200 Years Together
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s fiction and non-fiction classics include One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich, The Gulag Archipelago, The First Circle, and an immense body of other work which is considered instrumental in breaking down the Communist system in the Soviet Union and leading to the end of Communist rule in Russia and Eastern Europe. His life and work is living proof that it is still possible for a single great mind to affect world events and bring about change in the human condition.
Solzhenitsyn spent roughly ten years toward the end of his life researching and writing a monumental and definitive work entitled 200 Years Together: A History of the Russians and the Jews. Published in the original Russian in 2002, the book was received with a firestorm of rage and denunciation from the literary and media world, from the Jews, and from almost the entire intelligentsia of the established order in the West. Even the Russian government, that had up until then officially revered Solzhenitsyn as the greatest Russian writer and intellectual of the last century, turned its back on him.
From that day to this, the official Russian attitude toward 200 Years Together has been a kind of chagrined mutter: “Well, yes, Solzhenitsyn was a giant in his time, but we all know the old man was getting a bit senile in his old age when he wrote all that anti-Semitic rubbish, eh what?” From being the spiritual father of the new Russia, Solzhenitsyn became the crazy old uncle one had to shut up in his room in the attic lest he embarrass the family in front of guests. Especially Jewish guests.
Ever since its original publication in 2002, immense efforts have been made by the Russian authorities and also by the Western liberal democratic power structure to ignore 200 Years Together, to suppress it as much as possible, and above all to prevent and interdict the book’s translation into foreign languages, most especially into English, which has become essentially the worldwide language of our epoch, as Latin was in the time of the Roman empire and for many centuries afterward. The Russian authorities have to this date refused to allow any official English translation of the book to be published.
There have been fragmentary translations of 200 Years Together into French and German, and a very fragmentary attempt at English translation carried out by a wide and disparate variety of persons unknown. This document you are now reading is based on one such inchoate and garbled internet file, some sections of which are much better than others, and which has allowed several of the book’s individual chapters to be published separately on the Net on obscure blogs, etc. So far as I am aware—and the book’s history is so confused and shrouded in secrecy, obstruction, and obfuscation that I concede I may be wrong in this—there has been no proper full-length English translation of Solzhenitsyn’s last work published anywhere.
Nor is this document such a work. It does not pretend to be. It is essentially “Solzhenitsyn For Dummies.” This is an attempt to create a readable translation of 200 Years Together for a worldwide English-speaking audience which is—let us be brutally frank—largely dumbed-down and functionally illiterate, due to the degeneration and destruction of English-speaking society since the end of the Second World War. This horrific truth is the result of a pervasive Cultural Marxism which is just as poisonous, and which has become in its own way just as tyrannical if (for now) somewhat less overtly murderous, as the Soviet version that Orwell and Solzhenitsyn themselves denounced and resisted.
Chapter 15, on the other hand, was murderous. It took me almost six weeks to parse the computer garbage sentence by sentence, but I could not abandon it, because this was one of the most important chapters in the book, dealing with role of the Jews in Bolshevism and the October Revolution of 1917. I will admit that there is far more of me and much less of Solzhenitsyn in Chapter 15 than I am comfortable with, but it is unavoidable. I simply couldn’t leave that one out.
There are two reasons for that. The first is that the footnotes in the source file were in most cases even worse gibberish than the computer-translated text, and there were so many gaps that would have been created by my parsing of the raw text I was given that it would have been impossible for me to connect all the dots correctly; there would have been gaps and mismatches in any attempt on my part to reproduce all the footnotes and source materials cited which would have put paid to any pretense of accuracy.
Secondly, as mentioned above, it is a simple and brutal fact of life that the average American is a functional illiterate with the attention span of a house fly. They have been engineered that way by the same people who are the subject matter of this book, largely as a matter of their own self-defense, to make sure that ordinary folk will never be able to read and understand a book such as 200 Years Together should they ever come across it.
Even if he or she desires to read Solzhenitsyn’s great work, any American born after about 1980 and who went to a public school will have difficulty in reading a long block of text for content, because it is a skill no longer taught to American school children; the public educational system now relies almost entirely on electronic screens with moving images, although charter schools somewhat less so. It quite literally hurts younger people’s heads to make the attempt.
I realize that in practice, most of the people obtaining this document will have some combination of curiosity, older educational accomplishments such as literacy and concentration, and interest in the subject that will combine to make them tackle this book with application and perseverance, because they will want to know what is in it. But I wanted to produce an edition of 200 Years Together that would be comprehensible to a wider audience, a version whereby if any “average Joe” ever did get interested in reading it, he could at least take a stab at it.
Most Americans under 40 probably don’t even know what a footnote is; leave all 1500 of them in there, with a footnote every two or three sentences that breaks the free flow which is essential for those Americans who do still read at all, and we will lose Average Joe within ten pages. He’ll lay the book aside and go surf the web for porn or some such.
With Americans, ideas have to be presented without interruption, in that easy narrative flow I mentioned. The minute you have to stop and explain something to an American, especially if it is something “furrin” with strange words in it that he does not understand and cannot pronounce, his socially engineered mental rejection mechanisms kick in and you’ve lost him. That’s why those reactions were socially engineered into him, to exclude unauthorized access to Joe’s brain and prevent the installation of “bad ideers” into his noggin.
But this book contains subject matter that at some point Average Joe has to be made to understand, somehow, if there is to be hope for any kind of livable future. We can’t afford to lose him. We can’t afford to spook him or scare him off or overload such concentration as he is capable of bringing to bear. Footnotes will distract and confuse poor Joe, and so I have dispensed with them here.
Yes, I know. We are profanely tampering with genius, myself and those who made these translations. The shame of it is that such is necessary in order to save this profound book by a great man from oblivion.
The solution is to not leave a matter of such importance to peripheral characters like us. It is time for the Russian authorities, both governmental and intellectual, to allow and promote a fully authorized, scrupulously accurate and scholarly official English translation of 200 Years Together, and to cease these neo-Stalinist attempts to drop the last of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s works down the Memory Hole. It is time to let this great mind have his final say to the world.
You will see that this document is paginated. That means that you may run off a hard copy, with page numbers, on your personal printer. You may then take that copy to a local print shop or office supply store and have it copied front and back and then bound, so you will possess 200 Years Together, or what there is of it here, in actual book form.
From the time of Stalin onward, Russian writers and polemicists evaded the Soviet censors, at no small risk to themselves, through the use of what was known as samisdat—hand-copied leaflets, poems, articles, political statements, short stories and sometimes whole novels. These would be carefully typed, in secret, using something that no one remembers any more called carbon paper, to make as many copies as possible, and then circulated by hand, underground, from person to person, to be read at night and in secret, since possession of anything samisdat was illegal and could get you many years in the GULAG.
How’s your taste for irony? One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich was the book that gained Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn his international reputation. His powerful first novel was published in samisdat.
So will his last one be.