Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn On the Magical Power of Art

For what purpose have we been given this gift?

Ed Newman
6 min readAug 9, 2020


Public domain.

When Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016, I found myself impressed by the caliber of those who preceded him. Like many, I read his Nobel Lecture and found it inspiring. I then went on to read some of the Nobel Lectures by others whom have been so honored.

It’s an uncommon opportunity not to be taken lightly. Many of the best literary minds of the past century have distilled their best thoughts into something others can read and be inspired by.

Kudos to the Nobel committee and this catalog of wisdom and achievement that is preserved for us and available online to any and all.

I’ve been on a Solzhenitsyn jag lately, somewhat astonished at how relevant his writings are today. For this reason I’ve been writing about his work in the hopes that others might revisit this writer’s extensive catalog.

What follows are excerpts from Solzhenitsyn’s Nobel Lecture, which has much to say about the importance and power of art. I’ve included a link to the full transcript at the end. If you can find time I’d encourage you to read the whole.

In the first segment he summarizes the artist’s challenge.

But all the irrationality of art, its dazzling turns, its unpredictable discoveries, its shattering influence on human beings — they are too full of magic to be exhausted by this artist’s vision of the world, by his artistic conception or by the work of his unworthy fingers.

A little further on, he states:

Not everything assumes a name. Some things lead beyond words. Art inflames even a frozen, darkened soul to a high spiritual experience. Through art we are sometimes visited — dimly, briefly — by revelations such as cannot be produced by rational thinking.

Like that little looking-glass from the fairy-tales: look into it and you will see — not yourself — but for one second, the Inaccessible, whither no man can ride, no man fly. And only the soul gives a groan …

Dostoevsky’s remark, “Beauty will save the world”, was not a careless…



Ed Newman

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon https://tinyurl.com/y3l9sfpj