This Day In Writing History
On December 19th, 1732, the first issue of Poor Richard's Almanack, the classic annual by the legendary American writer, journalist, philosopher, scientist, and statesman Benjamin Franklin, was published.
Franklin wrote and edited the publication under the pseudonym Richard Saunders, aka Poor Richard, a tribute to the real Richard Saunders, the 17th century English author of the Apollo Anglicanus, then London's most popular almanac.
The persona of "Poor Richard" was a nod to Isaac Bickerstaff, a pseudonym and persona once used by the legendary Anglo-Irish writer and satirist Jonathan Swift.
Poor Richard's Almanack featured a calendar, long range weather forecasts, astronomical and astrological information, brain teasers, poetry, and Ben Franklin's famous proverbs, aphorisms, and words of advice.
The almanac also included serialized news stories, essays, and other writings. You had to keep buying the almanac every year to find the conclusions to these serialized pieces, and lots of people kept buying it.
At its peak of sales and circulation, ten thousand copies were sold every year to readers around the world - an incredible circulation rate for an 18th century publication. Poor Richard's Almanack would have an amazing 25-year run, from 1732 to 1758.
In 1735, Ben Franklin's brother James died suddenly at the age of 38, leaving his widow destitute. So, Ben gave his sister-in-law 500 free copies of Poor Richard's Almanack that she could sell and keep the money to support herself and her five children.
After Poor Richard's Almanack was translated into French, one of its biggest fans was French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. When Napoleon established the Cisalpine Republic in Northern Italy in 1792, he ordered an Italian language translation of the almanac.
In 1812, Poor Richard's Almanack became the first English language publication to be translated into Slovene, a South Slavic language. It was translated by Janez Nepomuk Primic.
During the American Revolution, the King of France gave a ship to the legendary Scottish-American naval hero John Paul Jones named the Bonhomme Richard after his favorite publication, Poor Richard's Almanack.
In 1792, nearly 25 years after Poor Richard's Almanack ceased publication, a new almanac made its debut. Founded by Robert B. Thomas and inspired by Ben Franklin's classic almanac, it was called The Old Farmer's Almanac. It's still in publication today.
Benjamin Franklin would go on to become a founding father of the United States of America and one of its greatest statesmen. He died in 1790 at the age of 85.
Quote Of The Day
"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." - Benjamin Franklin
Today's video features a collection of readings from various issues of The Old Farmer's Almanack. Enjoy!
Friday, December 19, 2014
Thursday, December 18, 2014
This Day In Writing History
On December 18th, 1870, the famous English writer Saki was born. He was born Hector Hugh "H.H." Munro in Akyab, Burma, now known as Sittwe, Myanmar. His father was an inspector-general for the Burmese police. At the time of his birth, Burma was still part of the British Empire.
In 1872, Munro's pregnant mother had gone home to England for a visit. While there, she was charged by a cow, and the shock of it caused her to miscarry. She never recovered from the miscarriage and died shortly afterward.
So, Munro's father sent him and his sister Ethel to England, where they were raised by their aunts and grandmother in a strict Victorian household. Munro received his primary education at Pencarwick School in Exmouth and Bedford Grammar School.
When his father left the Burmese police and retired to England, Munro and his sister traveled with him around Europe, visiting various fashionable spas and tourist resorts.
In 1893, Munro followed in his father's footsteps and joined the Indian Imperial Police. He was posted to Burma. Two years later, he had to resign due to poor health. Munro returned to England, where he began a career as a journalist.
He wrote for newspapers such as The Westminster Gazette, The Daily Express, The Bystander, The Morning Post, and The Outlook.
Munro's first book was published in 1900. It was a non-fiction historical study called The Rise of the Russian Empire. For six years, from 1902-08, Munro worked as a foreign correspondent for The Morning Post in the Balkans, Warsaw, Russia, and Paris.
