R.I.P. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
I started reading the book as required, little knowing the profound impact it would have on my life. Quite simply, it was the most depressing book I had ever read in my life, and is still in the top two.
The book describes one day in the life of a man in a post world war II Soviet era gulag. Not a special day or an abnormal day, just one typical day of incredibly depressing and dehumanizing existence in a communist labour camp. The daily grind described in the book, where even the littlest pleasures are unknown and a victory comes from something so small that we wouldn't even consider them something to be taken for granted, is painful, yet feels incredibly real.
The other book that I consider even more depressing? The Gulag Archipelago, also by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
These books describe an existence so bleak they make you question everything about your life. Could you live in those conditions? Could you prevail? I honestly don't know if I could.
It does make it easier to deal with things like a stain on your shirt, or your lunch being cold. Didn't get a raise? At least you get to bathe. Your boss is a jerk? At least he doesn't make you sleep with your hands outside the blanket in the middle of Siberian winter.
I want to be a writer. I've been writing the same novel for 10 years and it still sucks. It's discouraging. Still … to write the Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn had to go through this:
Because the Gulag might obviously render anyone who came into contact with it a long prison sentence for 'anti-Soviet activities', Solzhenitsyn never worked on the manuscript in complete form. Due to the KGB's constant surveillance of him, Solzhenitsyn only worked on parts of the manuscript at any one time, so as not to put the book as a whole into jeopardy if he happened to be arrested. For this reason, he secreted the various parts of the work throughout Moscow and the surrounding suburbs, in the care of trusted friends, and sometimes purportedly visiting them on social calls, but actually working on the manuscript in their homes.
Thank you Aleksandr, for putting it all into perspective.