffle wanted to debunk him posthumously. Khrushchev's letter, read to the meetings of employees behind closed doors, represented Stalin "as our Hitler, only worse," to quote my Moscow neighbor at the time.

Accordingly, Khrushchev ordered the publication of "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," Solzhenitsyn's sketch of a day in Stalin's concentration camps (as to how Solzhenitsyn ended up in them, see later). The publication was a global "scandale." For the first time an inmate of those camps described them publicly in Russia!

On the other hand, Brezhnev ousted Khrushchev and deported Solzhenitsyn out of the country—another global "scandale"!

In Solzhenitsyn's "Electronic Library," into which he has put everything he has written and thus made it available all over the world (at www.solzhenitsyn.ru), we read the following about myself: "In the USSR he was hiding and kept mum, without a whiff of opposition — he 'lived underground,' as he says coquettishly in 'Kontinent' [a leading émigré magazine]."

Solzhenitsyn is right in the sense that when I voted against Stalin at the age of 18, I managed to avoid any suspicion or detection. On the other hand, at the age of 26, Solzhenitsyn sent to his friend a letter in which he "criticized Stalin" (at the time it was common to think privately that Stalin did not reach the level of genius of Marx and Lenin).

Having lived in Stalin's Russia since his birth, Solzhenitsyn did not suspect at the age of 26 that the mail was censored — especially during the war and especially from and to the military. If Solzhenitsyn had written in his letter what Khrushchev wrote about Stalin (after Stalin's death) in that note of his read at "closed meetings of working people," Solzhenitsyn would have been shot and perhaps preliminarily tortured to make him confess that he was a Gestapo agent.

As it was, he spent eight years in prisons and labor camps, to spend the rest of his life in exile. Fortunately for him, Stalin died, and after three years of exile he was released into Soviet Russia at large, a country-wide prison camp.

While mute, and hence safe in Soviet Russia, in the West, I, according to Solzhenitsyn, "immediately became the bulwark of conservatism, the author of uncompromising anti-Soviet columns in The New York City Tribune."

In Soviet Russia, our country-house "was not far from Gromyko's," acidly notes Solzhenitsyn.

Well, Mrs. Gromyko was even more indignant than Solzhenitsyn. "Who are they? Not even members of the Party! Yet the house and estate they bought are bigger than ours!"

The polarity is obvious.

At one pole, the hero Solzhenitsyn who is so heroic in Soviet Russia that he pays for his heroism with eight years in Stalin's prisons and concentration camps and three years in exile, and at the opposite pole is the cowardly opportunist Navrozov who in the West lashes out at the Soviet system, but who was silent in Soviet Russia about it!

Solzhenitsyn assumes that he is the prophet, leading Russia spiritually, but the foes of Russia such as myself are trying to stop him.

How to stop him? "By slander!"

"In store is Lev Navrozov, a literary genius (he brought to the West several [Solzhenitsyn's invention] complete novels, but even the first of these novels, 'The Education of Lev Navrozov,' was not — what malice! — recognized superior to everything written in the 20th century."

As for the other novels [a figment of Solzhenitsyn's imagination] they were simply ignored.

Solzhenitsyn concludes this paragraph by saying about me: "I knew him as a scorpion, but such a sting into my side I had not expected from him."

What sting?

In its June/July 1985 issue, "Midstream" published my review of Solzhenitsyn's new Russian version of his "August 1914," which Farrar, Straus & Giroux was publishing in English.

In the new Russian version of "August 1914," 240 pages were devoted to the assassination in 1911 of Stolypin, Russia's prime minister who had introduced the Agrarian Reforms under which farmers could leave agricultural communities and become independent individual farmers (as in the West). Revolutionaries were outraged: now many farmers would become land owners, bourgeois, supporters of the existing order.

Some revolutionaries (such as Social-Revolutionaries) used terror as a means of social struggle, and Dmitry (Mitya) Bogrov assassinated Stolypin and was executed.

Here Solzhenitsyn discovered the essence of the Russian and hence world history. "Dmitry" is a formal Russian name, "Mitya" is its Russian diminutive, and Bogrov is a typical Russian family name.

