Monday, August 04, 2008
Overlooking Thira, Santorini, Cyclades, Greece
I am more of a Preparer to Do Things than a Person who Actually Does Them; it is probably too late to change, but perhaps I can modify a bit. Hope for drastic change always reminds me of something a young woman who used to work with me said one time as we were riding in a car together to attend a meeting. Apropos of nothing, really, she suddenly said, "I need a face transplant."
There were two other women in the car, and all of us fell silent. We couldn't think of anything to say. It was true the young woman was unmarried and determinedly plain with uninteresting hair and a large nose. Yet, she was very smart, often funny, and petite and well-formed. We arrived at the meeting still silent, and with the miasma of terrifying self-hatred still in the car.
It's a funny thing, life. There was a long obituary in the New York Times for Solzhenitsyn. A lot of this I already knew, but it was also a sort of a trip down Memory Lane because I read the books as they became available, and it brought back all the Cold War incidents that I lived through on the periphery of my family and library life.
One shocking thing that I had not known. A. S. smuggled a "microfilm" (remember microfilm?) of The Gulag Archipelago and they were trying to publish it in New York, but he was still hoping for first publication in Russia (he remained a determined, not to say hard-nosed, Slavophile all his life and finally was able to go back to live in Russia for his last few years.). [My husband has explained to me whether to put the period inside or outside the parentheses, but the rule shifts and I haven't mastered it yet.]
Anyway, Solzhenitsyn changed his mind after the KGB found a "buried" copy of his manuscript and questioned his typist, Elizaveta Voronyanskaya. Shortly thereafter, she hanged herself. So it was published, in English first, to great acclaim in 1973. It made the most money of any of his books and he donated it ALL to a foundation to help refugees.
Sleep well, Elizaveta Voronyanskaya. I cannot imagine your life and your death, but it fills me with great sadness.