In Russia, he witnessed the infamous Bloody Sunday incident of January 22nd, 1905, where striking workers marched to St. Petersburg, hoping to deliver a petition to the Tsar. Instead, they were met by gunfire from the Tsar's soldiers and massacred.
The organizer of the march, a Russian Orthodox priest named Father Gapon, later revealed himself to be a traitor working for the Tsarist secret police.
By 1908, H.H. Munro gave up his position as a foreign correspondent and settled in London, where he continued his writing career. He took his famous pseudonym, Saki, which had no connection to Japanese culture.
Scholars believe that Munro's use of the name Saki was a reference to the cup bearer in the famous ancient Persian poetry collection, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
Although he had co-written a play, Saki's specialty was the short story, and he became a master of the form. He often satirized life in Edwardian England, but he was best known for his darkly humorous and macabre tales.
Some of his best dark tales were The Storyteller, The Toys Of Peace, and Tobermory. His most famous story was The Open Window, a masterpiece of dark comedy.
The Open Window told the story of Framton Nuttel, a nervous nebbish who has come to visit Mrs. Sappleton, a friend of his sister's. He finds himself left alone with the woman's young niece, Vera.
Vera tells him a horrifying story: three years ago, her aunt's husband and younger brothers had gone out hunting and drowned in a bog. Their bodies were never found, so Mrs. Sappleton has always left the walk-in window open in case they return.
That night, the men do return, ghoulishly covered in mud. A terrified Nuttel grabs his hat and cane and runs out of the house. Vera explains that Nuttel was most likely frightened by the hunters' dog, as he was once chased into a cemetery by a pack of wild dogs and had to spend the night in a freshly dug grave!
In addition to his short story collections, Saki also wrote two novels, The Unbearable Bassington (1912), and When William Came (1913).
When William Came, published before the outbreak of World War I, was a work of "what if" fiction - a chronicle of life in London under German occupation after the armies of Kaiser Wilhelm II (the William of the title) invade Britain and conquer her.
When World War I broke out in 1914, Saki was 43 years old - too old to join the military, but he enlisted anyway. He joined the Royal Fusiliers regiment of the British Army as an ordinary soldier, refusing a commission.
In November of 1916, Saki was shot and killed by a German sniper while standing in a shell crater. His last words were "Put that bloody cigarette out!"
Quote Of The Day
"We all know that Prime Ministers are wedded to the truth, but like other married couples, they sometimes live apart." - Saki (H.H. Munro)
Today's video features a reading of Saki's classic short story, The Open Window. Enjoy!
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
This Day In Writing History
On December 17th, 1843, A Christmas Carol, the classic novella by the legendary English writer Charles Dickens, was published in London. (Sometimes the publication date is mistakenly listed as December 19th.)
Dickens began writing the book in October of 1843 and completed it in six weeks, with the final pages written during the first week of December.
After feuding with his publisher over the small amount of money he'd earned for his novel Martin Chuzzlewit, Dickens declined a lump-sum payment for A Christmas Carol and chose to take royalties instead.
The novella's first edition run of 6,000 copies sold out by Christmas Eve, but because of high production costs, Dickens only earned £230 and not the £1,000 he expected - and needed badly, as his wife had become pregnant again.
Although it didn't earn him as much as he'd hoped, A Christmas Carol proved to be a huge critical success, something Dickens also needed badly, after the failure of Martin Chuzzlewit.
The holiday classic continued to sell well, and soon, the author saw more of a profit. In January of 1844, less than a month after its first edition release, A Christmas Carol appeared in a pirated edition.
Dickens sued Farley's Illuminated Library, the publishers of the pirate edition, and won. Unfortunately, the company declared bankruptcy to avoid paying him damages, leaving him no compensation and owing £700 in legal expenses.
To fight future piracy, Dickens periodically tweaked his manuscript for A Christmas Carol and republished it in revised editions, something many writers did back when copyright laws were inadequate or nonexistent.
The piracy of A Christmas Carol was still a bitter disappointment for Dickens, as he felt a special affection for the novella's lessons in love and generosity that he wanted to teach the world.
