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This article is taken from PN Review 1, Volume 4 Number 1, October - December 1977.

Dust after Mud: Considering Solzhenitsyn Octavio Paz

I have often heard said that cowardice is the mother of cruelty.
-Montaigne

IN 1947 I was reading, with a chill in my soul, David Rousset's book on Hitler's concentration camps, The Days of Our Death. Rousset's book impressed me for two reasons: it was the account of a victim of the Nazis, but at the same time a lucid social and psychological analysis of that separate universe, the twentieth-century concentration camps. Two years later Rousset published in the French press another declaration: the industry of homicide was flourishing in the Soviet Union as well. Many received Rousset's revelations with the horror and disbelief of one who suddenly discovers a hidden leprosy in Venus Aphrodite. The Communists and their comrades responded angrily: Rousset's allegations were a crude invention of the CIA and the propaganda services of American imperialism. 'Progressive' intellectuals behaved no better than the Communists. In the magazine Les temps modernes Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty adopted a curious attitude (see issues 51 and 57 of that magazine, January and July 1950). Neither philosopher attempted to deny the deeds nor to minimize their seriousness but both refused to draw the conclusions which the existence of the camps compelled on reflection: to what degree was Stalinist totalitarianism the result-as much as or more than of Russia's social backwardness and autocratic past-of the Leninist concept of the Party? Were not Stalin and his forced labour camps the product of the terrorist, anti-democratic practices of the Bolsheviks from ...


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