Saturday, December 22, 2012

One Day in the Life

This week was a wonderful week, topped off by a great day today. 

I woke up this morning with a million things to do to get ready for the holidays, and truth be told, I felt like doing none of them.  But I did them ALL.  So I'm all set tomorrow for traveling and decorating, and if all goes well, I'll have a nice, relaxing Christmas.

I even had time to swim a mile and stack firewood.  I'm almost finished with the article I'm writing, so I'm 100% certain I'll be able to send it on its way next week.  Then, I've got one more to get finished up, and by then, classes will be starting again.

I must say, gulag literature is a great motivator.  Right now, I'm rereading A Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.  I first read it about 30 years ago, when I was 14.

Yes, right around the time I was reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.  I was an odd child.

Ivan Denisovich is the gulag novel that everyone reads who reads any gulag literature.  I suspect that's because it's short, unlike The Gulag Archipelago, which is actually on my Classics Club list, so it's on my reading list for this January.

Returning to Ivan Denisovich after all these years, I like it okay, but I confess, I like Shalamov's Kolyma Tales much better, and I find the oral histories more compelling (although they're less aesthetically structured).

Ivan Denisovich's day is organized around work and survival which, obviously, is how the day of any gulag inmate would have been organized--and yet, the oral histories and Shalamov's works tend to capture the sense of random danger far better.

Reading it now, with a broader context and background, Solzhenitsyn seems to be depicting gulag life as worrisome and depressing, but his novel definitely lacks the violence and brutality of other depictions.  The cynical side of me can't help but suspect that this is why his novel was the one that Americans picked up on. 

He softens the blow a bit, I think.

And as I said, the texts are great motivators.  It's unlikely that I'll ever complain about minor housekeeping tasks again.  At least I have a house.  It has heat.  I have adequate clothing.  And food.  I can contact friends and family.  I can blog.

Life is good.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."