Dickens based A Christmas Carol on both his own experiences and American writer Washington Irving's tales of the traditional old English Christmas and its customs.
In 1824, when Dickens was twelve years old, his prosperous, middle class father's financial mismanagement ruined the family. Unable to pay his creditors, he was arrested for debt. The Dickens family was sent to debtor's prison.
One family member avoided imprisonment - the precocious, intellectual Charles, who was forced to leave school, pawn his collection of books, and go to work in a factory to pay off his father's debts.
In early 1843, Dickens toured the Cornish tin mines and saw children working in appalling conditions. He also visited one of several London schools that had been set up to educate the city's large population of half-starved, illiterate street children.
Remembering his own horrific experiences as a child laborer, Dickens researched the effect of the Industrial Revolution on poor children. He gave a speech at the Manchester Athenaeum urging employers and workers to work together to fight illiteracy.
Dickens wrote and planned to publish a low-cost political pamphlet, An Appeal to the People of England, on Behalf of the Poor Man's Child, but changed his mind and put off the publication.
Instead, he tried to inspire compassion for the poor through his beloved novella, A Christmas Carol. Its main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, had been partly based on Dickens as a child before his family's financial ruin.
As a young boy, he'd had a strong sense of intellectual and class superiority. When he was forced to work alongside other poor children (and adults), his initial humiliation and anger were transformed into a deep, lifelong compassion for the poor.
A Christmas Carol opens on Christmas Eve, seven years after the death of Ebenezer Scrooge's business partner, Jacob Marley. Scrooge is a greedy and heartless moneylender and landlord who overworks and grossly underpays his loyal, hardworking clerk, Bob Cratchit.
Scrooge hates Christmas, and famously dismisses the holiday as humbug. After grudgingly allowing Cratchit to take Christmas Day off, Scrooge leaves for home, where he is haunted by the ghost of Jacob Marley.
Tormented and wrapped in heavy chains built link by link by his sins, Marley warns Scrooge that he will suffer the same fate if he doesn't change his ways. He tells Scrooge that three more spirits will haunt him.
The Ghost of Christmas Past brings Scrooge back to his past, a time when he cared about people and loved Christmas - before tragedy broke his heart and greed warped his soul. The Ghost of Christmas Present exposes Scrooge to the plight of the poor.
The ghost takes Scrooge to observe Bob Cratchit and his family, who are struggling to survive on the slave wages that Scrooge pays him. He also shows Scrooge how his nephew Fred - the son of his beloved sister who died in childbirth - still loves him despite the fact that Scrooge disowned him.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come proves to be the scariest spirit, tormenting Scrooge with a vision of the death of Tiny Tim - Bob Cratchit's crippled and sick little son - which could have been prevented.
He also shows Scrooge a vision of his own death, where nobody mourns him. Scrooge repents and awakens on Christmas morning with joy in his heart, vowing to be kind and to keep the spirit of the holiday with him always.
Needless to say, A Christmas Carol became hugely popular, a classic reread every year at Christmastime. Dickens' readers begged him to write another holiday story, so from 1844-48, he published some Christmas-themed short stories.
They sold well, but the critics trashed them. By 1849, Dickens decided that he was done writing Christmas stories, but he wanted to reach out to people with his "Carol philosophy." So, he began performing public readings of A Christmas Carol during the holiday season.
Dickens' first public reading of A Christmas Carol took place in 1853. It was an unabridged reading; for later performances, Dickens prepared an abridged text to read. He would perform 127 public readings of his holiday novella.
His last performance was in 1870 - the year of his death. In 1867, while on his first and only public reading tour of America, Dickens performed a reading in Boston on Christmas Eve.
One of the spectators, a factory owner named Fairbanks, was so moved by the story that he experienced a Scrooge-like transformation and sent every one of his employees a turkey.
