The tall man stood with imposing dignity before Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustav, in the Concert House in Stockholm. His chestnut beard almost concealed the white turtleneck shirt beneath the formal black tailcoat, which subtly declared the independence of Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
After the Russian author accepted the gold medal and parchment scroll signifying the Nobel Prize for Literature, he was greeted by an unprecedented storm of applause. Solzhenitsyn, of course, had been declared winner of the world’s most coveted literary prize in 1970, only to have the Soviet government forbid his journey to Stockholm to accept it.
Exiled in February of this year after he had authorized publication in the West of The Gulag Archipelago—his damning history of the Soviet system of political imprisonment—Solzhenitsyn took up residence in Zurich. With his second wife and their four children, he lives in an eight-room duplex, supporting himself quite comfortably from the $2 to $6 million in royalties he has placed in Swiss banks.
After his spectacular expulsion, the press dogged his steps. He has been flooded with letters and manuscripts. In order to continue working he has become something of a recluse. “The only way I can remain a writer,” he said, “is to protect myself.” He is believed to be working on the third part of the Gulag trilogy, bringing the history of repression up to date. Solzhenitsyn himself spent 11 years in internment or exile.
In Stockholm, during a four-hour press conference, in which he hectored his audience like the schoolmaster he once was, his anguish over exile was unmistakable. Declared Solzhenitsyn, “I live with the continuous feeling that I will, I must return to Russia.”