Jun 7, 2003

Natalya Solzhenitsyn, the wife of author Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, died May 28 at the age of 84.

Tolstoy’s wife wrote and rewrote drafts of War and Peace for her husband. She clearly loved Solzhenitsyn her love did not extend to a devotion to his work.

She inspired his poetry, though it failed to woo her. She forced him to remove female characters from his books, resentful at his affairs and indiscretions. She questioned his non-fiction, and claimed the West put too much authority into his prison recollections and literary investigations.

All of which were probably needful to preserve normalcy, but were harmful to the art.

As someone significantly influenced by the work of Solzhenitsyn—I read the Gulag Archipelago at 15 and it continues to affect the way I view politics and understand humanity—I resent her resentment of his art, yet I understand it.

She loved him and, in many ways, fought for him against his art.

Despite and because of all that, may she rest in peace.