Nowadays, the search for something new has been greatly pursued. The availability of resources helped individuals to innovate. It impels them to work beyond the existing rules and surpassing limitations, be it in the field of music, architecture, literature, etc. The modernity of this world brought upon by globalization made it easier to reach cultures. Cultures that were bound by their physical territories before have been accessible because of modern technologies. This easy, unlimited exposure provides endless ideas and innovations that bring about different works of art.
For Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, this infinite flow of innovations or novelties offers unrestricted venues for artists to produce their works—venues that are free from rules and do not conform to a certain set of standards. According to him, this poses a threat to the morality of society as well as of the artists’. He argued that novelty is an art with unlimited freedom and thus equates to a soulless art. This perspective was explained in the context of Russian’s struggle with communism which Solzhenitsyn directly experienced. He focused on the deterioration of arts’ standard after the fall of Communism, specifically with literature.
Due to the given freedom, arts do not fall under a set of standards, causing the artistic value to suffer. He then related that Communism promoted a new society. To be able to build a new one, the old cultures and traditions should be thrown away: To start a new world is to start from scratch. Solzhenitsyn then compared this situation to the literary artists in his country. They were writing outright criticisms of every aspect of Russian roots like language, religion, and traditional cultures—a move that was so desperate for a change to be made by who he termed as ‘desperate innovators’.
The author disapproved of forgetting the roots of any artistic work, for this is important in the development of a new face of art. Solzhenitsyn does not believe in the aggressive step of aiming forward in the arts starting from nothing. Novelty becomes relentless with the absence of ancient roots. It is an unintelligible art with no significant value to the world—an art without a purpose and is useless. Solzhenitsyn cited what kinds of arts were produced because of the frantic novelty frenzy. The arts arising from novelty does not have that spiritual connection from the artist with the world.
Since the ‘great cultural tradition’ has been detached, the spiritual grounds that were developed from it are missing as well. Arts were not produced for a greater purpose anymore. Thus, it does not emanate a higher sense of value for the world. It is reduced to a mere display without a profound significance. It was from the author’s observation that the absence of artistic limits has resulted in irresponsibility and apathy. Solzhenitsyn mentioned the ‘what do you care’ attitude of the Russian writers who created literary works when the censorship has been lifted after the downfall of communism.
This kind of artistic mindset alienates the welfare of its audience. The line between right and wrong has become thinner, its boundaries blurry and sometimes interchanging. The arts, according to Solzhenitsyn, have been turned into more of a personal ambition of the artists rather than an intentional product of passion and love. He stressed that artists do not bring the world as the subject; they are the focal point. The arts became a movement of personal interests of the artists. Novelty becomes like a venue for affectation.
Going back to Solzhenitsyn main argument, novelty became ruthless because it eradicated the classical foundation of arts. Arts cannot push for development if its foundation will be forgotten. It would be more disruptive if it will be forced to progress aggressively without any fundamentals to back it up. Alexander Solzhenitsyn sees novelty as a cause for a more individualistic nature rather than being communal in interaction. He was alarmed by how the current generation responded to old traditions. These traditions were treated as something useless and irrelevant in the present.
Novelty was portrayed by the author as something anti-cultural and antagonistic of anything universally accepted. The saying ‘to each his own’ in arts or in general constitutes obscure distinction between good and evil. Another supporting factor for Solzhenitsyn’s argument is that this particular freedom attached with novelty developed into a negative relativity. This has been embraced by young artists who turn self-expression into a lack of sensitivity with regard to the effects of their work to other people. Social responsibility slowly ceased to exist anymore.
Artistic freedom has always been believed to be helpful in maximizing an artist’s work. However, Alexander Solzhenitsyn presented an opposite view. The freedom vested on the artist implies a threat of producing an art with is a much lesser value. With no artistic limitations and no principles to follow, art becomes less of a recreation instead of serving a higher purpose. Solzhenitsyn emphasized the need to take the cultural tradition into account because without it, progress will be impossibly successful. He sees novelty as a trend resulting in chaos—socially and morally disruptive.
It promotes an individualism that is obviously selfish and divides humanity even more. Innovations should be created for the benefit of others. Arts may be a compiled output of an individual’s unique skills and talents, but there will always be a responsibility attached to it because people get to grasp these works. An art is a huge factor in contributing to the formation of an ideology in a society. It is a powerful tool to propagate a message that can reach a huge number of people. Hence, Solzhenitsyn sees its development as critical because this will determine where the world will be heading to.
The world will not be able to move forward without revisiting and considering the past. The cultural traditions within human society should be embedded for development. It is an important basis to learn from past mistakes and to improve on the present. It can be seen that Solzhenitsyn somehow views relentless novelty as the anarchism of art that will later on transcend into society. He mentioned the absence of laws in the process of arts and the lack of absolute truth. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn provided the view of novelty enclosed in a reckless handful of freedom and a lack of traditional grounds.
He presented it as something negative because he had witnessed what it did to his people especially to the younger generations. As an artist himself, the author poses a huge concern on what kind of directions the arts would take since he knows the powerful influence of it to the society. He hopes to spread his view to make the younger generations be exposed of what history has brought the Russian country and what were its implications. Solzhenitsyn firmly believes that through history, it may shape the new artists to work for a greater purpose for humanity.