Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is not known to have written much about his epic, and often painful, travels – to Kazakhstan and his years in the gulag, to Germany when exiled and made stateless by the Soviet authorities, later around the world as a celebrated Nobel laureate, and eventually back to Mother Russia. But he did write about travels of spirit and mind. In especially poignant lines in ‘Gulag Archipelago’ he discloses a transforming insight, a souvenir of his spiritual ventures:
It is only when I lay there (in the gulag) on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties, either, but right through every human heart – and through all human hearts.
– Gulag Archipelago
If travels confer any wisdom at all, none could be more humanizing, none more powerful for advancing the cause of understanding, than this insight.