Magazine February 24, 2020, Issue

March 1917: Solzhenitsyn’s Modernist Masterpiece Captures Russia’s Unraveling

A Bolshevik demonstration in St. Petersburg, 1917 (Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)
March 1917 (Book 2), Node 3 of The Red Wheel, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, translated by Marian Schwartz (University of Notre Dame Press, 728 pp., $39)

Like the griffins of myth, The Red Wheel is a synthesis of living parts. Solzhenitsyn’s multivolume “epopee” (his preferred designation) of World War I and the Russian Revolution is a historical novel, docudrama, film treatment, and academic treatise. It deconstructs and recombines these genres in a manner that can only be described as modernist: John Dos Passos’s trilogy USA, sections of which Solzhenitsyn read in the Gulag, was an acknowledged influence. March 1917, Book 2, covers the three days of the February Revolution, which is shown as an immense national unraveling that corrupted public morality and destroyed social cohesion, often

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This article appears as “Russia’s Apocalypse” in the February 24, 2020, print edition of National Review.

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Richard Tempest — Mr. Tempest is an associate professor of Slavic languages and literature at the University of Illinois whose current research focuses on the charismatic politics of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. His book Overwriting Chaos: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Fictive Worlds was recently published.

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