Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: Alexander Solzhenitsyn on Living in the West

 

From a newly-translated memoir, excerpted in the Wall Street Journal, from his new home in Vermont:

 But the Lord also sustained me in another way, in the fact that, even though living in the West, I did not have to rush from pillar to post to survive, which would have been exhausting and degrading in an alien milieu: I didn’t need to look for money to live on. And so I never took an interest in whether my books would be to the taste of a Western readership, whether they’d “sell.” In the USSR, I’d been accustomed to earning almost nothing but spending almost nothing as well. Alas, in the West, that wasn’t possible, especially with a family.

I didn’t immediately understand how immense was the gift of material well-being bestowed on me: It meant total independence. I found myself unhindered and alone with the work I’d now found my way to. I was writing books-without having to worry about anything else. Independence! It’s broader in scope and more effective than freedom alone. Without it, I could not have fulfilled my task. But this way, Western life has flowed past me, to one side, having no effect on the rhythm of my work. And the only irretrievable loss of time has been due to our homeland’s irretrievable lapse into exhaustion.

But as for me, I seem to have no sense of the passage of time: I’ve now already spent over 2,000 days following the same regimen, always in profound tranquillity-something I’d feverishly dreamed of throughout my Soviet life. There’s no telephone in the house where I work, no television, I’m always in fresh air (following the Swiss custom, the bedroom windows are kept open, even in freezing weather), living on healthy American provincial food, never once having been to the doctor for anything serious, plunging into the icy pond at the age of 63.

How wonderful it would be if our pampered snowflake children could learn the lesson of Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

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  1. Arahant Member

    RushBabe49: How wonderful it would be if our pampered snowflake children could learn the lesson of Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

    Amen to that. They all need some icy winter ponds in their lives.


    This is the Quote of the Day. We have five openings left this month if you would like to share a quotation to educate, honor another, celebrate yourself, brag about your new acquisition, or just so you can rant. Our sign-up sheet is here.

    Or, if you’re looking to write something a bit more creative, you might try our Group Writing Project this month: It was a dark and stormy night…

    • #1
    • October 15, 2020, at 11:59 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  2. J. D. Fitzpatrick Member
    J. D. Fitzpatrick Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    What was he writing during this time?

     

    • #2
    • October 16, 2020, at 1:13 AM PDT
    • Like
  3. Arahant Member

    This quotation would have been in about 1981 (when he was 63). He was exiled from the USSR in 1974. There is a dated list of his publications here. He was also working on his big history: The Red Wheel.

    • #3
    • October 16, 2020, at 1:22 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  4. Jim Beck Member

    Morning Arahant,

    Thinking about artists in this modern world, this quote troubles me. Maybe because I have been equally guilty. I don’t view obligations as those things that you wish would happen. I view obligations as those duties that you must do, even if you would rather be writing important stuff. So this quote seems to show my favorite writer as blind to a life where he has shed all obligations that are not of his choosing. Solzhenitsyn had religious beliefs, where is the love your neighbor part in this life?

    • #4
    • October 16, 2020, at 5:11 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    RushBabe49: From a newly-translated memoir, excerpted in the Wall Street Journal, from his new home in Vermont:

    Here is a link:

    Solzhenitsyn’s Journey From Oppression to Independence
    In a newly translated memoir, the Russian novelist and dissident describes how he found a tranquil refuge in Vermont.

    By Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
    Oct. 1, 2020 11:37 am ET

    In this excerpt from his memoir, written in 1982 and published here in English for the first time, Solzhenitsyn describes the pleasure he took in his American life, communing with nature and working undisturbed on his magnum opus, “The Red Wheel,” a cycle of historical novels about Russia during World War I and the Revolution. This selection is adapted from “Between Two Millstones, Book 2: Exile in America, 1978-1994,” translated by Clare Kitson and Melanie Moore, which will be published by University of Notre Dame Press in November.

    In solitude you’re happy—you’re a poet, as Pushkin discovered when comparing his creative periods in seclusion with those in the bustle of society. I too had always felt, since childhood, that this would be the way. In June 1976, I found my way to the freely chosen solitude I desired, this time in Vermont. And I never ceased to be surprised and grateful: The Lord had indeed put me into the best situation a writer could dream of, and the best of the dismal fates that could have arisen, given our blighted history and the oppression of our country for the last 60 years.

    Now I was no longer compelled to write in code, hide things, distribute pieces of writing among my friends. I could keep all my materials open to view, all in one place, and all my manuscripts out on capacious tables.

    Appeared in the October 3, 2020, print edition as ‘Solzhenitsyn’s Idyll in Vermont.’

    As Glenn Reynolds says, read the whole thing.

    • #5
    • October 16, 2020, at 5:50 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  6. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    He probably couldn’t get avocado toast in Vermont back then. You call that freedom?

    Very nice quote RushBabe.

    • #6
    • October 16, 2020, at 5:54 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  7. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    I have to disagree about leaving the windows open in freezing weather. The heating bills must be atrocious!

    • #7
    • October 16, 2020, at 3:27 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. Arahant Member

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):

    I have to disagree about leaving the windows open in freezing weather. The heating bills must be atrocious!

    No, you don’t turn it on.

    • #8
    • October 16, 2020, at 3:31 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49

    The author had his own “writer’s house” on the Vermont property, separate from the main house, I believe, so he could write in solitude.

    I would invite people to walk 1,000 frigid miles in his shoes, through the Gulag Archipelago, before questioning his motives or his attitudes. I have first editions of all three volumes, which I avidly read as soon as they were released. All young people, and most adults these days, should consider them required reading. Perhaps our snowflakes would appreciate America more if they did. All Antifa members should be required to read them as “punishment” for their destruction of society.

    • #9
    • October 16, 2020, at 4:42 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  10. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    The author had his own “writer’s house” on the Vermont property, separate from the main house, I believe, so he could write in solitude.

    I would invite people to walk 1,000 frigid miles in his shoes, through the Gulag Archipelago, before questioning his motives or his attitudes….

    Yes. In Between Two Millstones, Book 1 he writes of the endless demands on his time–letters from well-wishers, letters from angry critics, invitations to speak, strangers appearing at his door, and so on. And then there were various difficulties with publishers and universities (Columbia University comes off very badly in his account.) Writers far less famous than Solzhenitsyn have found it necessary to take steps to fend off unwanted visitors (friendly and unfriendly) and minimize the time consumed by correspondence.

    • #10
    • October 18, 2020, at 10:46 AM PDT
    • 2 likes