Solženicyn and Wisdom

Giuseppe Ghini


The article starts by considering one of the main features of Solženicyn’s prose, the presence of proverbs. The author analyzes this attribute in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovič, Matryona’s Home and, especially regarding The Oak and the Calf, discusses these works as part of wisdom liter­ature. Proverbs in Solženicyn’s works are not mere expression of Russian folklore; they reveal God’s order of the world and God’s guidance of human lives. The Gulag is not only a Soviet form of punishment, but also an extraordinary school of life and of wisdom. Experiences teach ultimate truths. The trained zek is not only a good buddy, but is presented as the wise man, the prudent and skilled saddiq who knows how to behave in the extreme Gulag conditions. He is the saddiq who tries to decipher God’s plan for his life. In the end, Solženicyn’s characters must be interpreted in light of wisdom literature, within which they are not heroic, but virile, prudent, slow-moving, meek, thrifty, experts of life and people. 


Solženicyn; Wisdom Literature; Proverbs; The Oak and the Calf.

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