Archive for August 10, 2008

One Day at a Time: Solzhenitsyn Kept on Writing

I suppose I have “kept on writing” too an inherited trait from my mother’s side of the family.  Her older relatives commonly wrote letters back and forth from Norway to North Dakota and consequently my mom and *I* wrote lots of letters which I have stored away from my Philippine and China teaching days. 


I have many journals too but the one I miss the most was a five year journal (1983-1988).  I had mailed a hardshell, Samsonite suitcase back to Minnesota from Harbin, Heilongjiang China in spring of 1988. (Imagine 20 years ago) Everything I packed in the locked suitcase arrived safely to my local post office except my small stone, Chinese chop and my five year diary.  As you watch the Olympics, and the opening night was meant to impress, keep in mind what is considered “private and personal” in a land of communism.


Glad to still have my travel journal from my trip to another communist country of the former Soviet Union where I noted the following on Day 19 of my 36 day tour, May 22, 1976.


We arrived into one of the four Moscow airports at 2:30 p.m. Our bus ride to Sputnik showed the bleak country with dismal housing and yards.  They were about 60 years old and sectioned off with fences.  All over could be seen women of stocky build in drab coats and scarves on their heads.  Their faces all the same – wide set, plain eyes, white skin, stern and sober.  We had a tour of the subways and they were immaculate, I was impressed.


On Day 27, May 30, 1976 I was going through culture shock when we arrived at Warsaw, Poland.  What a contrast from what I had seen in Russia:


But you can’t explain the Russian people, because they have duo personalities.  Cold and reserved on the public front but very warm and hospitable on a personal level.  It was like being in another world, mystical and ungraspable in all respects for my Western, capitalistic mind.  It was hard to acknowledge the fact that such a difference of mindsets would limit us in our movement far as to churches or other places of our interest.


Perhaps Solzhenitsyn had a duo personality and really did love America and the free air he breathed even though he steadfastly worked away on his writing about Russia and didn’t get to know many Americans or our culture.  The following helps explain Solzhenitsyn better and is from Christopher Hitchens column titled:  “The Man Who Kept on Writing”


But it seems that Solzhenitsyn did have a worry or a dread, not that he himself would be harmed but that none of his work would ever see print. Nonetheless—and this is the point to which I call your attention—he kept on writing. The Communist Party’s goons could have torn it up or confiscated or burned it—as they did sometimes—but he continued putting it down on paper and keeping a bottom drawer filled for posterity. This is a kind of fortitude for which we do not have any facile name. The simplest way of phrasing it is to say that Solzhenitsyn lived “as if.” Barely deigning to notice the sniggering, pick-nose bullies who followed him and harassed him, he carried on “as if” he were a free citizen, “as if” he had the right to study his own country’s history, “as if” there were such a thing as human dignity.

Leave a comment »