Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 291
For nearly three decades, the exciting story of novelist and essayist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s struggle with the Soviet leadership has generated as much interest among Western readers as have his novels of life in twentieth century Russia. Many readers have found that the author’s novels of mismanagement and oppression pale beside Solzhenitsyn’s indictment of deprivations and atrocities of Siberian prison camps described in THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO (1974-1978) and his autobiographical account of struggles to preserve his writings (and his life) recounted in THE OAK AND THE CALF (1975). Solzhenitsyn continues to reveal elements of this real-life drama in another personal memoir, INVISIBLE ALLIES.
In fourteen chapters written shortly after his expulsion from the Soviet Union in 1974, the winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature pays tribute to the men and women who assisted in his decades- long effort to unmask the cancer at the heart of the Soviet political system. While most of these colleagues were part of the dissident intelligentsia, few seem predisposed to heroism; rather, they are all ordinary men and women whose commitment to exposing corruption and injustice, coupled with their deep love for their homeland, spurred them into action to support a cause they thought worth substantial risk of personal safety.
At some points, the narrative reads like a spy novel; at others, the author seems to be poking fun at the ineptitude of KGB officials, whose blunders evoke mirth rather than terror. While individual chapters are only loosely connected, readers will come away from INVISIBLE ALLIES with a deep appreciation for the people who believed passionately in Solzhenitsyn’s work; now that the “fall of Communism” in the former Soviet Union has vindicated their struggle, it seems most appropriate that their efforts be celebrated publicly.