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September 1994

John Hospers Reads Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Alexander (or Aleksandr) Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) was a Russian writer and Nobel laureate whose novels brought awareness to the Soviet Union’s brutal forced labor camp system colloquially known as the gulags. G.U.Lag is actually an acronym for the Russian name of the government agency that administered the camps, the Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps and Colonies. Solzhenitsyn’s best-known works are The Gulag Archipelago (1973) and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962), both of which are set in these labor camps.

In this video, John Hospers reads an excerpt from Solzhenitsyn’s semi-autobiographical novel, The Cancer Ward (1967). The book tells the stories of a group of cancer patients as they undergo therapy in a hospital in Soviet Uzbekistan in 1955. Many of the patients have been exiled from their homes and were forced to relocate within the Soviet Union during Stalin’s Great Purge. The protagonist, Oleg Kostoglotov, has been admitted to the hospital after being sentenced to hard labor in a gulag (an experience mirroring Solzhenitsyn’s).

John Hospers (1918-2011) was a political philosopher and professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Southern California. He was also the first Libertarian Party Presidential candidate in 1972. This video was recorded at a International Society for Individual Liberty conference in 1994.