(Tim, w/thanks to James) Who are my heroes from the last half of the twentieth century? Among others, Mother Teresa, John Cardinal O'Connor, Francis Schaeffer, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Joe Sobran, Iain Murray, Dad and Mom (Ken & Margaret) Taylor, John Piper, Dad and Mud (Joe & Mary Lou) Bayly, Elisabeth Elliot, Erwin Raphael McManus, Paige Patterson, Mrs. Kent (Barbara) Hughes, Doug Wilson, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. (One of these is a joke--you figure it out.)
About twenty years ago, I read Michael Scammell's Solzhenitsyn: A Biography. A very long read, it was superb and I commend it although I'm sure it's been superseded in more recent years. Personally, I'd attribute the fall of Communism more to Solzhenitsyn's courageous writing than any other factor, including Reagan's famous...
"Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
So it was with great sadness that I read of Solzhenitsyn's death this week. Here's his last interview published in The Independent. It's a fascinating view of Russia from a wise man deeply in love with his country. Read it for a helpful explanation of the challenges facing Russia today and the misunderstandings that dog her relations with the West. The interview concludes with this poignant exchange:
Q: In 1987 you said it was really hard for you to speak about religion in public. What does faith mean for you?
Solzhenitsyn: For me faith is the foundation and support of one's life.
Q: Are you afraid of death?
Solzhenitsyn: No. When I was young, the early death of my father cast a shadow over me – and I was afraid to die before all my literary plans came true. But between 30 and 40 years of age my attitude to death became quite calm and balanced. I feel it is a natural, but no means the final, milestone of one's existence.
Q: Anyhow, we wish you many years of creative life.
Solzhenitsyn: No, no. Don't. It's enough.