A Christmas Carol would be adapted numerous times for the stage, screen, radio, and television. The first stage play adaptation opened on February 5th, 1844 - less than two months after the novella was published - and became a hit.
The novella would be adapted for the screen numerous times. The best known and best loved film version is the 1951 British production starring Alistair Sim as Scrooge.
In 2009, Disney released a 3D animated adaptation starring the voice of Jim Carrey as Scrooge, whose name would enter the English lexicon as a synonym for the word miser.
A Christmas Carol remains one of the all-time greatest works of English literature and a treasured holiday classic.
Quote Of The Day
"It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection and disease in sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour." - Charles Dickens
Today's video features a complete reading of Charles Dickens' classic novella, A Christmas Carol. Enjoy!
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
This Day In Writing History
On December 16th, 1775, the legendary English writer Jane Austen was born in Steventon, Hampshire, England. Born to a large upper class family, Jane had six brothers and one sister, Cassandra.
With five sons to educate, (Jane's brother George was mentally handicapped and sent to live elsewhere) the Austens couldn't afford to send Jane and her sister to school, too.
(When Jane was eight, the girls did go to Oxford for a year to begin their formal education, but then they fell ill with typhus and the family's finances became strained.)
So, the girls were well educated by their father and older brothers. Jane's clergyman father, William Austen, provided his daughters access to his large and eclectic library of books. He also provided them with writing and drawing materials.
Though part of the British upper class, the Austens were a liberal, intellectual family. Beginning around the time Jane was seven years old, the family staged plays privately for the amusement of themselves and their relatives and friends.
Most of the plays were comedies and no doubt cultivated Jane's talents for comedy and satire. She began writing her own plays, poems, and stories at the age of twelve.
These works were originally written for her and her family's amusement, but she made clean copies of the manuscripts and organized them into three bound volumes known as the Juvenilia.
Among the works in the Juvenilia were Love And Friendship, a satirical epistolary novella, and The History of England, a scathing parody of Oliver Goldsmith's historical work of the same name, featuring watercolor illustrations by Jane's sister, Cassandra.
Scholar Richard Jenkyns has compared Austen's Juvenilia to the works of 18th century English novelist Laurence Sterne and the 20th century comedy troupe, Monty Python's Flying Circus.
As she grew into womanhood, Jane Austen became involved in activities typical for young women of her age and social class. She practiced the piano, helped her mother and sister supervise the servants, and attended church regularly.
She also socialized with her friends and neighbors. Socializing at the time usually involved dancing, and as her brother Henry later observed, "Jane was fond of dancing and excelled at it."
Although she had become an accomplished seamstress, at around the age of fourteen, she decided that she wanted to be a professional writer. In 1793, at the age of eighteen, Jane began work on a novella, Lady Susan, which she completed two years later.
In this epistolary novella, Lady Susan is an intelligent, attractive, and self-centered middle aged widow who uses her beauty and charm to manipulate and seduce both married and single men alike in her quest to snare another rich husband.
She also tries to marry off her daughter Frederica, whom she considers stupid and stubborn, to a rich man. Frederica, however, is a sweet and sensible girl, and will have none of that.
Lady Susan was considered risque and shocking for its time, but Jane's liberal parents supported her writing endeavors. Around the time she completed the manuscript, the twenty-year-old Jane Austen met Tom Lefroy, the nephew of her neighbors.
Having just graduated from university, Lefroy, a young Irishman, had come to London to train as a barrister. He and Jane met at a social gathering, and it was love at first sight.
They spent a lot of time together, but then Tom's family intervened and sent him away. They had decided that Tom and Jane were too young and too poor to marry, despite their social class. Jane never saw him again.
Jane began work on her first full-length novel, Elinor and Marianne, which would later be revised considerably and published as the classic Sense and Sensibility.
While working on her second novel, First Impressions, (which would be revised and later published as Pride and Prejudice) Jane's father tried to get Elinor and Marianne published. It was rejected. Jane probably never knew about it, as she kept writing.
