A Review of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's "Apricot Jam"

By:  James Heiser
06/25/2012
       
A Review of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's "Apricot Jam"

In the years since his return to Russia in 1994 and especially since his death in 2008, the literary legacy of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has been an uncertain thing — at least in the English-speaking world. On the one hand, the work which he considered to be his magnum opus, the Red Wheel series of historical works chronicling the history of the Bolshevik revolution, has apparently ground to a halt: only the first two "knots" have been published in an English edition, and it seems unlikely at present that the rest of the work will be so published for the foreseeable future. However, established works such as the Gulag Archipelago, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and The First Circlehave continued to draw interest, and even new, improved translations. 

In the years since his return to Russia in 1994 and especially since his death in 2008, the literary legacy of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has been an uncertain thing — at least in the English-speaking world. On the one hand, the work which he considered to be his magnum opus, the Red Wheel series of historical works chronicling the history of the Bolshevik revolution, has apparently ground to a halt: only the first two "knots" have been published in an English edition, and it seems unlikely at present that the rest of the work will be so published for the foreseeable future. However, established works such as the Gulag Archipelago, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and The First Circle have continued to draw interest, and even new, improved translations.

The most recent addition to Solzhenitsyn’s English literary legacy is a collection of experimental short stories entitled Apricot Jam and Other Stories. The volume has been met with mixed reviews — an unsurprising development, given the experimental character of the stories in question. Some readers may come to a new collection of stories by a Nobel-Prize-winning author imagining that they know in advance what they will find, only to discover that even in his later years, that author had not given up his willingness to experiment with new forms.

Undeniably, the stories seem somewhat uneven — several of them are works of penetrating insight, while others feel forced. Solzhenitsyn described the stories as “binary” — different plots are woven together in the stories with varying degrees of success.

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Photos: Apricot Jam cover and Solzhenitsyn after returning to Russia from exile in 1994

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