Solzhenitsyn and his wife considered Canada, but despite “proper winters,” it seemed “boring. . . Like a pillow.” Touring New England, they chose Cavendish for remoteness and its proximity to Dartmouth College where Solzhenitsyn might do research.

In September 1976, “happy to have hoodwinked the KGB,” Solzhenitsyn and his family slipped quietly into Cavendish. Within days, a media circus descended. Hundreds of reporters. Cameras. A helicopter flyover. Citizens of Vermont, suddenly drafted into the Cold War, fought with their best weapon — Yankee silence. Solzhenitsyn had asked for nothing more.

Speaking to town meeting, Solzhenitsyn praised Vermont’s “simple way of life, similar to that of our Russian peasants.” Forgive him, he said, for building a fence around his property. Understand, he begged, that “my life consists of work, and this work demands that it not be interrupted.”

Cavendish was impressed. “He’d always been a fairly enigmatic person,” said Town Manager Richard Svec, “and him making a public appearance to the local townspeople, that went a long way with the folks.”

The “dear neighbors” answered Solzhenitsyn’s plea — they left him alone. He settled in to work, writing long into the night.

On into the 1980s, Cavendish made Solzhenitsyn a secret all over town. At the general store, a sign read: “No Restrooms, No Bare Feet, No Directions to the Solzhenitsyns.” When asked, kids steered strangers on wayward paths. A neighbor drove Solzhenitsyn’s sons to school. The writer’s wife, Natalya, and her mother became Celtics fans. The local postmaster arranged with Boston authorities to screen his mail for bombs or more poison.

Beyond Cavendish, America besieged Solzhenitsyn with letters, telegrams, requests to speak. In 1978, he made a rare appearance, using hIs commencement address at Harvard to denounce Western culture. “The human soul longs for things higher, warmer, and purer than those offered by today’s mass living habits. . . by TV stupor and by intolerable music.”

Acerbic and irascible, Solzhenitsyn remained an exile. “Nothing seems the same in a foreign land; nothing seems yours. You feel a constant anguish in those conditions under which everyone else lives normally — and you are seen as a stranger.”

But in Cavendish, he found a home. For 18 years, until the Cold War ended, Solzhenitsyn lived what he considered the best days of his life. Just before his return to Russia, he strolled through Cavendish, enjoying an “enchanting parade.” Again he spoke to town meeting.

“Lately, while walking on the nearby roads, taking in the surroundings with a farewell glance, I have found every meeting with any neighbor to be warm and friendly. And so today, both to those of you who I have met over these years, and to those who I haven’t met, I say: Thank you and farewell. I wish all the best to Cavendish. God bless you all.”