In 1800, William Austen surprised his family by announcing his retirement and his plan to move the family to Bath. Jane was shocked at having to move out of the only home she had ever known. In Bath, she fell into a deep depression and her writing productivity slowed down to almost a standstill.
Two years after the move, Jane and her sister visited their old friends, Althea and Catherine Bigg. Their younger brother, Harris Bigg, was back home, having returned following his graduation from Oxford.
Jane had known Harris since they were both young. He was a large, unattractive man who rarely spoke. When he did speak, he stuttered, engaged in aggressive conversation, and was completely tactless. He was, however, an heir to his family's considerable fortune, so when he proposed to Jane, she accepted.
Marriage to Harris would be practical - he could take care of her, provide a comfortable life for her parents in their old age, and a home for her unmarried sister. The next morning, though, Jane realized she had made a terrible mistake and withdrew her acceptance.
In 1804, Jane began work on a new novel, The Watsons, but it would remain unfinished. Several months after she started writing it, her father died suddenly. This left Jane, her sister Cassandra, and their mother penniless.
Jane's brothers Edward, James, Henry, and Francis contributed to the support of their sisters and mother. The women lived in rented rooms in Bath and Southampton for the next four years. Then, Edward's fortunes improved and he moved them into a cottage on his estate in Chawton.
Feeling secure again, Jane returned to her writing, and her level of productivity soared. In 1811, her first full-length novel, Sense and Sensibility, was finally published.
The book was published anonymously, under the name "A Lady." The reviews were great and the first edition sold out. The royalties provided Jane with both financial and psychological independence.
She continued to publish classic novels, including Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Mansfield Park (1814), the first editions of which had also sold out.
After her novel Emma was published in 1815, Jane learned that the Prince Regent admired her writing and kept a set of her novels at every one of his residences. His librarian sent her an invitation to meet with the Prince at his home in London.
Jane disliked the Prince, but she couldn't refuse the invitation. She would later base her satirical piece, Plan of a Novel, (1815) on the many suggestions made to her by the Prince's annoying librarian.
In July of 1816, Jane completed the first draft of her next novel, The Elliots, which would later be published as Persuasion. Earlier in the year, she had fallen ill, but ignored her illness and kept writing at her usual pace.
As a result, her health began a long and slow deterioration. As the illness progressed, she lost all of her energy and experienced increasing difficulty in walking.
Jane Austen died the following year at the age of 41. Her last two novels, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, would be published posthumously in 1817.
Most of Jane's biographers relied on Dr. Vincent Cope's 1964 retrospective diagnosis of Addison's disease. Some claimed that Jane suffered from Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer.
In a recent work, Katherine White of Britain's Addison's Disease Self Help Group suggested that Jane Austen most likely died of bovine tuberculosis, a common disease during her time that was contracted by drinking unpasteurized milk.
To this day, Jane Austen is rightfully considered one of the greatest English novelists of all time. Her works are still studied and admired by readers around the world.
Quote Of The Day
"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." - Jane Austen
Today's video features complete reading of Jane Austen's classic novel, Pride and Prejudice. Enjoy!
Monday, December 15, 2014
My flash, “Feeling Lucky,” is up at Clever Magazine.
Another flash, “A Love Story,” will appear in a future issue of Wild Violet Magazine.
My story, “Tuberose,” is up today at the Atticus Review.
My novel, Seaweed Ribbons, which went through the novels-l list last year, has been published at last by Double Dragon Publishing.
I am glad to announce that my romance novel, Finding Love Again, has been published by Ankara Press, and is available for sale here. Special thanks to the wonderful writers on the Lovestory list. I can't thank you enough for your critiques and kind words of encouragement. You're simply the best.
Friday, December 12, 2014
This Day In Writing History
On December 12th, 1821, the legendary French writer Gustave Flaubert was born in Rouen, France. His father, Achille-Cléophas, was a surgeon. According to some sources, the young Gustave began writing stories at the age of eight.
