Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-alive)
Three weeks to live!
That's what doctors told Solzhenitsyn in December 1953. He had just served out his eight-year prison sentence. Now raging stomach cancer! A fist-sized tumor. Why? The enormity of it crushed him like a mountain. All his writings seemed doomed. While in prison he had recorded the Soviet crimes in secret. Even though he labored as a bricklayer, endured beatings, slept on the floor in overcrowded cells, hungered, shivered from the cold. With no paper! No pencil! He had committed thousands of lines of rhymed verse to memory. Finally he had been able to memorize even dense prose sprinkled with dialogue. In his first months of exile he had regurgitated it all - thousands and thousands of true words - onto paper. Nothing had stopped him.
Now this. Cancer.
He rushed back to his hovel in Kok Terek. All his friends were in prison. His mother was dead. He wrote his ex-wife, begging her to come. All mail in the Soviet Union was read. He couldn't explain he wanted to entrust the manuscripts to her. She did not come. So he rolled his manuscripts into tight tubes and put them inside tall bottles. The corked bottles he buried in his garden. Would they ever be found? If found, would the discoverer destroy them? Numb with failure, Solzhenitsyn set off for the cancer clinic in Tashkent.
He was certain he would soon die…
[sources: The Oak and the Calf: A Memoir Solzhenitsyn, 1975, and Solzhenitsyn by Michael Scammell, 1984]
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