To comment on Sidney Monas’s “GULag and Points West” is not an easy task. The article as a whole lacks focus and consistency, and it is simply not clear what moved Monas to compose this often diffuse collection of misrepresentations and misconceptions. In the past I have been an admirer of the author and his scholarship, but it is difficult to extend my admiration to this essay.
One of Monas’s intentions may have been to provide an overview of Solzhenitsyn’s writings which have appeared since his expulsion from the USSR. If so, the effort is highly flawed. While he does discuss—often in rather pedestrian fashion—Gulag Archipelago, The Oak and the Calf, Lenin in Zurich, From Under the Rubble, and certain of Solzhenitsyn’s recent publicistic writings, Monas omits all consideration of such significant works as the ninety-six-chapter version of The First Circle, published in 1978, or the important chapters from the “Red Wheel” historical cycle which Solzhenitsyn has been publishing in recent issues of the journal Vestnik russkogo khristianskogo dvizheniia. This omission necessarily skews any analysis of Solzhenitsyn’s thought.