After being educated at Lycée Pierre-Corneille, Flaubert went to Paris to study law. He didn't care much for law and preferred his hometown in Normandy to the City of Lights. He did make some friends in Paris, including fellow writer Victor Hugo.
In 1846, at the age of 25, Flaubert suffered an epileptic attack and left Paris. He settled in Croisset, near Rouen, where he would live with his mother for the rest of his life.
Flaubert was openly bisexual, but preferred women. His one and only great love was the poet Louise Colet. When their passionate affair came to an end, he lost interest in romance and never married.
He wasn't lonely. He caroused with prostitutes of both sexes, (often suffering from venereal disease as a result) he was close to his niece Caroline, and enjoyed the company of other writers, including Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, George Sand, and Ivan Turgenev.
Gustave Flaubert's first published work of fiction was a semi-autobiographical novella called November (1842). The narrator is a schoolboy who meditates on his life, including his determination to become a man both physically and sexually.
The narrator ultimately loses his virginity to Marie, a worldly-wise courtesan who enthralls him with stories of her erotic experiences. Later, the narrator decides to see her again, only to find that she and her brothel have vanished.
Flaubert's first full length novel, The Temptation of Saint Anthony, written in 1849 but not published in its final version until 1874, was based on St. Anthony the Great's alleged temptation by supernatural forces in the Libyan Desert.
After completing his first draft, Flaubert read the novel aloud to his friends, writers Louis Bouilhet and Maxime Du Camp, over a period of four days, after which, he asked for their opinions on it. They encouraged him to burn the manuscript.
In 1857, Flaubert published what is considered his masterpiece, the classic, controversial novel Madame Bovary. It first appeared in a serialized form in the French literary magazine Le Revue de Paris, published from October 1st through December 15th, 1856.
The novel was considered scandalous and attacked for its alleged obscenity and immorality; Flaubert was accused of glorifying adultery. In January of 1857, the novel went on trial for obscenity. On February 7th, it was acquitted - found not legally obscene.
Flaubert's novel told the unforgettable story of Emma Rouault, a young woman who falls in love with a country doctor, Charles Bovary. Although a decent man, he turns out to be awkward, weak, and an insufferable bore. Emma becomes disillusioned and despondent.
When wealthy libertine landowner Rodolphe Boulanger seduces her, Emma finds the passionate romance she'd been craving. She risks exposing her affair with her indiscreet love letters and visits to her lover.
Emma plans to elope with Rodolphe, but he has no intention of marrying her. He dumps her, ending the relationship with a dear john letter enclosed in a basket of apricots. Her romantic fantasy world suddenly shattered, Emma falls severely ill.
After recovering her health, Emma seeks happiness in material possessions. The crafty merchant Monsieur Lheureux manipulates Emma into buying lots of luxury items from him on credit, and she quickly accrues a crushing amount of debt.
Lheureux arranges for Emma to get power of attorney over her husband's estate, then calls in her debt. Desperate for money, she tries prostituting herself to Rodolphe Boulanger. When that fails, she swallows arsenic. The romance of suicide even fails her; she dies an agonizing death.
As a writer, Flaubert's prose combined romanticism with realism. A perfectionist, he strictly avoided cliches and determined to find le mot juste - the right word. He worked in solitude and could spend a whole week writing and rewriting a single page.
With the publication of Madame Bovary, scandal would follow Flaubert for most of his life, but he continued to write great novels. Salammbô (1862) was a historical novel set in 3rd century Carthage amid the Mercenary Revolt.
The Mercenary Revolt took place shortly after the First Punic War broke out. At the time Flaubert wrote his novel, this was a rarely studied period in history. The author went to Carthage to do his research; his primary source was book one of The Histories by the legendary ancient Greek historian Polybius.
Salammbô proved to be a masterpiece that restored the reputation of Flaubert as one of France's greatest writers. He had been denounced by the conservative establishment and the Church as a mere pornographer.