Since Dmitry Bogrov was an atheist, no one could say without his birth certificate what his ethnic origin was. But Solzhenitsyn identified him as a Jew. Hook-nosed? Oh, no! Effeminate! Longish flattened-out head! Snakelike! Full of mirth! They cannot restrain their glee as they sneak up snakelike and sting their victim. But how did the assassination of Stolypin actually happen?

Stolypin was at the opera. During the first entr'acte, a tall impeccably dressed solemn gentleman (Bogrov) strode up to Stolypin and shot him twice point-blank. The public rushed to the scene to mob Bogrov — his face was all lacerated and blood was gushing from his mouth, when the police announced that he was under arrest, thus saving him from being beaten to death.

After his conviction he was hanged.

He behaved with fearless disdain throughout. All of which is the opposite of Solzhenitsyn's image of Bogrov — a Jew-like snake or a snake-like Jew, full of glee.

To Solzhenitsyn, Russia was the world's most important country. Stolypin meant to save it from revolution. Bogrov, that is, the world Jewry, which hated Russia, stung Stolypin, that is, Russia.

"August 1914" was not a novel, still less a historical study, but a fairy tale, composed by a sociologically/historically illiterate 5-year-old who did not know at the age of 26 that the mail was censored in Stalin's Russia.

Joel Carmichael, editor of "Midstream," told me that Farrar, Straus & Giroux, which was to publish (in English) "August 1914," had read my "Midstream" review of it and informed Solzhenitsyn that it would not publish his book unless he cleansed it of its anti-Semitic fantasies.

This is what Solzhenitsyn means when he writes in his memoir that though he knew I was a scorpion, my sting in his side he had not expected. To him, I was another Bogrov, except that I stung not Stolypin, but Solzhenitsyn himself, Solzhenitsyn was also informed that "Midstream" would publish his rebuttal in defense of his "August 1914," and should his letter be convincing, the matter of publication would be resolved.

The rebuttal was written or at least signed not by Solzhenitsyn himself, but by his helpmate or follower.

It was unanswerable.

Of course Solzhenitsyn could have represented all Jews in his novel as charming. But absolute honesty, not only genius, was his hallmark. The Jews in his "August 1914" are such because this is how they are in life.

Thus, Solzhenitsyn's associate (or Solzhenitsyn himself) believed that all people, except those who are Jews themselves, would agree with Solzhenitsyn's portrayal of Jews. But even if this were the case, the publisher could not announce that the book would not be read by Jews since every reader would have to present his or her birth certificate or be certified by Solzhenitsyn himself as not being Jewish.

So Solzhenitsyn began expurgating from his "August 1914" his anti-Semitic fantasies, and the book appeared four years later, in 1989.

Still, when The New York Times reviewed the book, the reviewer found one of Solzhenitsyn's statements maliciously anti-Semitic: The Jews who had been emigrating from Russia since the end of the 19th century had been creating in the West an unfavorable image of Russia.

In my "Midstream" review I did not point out that this remark of Solzhenitsyn is anti-Semitic! Because I do not consider it such. The Russian and Soviet governments by no means treated Jews always fairly. Nor did pogroms added to their well-being. The word "Cossack" was perceived by Jews like "death on horseback" (see the biography of Golda Meir), and Russians like Solzhenitsyn (incidentally, a son of a Cossack) hardly made or make Russia attractive to the Jews.

Only Stalin's death stopped his preparations for the deportation of all Jews in Russia to Siberia, where Solzhenitsyn had been pining for his underestimation of Stalin's genius in his private letter. Why should Jews be expected to give only top marks to Russia?

In general, in 1989, Solzhenitsyn's "succés de scandale" was already declining in the West, and pretty soon you could hear the (Jewish?) joke: "Is Solzhenitsyn alive?" "Who?"

* * *

You can e-mail me at navlev@cloud9.net.

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Who is Solzhenitsyn? Before the advent of the Nobel Prizes and of the mass communication media, genius outside exact sciences and technology was proclaimed by a circle of cognoscenti. Today, the world fame is often "succés de scandale." The cognoscenti pronounced...
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