Most critics overlook the literary significance of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's work, focusing instead on biographical, political, and moral interpretations. This examination of Solzhenitsyn's major novels--"One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch," "The First Circle," "Cancer Ward," and "August 1914"--emphasizes that his writings must be understood within the tradition of Russian literature and the context of Western culture.
James M. Curtis provides a detailed analysis of Tolstoy's crucial influence on Solzhenitsyn, and he discusses at length Solzhenitsyn's relationship to Dostoyevsky, Leskov, Chekhov, and Zamyatin. Curtis also demonstrates that a study of Ernest Hemingway (whose books have been enormously popular in Russia) and Virginia Woolf can contribute to our understanding of the Russian novelist. "Solzhenitsyn's Traditional Imagination" includes a chapter on Dos Passos and Eisenstein whose work constituted Solzhenitsyn's first major artistic interest outside Russian literature. The chapter presents the first comprehensive examination of the importance of film for Solzhenitsyn and shows how he learned the use of film technique in literature from Dos Passos and how he adapted it from Eisenstein's films.
This was the first full-length study to use Solzhenitsyn's revised editions of "One Day . . .," "The First Circle," and "Cancer Ward" (all published in 1978). Professor Curtis's careful use of the best available texts, together with his wide knowledge of contemporary literary criticism and his insistence upon Solzhenitsyn's purely literary importance, make this a valuable book for all students of Solzhenitsyn's fiction.