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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Day 14: Will To Live

One of my favorite authors is the Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn (I made mention of him in yesterday's post). I was first exposed to his writing as a freshman in high-school and was so captivated by the imagery he conveyed that I read all three volumes of his Gulag Archipelago.

Solzhenitsyn is perhaps one of the most powerful writers of our age, though it seems that age is passing. Suddenly this truth becomes an illustration of the point that stands out to me today: the will to live. Solzhenitsyn was a fighter. He stood for he stood for truth and human dignity in the face of oppressive Communism. He personally demonstrated the will to live by withstanding years of imprisonment and persecution as well as surviving an assassination attempt by poisoning in 1971.

This short prose-poem by Solzhenitsyn is a near-perfect picture that captures the kind of indomitable spirit he displayed, a symbol of strength we are hard-pressed to find today.

"We were sawing firewood when we picked up an elm log and gave a cry of amazement. It was a full year since we had chopped down the trunk, dragged it along behind a tractor and sawn it up into logs, which we had then thrown on to barges and wagons, rolled into stacks and piled up on the ground - and yet this elm log had still not given up! A fresh green shoot had sprouted from it with a promise of a thick, leafy branch, or even a whole new elm tree.

We placed the log on the sawing-horse, as though on an executioner's block, but we could not bring ourselves to bite into it with our saw. How could we? That log cherished life as dearly as we did; indeed, its urge to live was even stronger than ours.”


("The Elm Log". Short Stories and Prose Poems. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1971. Bantam 1973)

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