I’m in awe of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – of his work ethic, and of his commitment to writing.
Solzhenitsyn got serious about writing while in a Soviet prison camp.
But he couldn’t write openly.
He had to hide it.
So whatever he wrote, he memorized. Then he burned the manuscript.
He describes his process in The Oak and the Calf:
“[I committed] my verse – many thousands of lines – to memory. To help me with this I improvised decimal counting beads and, in transit prisons, broke up matchsticks and used the fragments as tallies. As I approached the end of my sentence I grew more confident of my powers of memory….But more and more of my time – in the end as much as one week every month – went into the regular repetition of all I had memorized.”
Today, Solzhenitsyn is best known for his portrayals of the Soviet prison camps – the gulags.
In fact, without Solzhenitsyn’s work, we might not really know about the gulags.
But, thanks to his work, we know more of the truth.
“…the Soviet regime could certainly have been breached only by literature. The regime [had] been reinforced to such an extent that neither a military coup nor a political organization nor a picket line of strikers can knock it over or run it through. Only a solitary writer would be able to do this.”
Did Solzhenitsyn bring down the USSR?
He certainly helped in the process.
Without him, we might think life in the USSR was great – like a Beatles song or something.
I’m grateful for Solzhenitsyn’s dedication and work ethic.
He worked hard while in a prison camp.
And here I am, free.
I hope I can learn from him.