17.3 Solzhenitsyn’s Letters to the Nobel Foundation

No 17 : 31 December 1970

To the Royal Swedish Academy and the Nobel Foundation

Dear Sirs,

In my telegram to the secretary of the Academy I have already expressed – and now express again – my gratitude for the honour you have done me in awarding me the Nobel Prize. In my thoughts I share it with those of my predecessors in Russian literature who, by reason of the harsh conditions of the last decades, have not lived to be awarded such a prize, or who were little known to readers in translation or even to their compatriots in the original.

In the same telegram I expressed the intention to accept your invitation to come to Stockholm, although I well imagined the humiliating procedure in store for me – customary in our country for any journey abroad – of filling in special forms, obtaining testimonials from Party organisations – even for non-Party people – and receiving instructions on how to behave.

During recent weeks, however, the hostile attitude to my prize of the press in my Motherland, and the fact that my books, as before, are being suppressed (for reading them people are dismissed from their jobs and expelled from institutes) forces me to assume that my journey to Stockholm will be used to cut me off from my native land, in fact quite, simply to bar me from returning home.

On the other hand, I have discovered from the documents you have sent me about the agenda for the presentation of the prize that the Nobel festivities involve much pomp and ceremony, which would be exhausting for me and unfamiliar to my character and way of life. But the ceremony does not include the central item – the Nobel lecture. Later, in your telegram and letter, you expressed similar misgivings about the fuss which might surround my stay in Stockholm.

Having weighed all these facts, with the benefit of your kind clarification that a personal appearance at the ceremony is not an obligatory condition of receiving the prize, I prefer at present not to submit an application for a journey to Stockholm.

If it is acceptable to you, I could receive the Nobel diploma and medal in Moscow from your representatives at a mutually convenient time. As stipulated by the constitution of the Nobel Foundation, I am prepared, within six months from 10 December 1970, to deliver the Nobel lecture or to present it in writing.

This is an open letter, and I shall have no objection to your publishing it.

With best wishes,

A. Solzhenitsyn 27 November 1970

(In lieu of a salutation address at the banquet on 10 December 1970. Despatched to Stockholm.)

“Your Majesty! Ladies and gentlemen!

“I ‘hope that my involuntary absence will not cast a shadow on the completeness of today’s ceremony. Among the brief salutation addresses you will also be expecting mine. Even less should I wish my address to darken the festivities. But I cannot ignore the remarkable coincidence that the day of presentation of the Nobel prizes happens to coincide with Human Rights Day [10 December]. The Nobel prize-winners cannot fail to be aware of a sense of responsibility in view of this coincidence. None of those present in the Stockholm city hall can fail to notice here a symbol. Thus, while sitting at the banqueting table, may people not forget the political prisoners who are today holding hunger-strikes in defence of their infringed or completely annihilated rights.”