The Importance of Courage to Writers

I sometimes advise my students and authors that, to be a good or great writer, it’s more important to live with courage everyday than it is to even write everyday. ┬áHere’s a particularly profound example of this, from this week’s New Yorker magazine interview with Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s widow, Natalia:

Natalia lived her life with Solzhenitsyn as if in a foxhole: the foxhole of persecution in Moscow, and the foxhole of isolation and common purpose in the US. During their years (of exile) in America, 1976 to 1994, in the remote town of Cavendish, Vermont … Alexander barely left the property. He worked. And she worked alongside him, an integral part of his creative process. All the while, Solzhenitsyn believed that the Soviet Union would collapse and that he would return home. “In 1979, when the Soviet war in Afghanistan began, some of our friends in Moscow and St. Petersburg were arrested, and a new darkness descended in the Soviet Union,” Natalia said. “Even then, Alexander would say, apologetically, even as we were discussing where he would be buried in the West, ‘You are right: I can see no fact that supports any notion of my returning home. And yet, while I’m not trying to be prophetic, I also know that I will return. I see it.'” In 1994, Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia, and spent his last years in a house in the woods outside Moscow. He worked until the final days of his life.