Alexander Solzhenitzyn, the Russian Nobel laureate and former prisoner of Stalin’s gulags, has died in Moscow aged 89. I can’t pretend to have read any of his books, but I have at least heard of them and I am aware of what a huge impact he made exposing the cruelty of the gulag system despite harassment from the KGB and then eventually twenty years in exile.
Sarkozy (keen to get on on the act) has called him “an heir to Dostoyevsky”. The letters on the BBC website all talk about how he changed people’s lives, what an inspiration he was and one even says that A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich showed him the power of literature to change the world. Solzhi, as he was known by friends in his adopted America, would probably agree. One amazing fact I read this morning is that in the gulag they were allowed neither pens nor paper, so he memorised everything and kept it in his head until he was free to write it all down.
I think every writer secretly dreams about changing the world, either with a huge scoop or with a great book. But maybe at slightly different levels and obviously linked to your circumstances. Were I living in Afghanistan, for example, I like to think I would write a book that would help the plight of women there. But as I’m not I am quite happy helping women in my world lose weight, discover matching underwear and feel better about themselves. Possibly not as ground-breaking or as important as Solzhi’s epic work, but it suits me.
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008
Sergei Sergeyevich climbed the familiar damp stairs of his tenement project. The reek of boiled cabbage made his rheumy eyes run even more. He was still suffering from that dose of ‘flu he caught seven years ago. His threadbare grey herringbone overcoat did little to keep out the cold and his hat had been stolen months before by the children of the secret policeman on the ninth floor.
Sergei pushed the broken door open with his scuffed cardboard shoe, sloped in to the dark, two-roomed apartment and collapsed on to a wonky kitchen chair. He awoke to see his wife Olga posing lewdly in the bedroom doorway. She wiped her nose on the back of her hand and purred “Darling, come to me, it is that day and I am wearing my best matching underwear”.
Sergei turned to see the huge woman stuffing her tummy back into the greying army underpants, which, if they could, would reach up to her navel. Her matching bra drooped to kiss the hem of the pants. She sniffed again.
Sergei Sergeyovich buried his head in his hands and thought nice thoughts of the days in the Gulag.
Eat your heart out Solzhi. I think we may have found his natural successor, remember you read him first here guys…..
He appears to have had his face carved up with an ice pick. Now, as that did not happen to him in the Gulag, I wonder when it did. Maybe in the years he suffered so terribly in exile in America…
I agree – good candidate for some Botox!
A Day in the Life of The Idiot. Part 2.
The sharp knock at the door made Sergei Sergeyvich’s heart sink. The guard, who had been standing there all night, told Sergei that the car had arrived.
Wheezing out of the building on to the rain swept street, Sergei noticed that the car was not the usual Zil attended by two gorillas in black Homburgs and cheap overcoats, it was a white stretch Cadillac limo and the door was opened by a friendly young man in a smart suit. Where would they take him? He hoped against hope that it would not be another Oprah interview, Nescafé commercial or Vogue shoot.
As the Cadillac sped along Fifth Avenue he again held his head in his hands to shut out the blinding Christmas illuminations and thought of the peace and tranquility of his far off Gulag home.
suits me too!
Delighted to have just found you via Wife in the North! LOVED two lipsticks. Have already ordered ‘To Hell’ from library (sorry – need oil for the Aga before I can buy books this year!). t.xx
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