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After his expulsion from Russia in 1974 for undermining the Communist regime, Solzhenitsyn wrote a secret record, while it was still fresh in his mind, of the courageous efforts of people who hid his writings and smuggled them to the West. Before the fall of Communism he could not have published Invisible Allies in conjunction with his memoir The Oak and the Calf without putting those friends in jeopardy. Now the facts may be revealed in this intimate account of the network of individuals who risked life and liberty to ensure that his works were concealed, circulated in "samizdat", and exported via illicit channels. These conspirators, often unknown to one another, shared a devotion to the dissident writer's work and a hatred of an oppressive regime of censorship and denunciation. The circle was varied enough to include scholars and fellow writers, and also elderly babushkas who acted as couriers.
With tenderness, respect and humour, Solzhenitsyn speaks of these partners in conspiracy: the women who typed copies of his works under the noses of prying neighbours; the journalists and diplomats who covertly carried microfilms across borders; the friends who hid various drafts of his works from the vigilance of the secret police.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was born in 1918 and grew up in Rostov-on-Don. He graduated in physics and mathematics from Rostov University and studied literature by correspondence course at Moscow University. In World War II he fought as an artillery officer, attaining the rank of captain. In 1945, after making derogatory remarks about Stalin in a letter, he was arrested and summarily sentenced to eight years in forced labour camps, followed by internal exile. In 1957 he formally rehabilitated, and settled down to teaching and writing, in Ryazan and Moscow. The publication of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich in Novy Mir in 1962 was followed by publication, in the West, of his novels Cancer Ward and The First Circle. In 1970 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, and in 1974 his citizenship was revoked and he was expelled from the Soviet Union. He settled in Vermont and worked on his great historical cycle The Red Wheel. In 1990, with the fall of Soviet Communism, his citizenship was restored and four years later he returned to settle in Russia. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn died in August 2008.
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