On the centenary of the birth of the Russian Nobel Prize winner, this memoir begins during Solzhenitsyn's exile from the Soviet Union after the publication of The Gulag Archipelago, following his trials and tribulations around Europe and the United States.
It is a tale of the first stirrings of freedom in the West mixed with the fear of further Soviet retribution, the unceasing demands of celebrity, frustration with the Western elite’s commercialism, secularism, and legalism, and the personal desire to be left alone to complete his most important literary project, The Red Wheel ... Notre Dame Press...is to be commended for continuing to enrich our understanding of the great Russian writer. As this book makes abundantly clear, Solzhenitsyn was above all a Russian patriot and literary artist whose writings were intended to expose the truth of Soviet mendacity and, hopefully, help to revive Russia’s religious and cultural traditions within an evolving democratic process.
For all its narrative interest, Between Two Millstones adds little to Solzhenitsyn’s literary reputation; nor does it shed much new light on this period of the Cold War. It is most effective, and affecting, as a record of the mental torment that Solzhenitsyn endured in an alien environment. Addressing a town meeting in Cavendish in February 1977—hoping to soothe local opposition to the chain-link fence he has erected to keep out “'he reporters and the idle types'—he reflects on 'this bitter fate of forced exile. Nothing seems the same in a foreign land; nothing seems yours. You feel a constant anguish in those conditions under which everyone else lives normally—and you are seen as a stranger.'