Alexander Solzhenitsyn's wife has presented the initial three volumes of the first full collection of his works to be published in Russia, a country still struggling with the legacy of the oppressive era he documented.
It was a cherished moment for the aging Nobel laureate, who has been through prison camps and exile and, Natalya Solzhenitsyn said, feels the "draining of the life force" as his 88th birthday approaches. He was not at Thursday's presentation, and his wife did not elaborate on his health.
"Alexander Isayevich told me that the French have a saying: 'Nothing comes too late for he who is able to wait,"' Natalya Solzhenitsyn, who has nurtured her husband's work and protected his privacy, told a news conference, using his first name and patronymic.
With financial support from a state-owned bank, the 30-volume project marks the latest twist in what Solzhenitsyn's wife called the "very dramatic fate of Solzhenitsyn's books," which helped reveal the brutality of the Soviet system and dictator Josef Stalin's labour camps.
Natalya Solzhenitsyn recounted how that drama began on November 18, 1936 - exactly 70 years ago Saturday - when she said Solzhenitsyn, a first-year university student, conceived what eventually became The Red Wheel, the 10-volume saga about the Russian Revolution that he finished in 1990 and considers his most important work.
Solzhenitsyn was arrested for criticising Stalin in a letter he wrote during World War II, in which he served as a front-line artillery captain, and spent seven years in a labour camp in Kazakhstan and three more years in internal exile. He drew on his ordeal in the short novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, published in 1962 during a backlash against Stalin. But soon after, his writing was suppressed.