Reading List (Update):  on Evil and Good

By | March 29, 2020

[March 29, 2020]  Thunder and rain grace the skies outside my home this morning.  As Spring advances and the Coronavirus pandemic spreads, there is yet little opportunity to speak openly with my friends and neighbors.  The poor weather today can symbolize the darkness of the hearts of people that is addressed by author Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn.  There is no denying that the pull of evil and good is with every person.  We all know this truth even if we deny it to ourselves.  While commander of a Soviet artillery battery during World War II, Solzhenitsyn was arrested and became a political prisoner until his release in 1956.  Serving during the war, he witnessed horrible war crimes against local German civilians by Soviet military members.  The atrocities were so grotesque that he wrote a friend, writing derogatory comments about the conduct of the war by Joseph Stalin.  And so begins Solzhenitsyn’s lengthy accounting of Soviet evil and how it permeated every fiber of the political and social system.

The Gulag Archipelago, Volumes I, II, and III, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, 1973

Written in three volumes between 1958 and 1968 by Russian writer and historian Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago is one of the monumental works of the 20th Century.  Someone once wrote that it would be impossible to name a book that had a more significant effect on the political and moral consciousness of the late twentieth century.  The lengthy book is about the most horrific actions of Joseph Stalin and his Communist government, and it is also about the good that Solzhenitsyn saw while imprisoned.  And this, my good friends, is the core of his arguments against the Soviet death machine.  I cannot resist a quote that supports his thinking.

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?  During the life of any heart, this line keeps changing place; sometimes, it is squeezed one way by exuberant evil, and sometimes it shifts to allow enough space for good to flourish.” – Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Volume I

Thanks to Stalin’s Communist ideology, the twentieth century was fated to experience evildoing on a scale calculated in millions of deaths. This evil cannot be denied, nor passed over, nor suppressed.   These three volumes are an analysis of the very nature of humanity (and that scares me).  The Soviets made Hitler look like a piker by imprisoning and killing more than 14 million of their own people.  Solzhenitsyn does a terrific job of collecting numerous prisoner accounts and turning them into a very readable series of literature, despite the danger it brought him, and to those close to him.  Solzhenitsyn will always be a hero to humanity.  Through these writings, we have a window into the human soul and to witness our ability to twist and contort our morality to do the most heinous acts.  This book brutally destroys the evil of utopian systems and Communist ideology and it shows how good can grow in the cracks of evil.

A classic. This book is highly recommended.

To go to the full Professional Reading list, click on this direct link:

Side Note: Please remember and take a look at Tom Copeland’s reading blog.  His website, which I highly recommend, can be found here:

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

16 thoughts on “Reading List (Update):  on Evil and Good

  1. Doug Smith

    It is not because the truth is too difficult to see that we make mistakes… we make mistakes because the easiest and most comfortable course for us is to seek insight where it accords with our emotions – especially selfish ones. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    1. Dennis Mathes

      One of my favorite quotes of Solzhenitsyn. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Lynn Pitts

    Excellent book review – albeit a little too short. Consider making your reviews a bit longer. This only gives me a fast look. I do think, however, based on what you wrote Gen. Satterfield, that I will purchase a copy.

    1. Martin Shiell

      I recommend a companion book that explains some of the ideas Solzhenitsyn writes about. It makes the volumes easier to digest for the average reader who has no insight into WW2 or the Soviet Union. For those that do, a book helping you work your way through will still be very helpful.

  3. Mikka Solarno

    Solzhenitsyn describes Russian history as a catalogue of despots.

    1. Nick Lighthouse

      No surprise there. I found the book highly distressing but also comforting in that good can grow out of evil. Evil is a shifting phenomena. That is why Solzhenitsyn says that evil runs down the heart of each person. But to be a good person,one must recognize this and put evil in its place.

    1. Fred Weber

      The book traces the clash between two new centers of power, the democratically minded provisional government, established by the elected parliament, or Duma, and the Petrograd Soviet of Deputies, a revolutionary talking-shop-cum-gangsters’-den.

    2. Jerome Smith

      Socialist & Communist leaders are always thugs. Look into each and you will see their background. This partly explains the evil within these ideologies.

      1. Max Foster

        You got that right. Just like Bernie Sanders (full-fledged communist but tries to hid it) and Joe Biden (wannabe thug but hasn’t the brain power). What scares me is that Joe Biden will allow these type of folks to run his administration if he wins the election. Joe Biden will allow evil into the heart of America. For that reason alone, he is too dangerous. Those who vote for him are being sucked into the evil depths from which our society may never recover.

  4. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    I read Volume I in college. It took me a long time to get thru it at the time because I couldn’t appreciate what Solzhenitsyn was saying. Now that I understand it better, I began re-reading the entire book. Thanks Gen. Satterfield for a review of this book.

  5. Tom Bushmaster

    No doubt this is one of the greatest books of the twentieth century. It is largely suppressed due to PC concerns in academia today.

    1. Eric Coda

      Yes, mostly ignored by political leftists because it brings up uncomfortable truths about their darling Communist Russia and its evil past (and present).

    2. Dead Pool Guy

      The Gulag Archipelago is actually three books, I chose to read volume three only. The last volume is often said to be readable as a standalone and it is the portion that most allows room for optimism as it includes accounts of resistance and escapes.


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