Gustave Flaubert's last great novel, Sentimental Education (1869) was set amid the French revolution of 1848 and the founding of the Second French Empire - the regime of Napoleon III, which would rule from 1852 to 1870 - as seen through the eyes of a young man named Frederic Moreau.
Flaubert died of a stroke in 1880 at the age of 58.
Quote Of The Day
"Writing is a dog's life, but the only life worth living." - Gustave Flaubert
Today's video features a complete reading of Gustave Flaubert's classic short story, A Simple Heart. Enjoy!
Thursday, December 11, 2014
This Day In Writing History
On December 11th, 1918, the famous Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn was born in Kislovodsk, Stavropol Krai, in the North Caucasian region of Russia.
Shortly after his mother Taisia discovered that she was pregnant with him, his father Isaakiy, an Army officer and World War I veteran, was killed in a hunting accident.
With his father dead, Alexander was raised by his mother and aunt. Poor but educated, his mother encouraged his interests in literature and science and brought him up in her extremely devout Russian Orthodox faith.
He began writing in 1936, at the age of eighteen. He also studied mathematics at Rostov State University and took correspondence courses from the Moscow Institute of Philosophy, Literature, and History.
In April of 1940, while at university, Solzhenitsyn married his classmate, Natalia Alekseevna Reshetovskaya, a chemistry major. They would divorce in 1952, remarry in 1957, then divorce again in 1972.
The following year, he married his second wife, mathematician Natalia Dmitrievna Svetlova, who was 21 years younger. She would bear him three sons.
During World War II, Solzhenitsyn served in the Red Army as commander of a sound-ranging battery, saw major action at the front, and was decorated twice.
His early, unfinished novel Love The Revolution! chronicled his wartime experiences and his growing disillusionment with the Soviet regime.
Around this time, in February of 1945, Solzhenitsyn was arrested for making derogatory comments about the regime in general and Josef Stalin in particular - comments included in letters to his friend, Nikolai Vitkevich.
(At the time, it was a common practice for Soviet authorities to read citizens' private mail in search of subversive statements.)
Accused of distributing anti-Soviet propaganda, Solzhenitsyn was taken to the Lubyanka prison in Moscow, where he was beaten and interrogated. On July 7th, 1945, he was sentenced to eight years of hard labor in a brutal gulag - a Soviet labor camp.
He served his time at several different work camps, including one in Ekibastuz, Kazakhstan, where his experiences would form the basis for his first published book, a novella that would bring him international fame.
One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich (1962) told the story of the title character, an innocent Russian soldier and prisoner of war who, after returning home, finds himself arrested by Soviet authorities and charged with being a spy.
He is sent to a work camp in the Soviet gulag system - a brutally cold, filthy, and degrading labor camp designed to dehumanize the prisoners. Ivan Denisovich's spirit can't be broken.
He makes friends with his fellow inmates and they all try to survive the inhumane conditions as best they can. When Denisovich falls ill, he is forced to continue working.
While serving his time in Ekibastuz, Alexander Solzhenitsyn himself fell ill and had a tumor removed, although the doctors failed to diagnose his cancer. In 1953, after he finished serving his sentence, he was exiled for life in Kazakhstan, a common fate for political prisoners.
Solzhenitsyn's cancer spread. Close to death, he was allowed to be treated at a hospital in Tashkent. The treatments worked and his cancer went into remission. He would base his 1967 novel, Cancer Ward, on his experiences fighting the disease.
After Nikita Khrushchev gave his famous Secret Speech in 1956, where he denounced the crimes of the Stalin regime in an attempt to bring the Soviet Union out of the dark ages and closer to Lenin's original vision, Alexander Solzhenitsyn was exonerated and freed from exile.
He returned to Russia, where he taught school during the day and wrote at night. He kept his writings a secret, but somehow, while he was working on his next book, the KGB found out that he was a writer.
The manuscript he'd been working on - his famous non-fiction expose, The Gulag Archipelago - wouldn't be published until 1973, and not officially in the Soviet Union until 1989.
