On Sakharov’s Memoirs

The following was written for the Japanese edition of Andrei Sakharov’s Memoirs.

It is difficult for me to write about Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov’s Memoirs. I do not have the proper distance from the book, almost no distance at all. Nor do I have the strength to try to look at it from the outside: Every time I pick up the book, even simply touching the cover, I am pierced by the painful realization that Andrei did not see it. I feel myself inside the book, and I perceive it as a child that came into the world through my efforts and was nursed through its illnesses, saved from evil, and miraculously survived. It may seem that I am exaggerating. But I am speaking not of the actual work I did during the years when Sakharov was writing this book, but of my attitude toward it, so that the reader will understand that I cannot be objective about it.

Of course, I see that the book is written unevenly, sometimes it is a bit too abstract, too dry. The two chapters largely about physics might seem unnecessary to some, even though there probably wasn’t single day in the life of Andrei Dmitrievich when he didn’t think about science, and there was a time when physics pushed everything else into the background. And sometimes I think the book lacks the explicit characterizations of certain people that I heard from him in our private conversations. But all that is made up for by the author’s absolute honesty, from the first line to the last, in evaluating his own thoughts, decisions, and actions. This is not the typical neurotic introspection of a twentieth-century intellectual, but reflects an extraordinary ability to judge himself soberly and even calmly, as if he were seeing himself inside and out. And then there is his voice. I say voice even though I realize a book is not a record, but you can hear Andrei Dmitrievich’s voice in the book. I am thrilled that several of his friends spoke to me specifically of his voice after they read it.

The author’s foreword states that the book was begun in the summer of 1978, and the date at the end of the book is February 15, 1983. This is both true and not true. Early in our life together we agreed never to travel separately. But life decided otherwise. Since we had many enforced separations, Andrei decided to write a diary for me. In late December 1975, after I went to Italy for eye surgery and to Oslo, where I represented Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov at the ceremony for the Nobel Peace Prize, I read the thick notebook with a dark blue cover which Andrei had filled up over those four months.

When I finished, I regretted that it was so short. That regret quickly grew into resentment that Andrei had not kept a diary as a teen-ager, a student, a young man—all his …

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