Edward E. Ericson, Jr. Professor Emeritus of English at Calvin College and co-editor of the Solzhenitsyn Reader, was recently interviewed by Ken Myers (Mars Hill Audio). I took the liberty of doing a rough transcript of the closing portion of the interview about Solzhenitsyn's literary masterpiece, The Red Wheel.
Then there's The Red Wheel. People who've never heard of that may have heard of August 1914. That's the first installment of The Red Wheel. There's so much to say that I have to be brief. Of 20 volumes of the collected works of Solzhenitsyn in Russian, 10 are on The Red Wheel--it's that big of work. It's half of his total production; it's a consecutive work of fiction that takes more than 6,000 pages. (Tolstoy's War and Peace is a skinny work by comparison!)
We know in English August 1914 and November 1916--our reader has a few chapters apiece from those. But it has more chapters from the other two full volumes that S wrote: March 1917 and April 1917. You can see taking them together--running from 1914-17--that he is showing how the ground was prepared for the revolution which takes place shortly after these particular timeframes.
It will take a generation for people to come to some terms--some serious terms--with the literary worth of The Red Wheel. Solzhenitsyn placed an enormous bet on the distant future--not the the next-year future--that sooner or later this monumental work in terms of its scope would be seen as monumental in terms of its importance. Well, I'd like to say, "We'll see about that"--but I won't see about it, and I don't know if my children will. I now have a grandson--maybe, maybe he will. It's an absolutely amazing thing that he decided to do with his life.
People who haven't read it have determined that this is not a good work. It would nice to hear from people who have read it--and someday that will happen. And my hope is that there's enough of The Red Wheel in the Solzhenitsyn Reader to whet the appetite and encourage the publisher's project to roll and maybe we'll get this translated and published someday. It is, as far as Solzhenitsyn is concerned, his great work.