1 Nov 07
From a letter to my parents:
I have just finished reading a Solzhenitsyn bio that I started two days ago and couldn’t put down. It’s as if fate has stepped in just before my release and strengthened my commitment to making a go of writing.
My suffering can’t compare with what Solzhenitsyn had to endure, yet he rose from prison to spearhead the literary elite of Russia. Death called on him so many times: on the front fighting the Nazis, in Russian prisons, and then in the form of cancer. Reading about the odds he overcome has inspired me. From prison he was exiled to Kazakhstan where he knew no one, and he ended up lodging in a corner of a kitchen in an old couple’s house.
As for me, I have your loving home to go to. He set strict limits on his social life and gave writing his all. He funnelled his prison experiences into fiction in such an honest and compelling way that his book about Ivan Denisovich caused a revolution in Russian writing. This quote really touched me:
“The writer’s tasks concern more general and eternal questions – the secrets of the human heart and conscience, the clash between life and death, and the overcoming of inner sorrow.”
These Russian literary geniuses (including Tolstoy and Chekhov) seem to have a knack for penetrating the human soul and portraying it in an uplifting way in their prose. Not that I could come anywhere near the genius of these great writers, but I’ve tried to go in that direction and as I continue my writing should mature.
Anyway, I learned a lot more from this bio than I can convey in this letter – especially how I need to have a disciplined work ethic, like I had when I began stockbroking. I’m used to a monastic life, so you locking me in the garage and feeding me meagre meals won’t be a problem.
I don’t intend to succumb to the temptations of my former life. I need to be with people who will have a positive influence on my life. I would like to use the knowledge I’ve gained to help with prison reform, help young offenders or speak to youngsters about my involvement with drugs and how I ended up in prison.
I’ve certainly undergone the “impoverishment and devastation” that according to Thomas Mann, constitute the preliminary conditions to serious writing. And Solzhenitsyn claimed: “Good literature arises out of pain.” I would like to expose injustice through my writing. I’m willing to make the necessary sacrifices. I’d be happy to accomplish a fraction of what Solzhenitsyn accomplished.
With your help, I just need to follow through on the opportunities that continue to come my way, and to keep myself emotionally stable.
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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood