Russian literature does not ignore the dirty, cold, and horrible; instead it embraces them and acknowledges them as a legitimate and often ignored reality. In so doing, even it (and by that I mean all the dirty, cold, and horrible) becomes art, worthy of some form of aesthetic beauty and grandeur.
The thing that struck me more than anything else was the constant sense of fear that pervaded the novel. To live a life of fear is perhaps one of the most horrible things that I can imagine...
It seems so brutal to me, so demeaning, that the only choice one makes, and that the only living one does is surrounded by the fear of death. This fear makes a person obsessed with life, with just surviving...Such a life is demeaning because we lose what makes us human. We become our fear, and that alone is the only thing that survives.
Solzhenitsyn experienced the cold, dirty, and the horrible. He described what it was like to live with the constant fear of death surrounding every action and reaction, every decision, controlling every emotion. I didn't know what that feels like. But, in a small way, I do understand now what it must be like. And that is what makes this book, and others like it, semblances of a more experientially connected life.
"Remember, there is such a thing as good and evil."
"How can you expect a man who's warm to understand a man who's cold?"
"You can have power over people as long as you don't take everything away from them. But when you've robbed a man of everything, he's no longer in your power."