Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-alive)
Solzhenitsyn had long resigned himself to the terrible injustice that he would never see a word he had written in print. By 1961, after 14 years of writing, the secrecy and the faint hope were wearing him out. He never went to bed without hiding his writings. He rehearsed what he would say if the KGB came storming into his hovel during the night. At that time he was writing what would eventually be called One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, an artistic novella but also a scathing indictment of the Soviet slave labor camps. Then one day he read Premier Khrushchev's speech at the 22nd Congress of Soviets. Solzhenitsyn was stunned. Khrushchev openly condemned Stalin, the evil dictator who had died in 1953! Was the Soviet Union ready for an honest book about the slave labor camps? Or would such an honest book get its author thrown right back into those very labor camps?
Solzhenitsyn decided he must take the chance.
In November 1961 he took his manuscript to a literary friend in Moscow. Not one diehard Communist in 1000 would approve publication of such a book. Yet over the next months the manuscript was guided upward by helpful hands, always avoiding the thousand hands with the knives, through layer after layer of bureaucracy - yes, all the way up to Premier Khrushchev himself. And he approved its publication! To Solzhenitsyn it was a miracle perhaps even greater than his cure from cancer in 1954.
Words that Solzhenitsyn's editor had screamed upon the publication of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich could just as well have been about Solzhenitsyn's future as a writer:
"The bird is free! The bird is free!"
[sources: The Oak and the Calf: A Memoir by Solzhenitsyn, 1975, and Solzhenitsyn by Michael Scammell, 1984]
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