At the end of August, Alexander Solzhenitsyn invited correspondents of the AP and Le Monde to his wife’s apartment in Moscow and gave them the text of a long interview. Most of the text had been written in advance and most of the questions were suggested by Solzhenitsyn himself. What follows is the interview as cut and edited by Alain Jacob of Le Monde.
Q. Is it true that you’ve been receiving letters containing threats or warnings from gangsters?
A. Alexander Solzhenitsyn showed us three anonymous letters that he’d received and explained that he saw them as a “masquerade” by police agents.
But here,” he said, “we have a peculiarity, I might even say a privilege, of our regime: not a hair will fall from my head or from the heads of my family without the knowledge or assent of the security police, so carefully are we observed, spied on, followed, and listened to. And if the gangsters were authentic, they would have come under total control of the state security apparatus immediately after their first letter…. If I am declared dead or suddenly and inexplicably am dying, you can without risk of error conclude that I was killed with the approval of the security police or by them.”
Solzhenitsyn added that his death would nevertheless give no satisfaction to those trying to stop his literary work. “Immediately after I die or disappear or am deprived of liberty, under whatever pretext, my literary testament will automatically take effect…. Then will begin the publication of the main part of my work, which I’ve refrained from publishing all these years. If the security police sought out and seized, in all provincial cities, copies of the inoffensive Cancer Ward,…what will they do when my posthumous books—the most important—spread throughout Russia?”1
Q. In an Interview one and a half years ago, you spoke of the difficulties and persecutions you’ve been subject to in your literary work as well as in your daily life. Has there been any improvement?
A. Solzhenitsyn cited the measures taken against those who have helped him—for example, the young literary historian, Gabriel Souperfine, who was arrested last July 3. He recalled the pressures on the cellist M. Rostropovich after he took refuge at Rostropovich’s house, as well as the bugging of his conversations, the damage done to his car, and the way he was forced to accept his Nobel Prize payment as a “personal gift,” thus authorizing the Soviet government to confiscate a third of the money. “An eminent general of the KGB sent through a third person a direct ultimatum that if I didn’t go abroad I would be left to rot in a camp, the camp at Kolyma, under an ordinary article of law. If necessary this third person will sooner or later reveal more of the details of that episode.”
Q. Since you’ve not been given official authorization to live in Moscow with your family, where do you live?
A. I no longer live…
This is exclusive content for subscribers only.
Get unlimited access to The New York Review for just $1 an issue!
Continue reading this article, and thousands more from our archive, for the low introductory rate of just $1 an issue. Choose a Print, Digital, or All Access subscription.