Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Like most great souls, author Alexander Solzhenitsyn never fit people's image of him. He wielded a mighty sword against the totalitarian Soviet Union in novels such as "Cancer Ward" and "The First Circle." But when asked to speak at Harvard about such things, he turned his ire on the West, claiming people here had become coddled, soft and self-indulgent.

No box could ever hold him — until now.

Last Sunday, the Nobel Prize-winning author died of heart failure at age 89.

Most of the author's sweeping accomplishments have been detailed in obituaries. What remain are the striking little anecdotes that reveal a man with an iron will, a genius for literature and an impatience for foolishness. There's the image of the author scrawling page after page of his novels in miniscule handwriting, then putting those pages in jars and burying them in the earth in the labor camp to keep prison guards from confiscating them. In America, there's the image of his first trip to church after taking up residence in Vermont, where the paparazzi dogged him to the point he angrily denounced them as the KGB.

In life, he was larger than life — one of the last authors with the talent, intellect and force of conviction to actually alter world events.

"When a nation has a great writer," he once said, "that nation has two governments."

Last week, not just a writer but a "government" went to his rest.