In 1962, Solzhenitsyn approached Alexander Tvardovsky, poet and editor-in-chief of the Noviy Mir magazine, with his final draft of One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich.
Amazingly, the novella was published in an edited form with the explicit approval of Soviet Communist Party Secretary Nikita Khrushchev, who publicly defended it at a Politburo hearing on whether to allow its publication.
In his defense of the book, Khrushchev famously declared, "There is a Stalinist in each of you; there's even a Stalinist in me. We must root out this evil."
Solzhenitsyn's novella became a huge hit throughout Russia. It was studied in Soviet schools. It also became a hit around the world, bringing the Soviet gulag system to the attention of the West.
Unfortunately, two years later, Nikita Khrushchev was ousted from power, and books exposing the horrors of Stalinism began to disappear. In 1965, the KGB confiscated most of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's papers and manuscripts.
The manuscript for his non-fiction book The Gulag Archipelago was spared, hidden from the KGB by Solzhenitsyn's friends in Estonia. They helped him finish typing it up.
In 1970, Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He couldn't go to Stockholm to receive it, for fear of not being allowed back in the Soviet Union. A compromise was proposed.
The deal was that Solzhenitsyn would receive his prize at a ceremony at the Swedish embassy in Moscow, but the Swedish government rejected the proposal, fearing that the ensuing media coverage would damage its relations with the Soviet Union.
The Gulag Archipelago was published in the West in 1973. Not long afterward, the KGB found a copy of the first part of the manuscript. On Februrary 12th, 1974, Alexander Solzhenitsyn was arrested. He would be deported to Frankfurt, West Germany, and stripped of his Soviet citizenship.
A few days later, the legendary Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko suffered reprisals for his support of Solzhenitsyn. U.S. military attache William Odom managed to smuggle most of Solzhenitsyn's archive out of Russia.
Solzhenitsyn lived in Cologne and Zurich, Switzerland, before Stanford University invited him to stay in the United States. He lived in the Hoover Tower, then settled in Cavendish, Vermont, in 1976.
In 1978, Harvard University awarded him an honorary literary degree, and he delivered the commencement address - where he condemned materialism in modern Western culture. He began work on The Red Wheel, a cycle of novels set amidst the Russian Revolution of 1917.
In the 1980s, Solzhenitsyn found himself becoming a media star, the darling of the right and a hero to the Reagan administration, which had whipped up anti-communist hysteria and paranoia to levels not seen since the 1950s.
Liberals and secularists criticized Solzhenitsyn for his strong support of the Vietnam War, his reactionary patriotism, and his devout espousal of Russian Orthodox Christianity, which was tinged with anti-Semitism.
His two volume essay on Russian-Jewish relations, Two Hundred Years Together, was denounced as anti-Semitic. He had also vocally opposed allowing foreign Catholic and Protestant clergy into Russia in order to protect the country's Russian Orthodox Christian identity.
In 1990, Solzhenitsyn's Russian citizenship was restored. Four years later, having tired of the West, he and his wife moved to Troitse-Lykovo, West Moscow, where he lived until his death in 2008 at the age of 89.
On the first anniversary of Solzhenitsyn's death, in an interview on Radio Liberty, Russian dissident writer Vladimir Voynovich confirmed that Solzhenitsyn had been a lifelong anti-Semite.
Solzhenitsyn kept his anti-Semitism a closely guarded secret because he knew that it would prevent him from receiving the Nobel Prize. His notorious essay, Two Hundred Years Together, would not be published until 2001.
Quote Of The Day
"Literature that is not the breath of contemporary society, that dares not transmit the pains and fears of that society, that does not warn in time of threatening moral and social dangers - such literature does not deserve the name of literature; it is only a facade. Such literature loses the confidence of its own people, and its public works are used as wastepaper instead of being read." - Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Today's video features the 1970 British feature film adaptation of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's classic novella, One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich. Enjoy!