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No yes-men: Solzhenitsyn in the Los Angeles Times

August 4, 2008 |  3:07 pm


"There is a Russian proverb: 'The yes-man is your enemy, but a friend will argue with you.' It is precisely because I am a friend of the United States, precisely because my words are prompted by friendship, that I say: 'My friends, I am not going to tell you sweet words. The situation in the world is not just dangerous, it isn't just threatening, it is catastrophic.' "

That's Alexander Solzhenitsyn speaking in 1975, warning the U.S. to distrust detente. Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970, when he was living under restrictions in the Soviet Union; his speech was smuggled out by a Swedish reporter. The Russian author of "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" and "The Gulag Archipelago" died on Sunday at age 89. He wrote, from time to time, for the Los Angeles Times; those articles are now online.

Carolyn Kellogg

Photo credit: Bernhard Frye / Associated Press / 1974