S-a nimerit ca, la şedintele bordului de azi, sǎ stau lângǎ Doamna Dorothy S. McClellan, profesoara de justiţie criminalǎ la Texas A&M University, Corpus Cristi.
I-am povestit despre vizita mea la Cortland şi despre “aventura” trǎitǎ în cǎutarea locurilor unde s-au petrecut evenimentele care au stat la baza romanului O tragedie americanǎ, de Theodore Dreiser.
Mi-a povestit şi ea o întâmplare fabuloasǎ. În 1975, s-a înscris la nişte cursuri de limba rusǎ, la Norwich University. Urma sǎ plece la Moscova, cu o bursǎ, şi avea nevoie de cunoştinte elementare de limba rusǎ. La Universitatea Norwich funcţiona o bunǎ secţie de studiere a limbii ruse (funcţiona din 1968).
Dorothy susţine cǎ un profesor de la acest departament, Ned Quigley, a avut ideea sǎ îl invite pe Alexandr Soljeniţîn la Universitate, pentru o întâlnire cu studenţii departamentului de limba rusǎ. Pe site-ul Universitǎţii Norwich existǎ un articol despre acest episod, de unde se poate deduce cǎ profesorul Nicholas Pervushin, directorul Şcolii Ruse (profesorul a decedat în 1993) şi care fusese şi el un opozant al regimului bolşevic din URSS, ajuns în emigraţie datoritǎ ajutorului oferit de Lenin însuşi (care era vǎr cu mama sa!), este cel care l-a invitat pe Soljeniţîn la întâlnire. În fine.
Soljeniţîn tocmai fusese exilat din URSS (în 1970 luase premiul Nobel pentru Literaturǎ) şi era dornic de asemenea contacte. Vizita a avut loc în cel mai strict secret, departe de ochii curioşi ai presei. Celebrul scriitor a petrecut aici patru zile, a vizitat clasele ruseşti, a discutat cu studenţii despre literaturǎ, politicǎ, muzica rock. Cineva din conducerea Universitǎţii l-a întrebat ce ar vrea sǎ facǎ în timpul petrecut aici, iar scriitorul a spus cǎ ar vrea sǎ înveţe sǎ joace … tenis! Ceea ce s-a şi întâmplat (o fotografie postatǎ pe site-ul Universitǎţii Norwich îl înfǎţişeazǎ pe scriitor cu o rachetǎ în mânǎ!). Dar iatǎ informaţii surprinzǎtoare despre acest episod din viaţa lui Soljeniţîn, din articolul postat pe site-ul Universitǎţii Norwich:
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and His Visit to Norwich
“Some have suggested that in 1975, at the height of the Cold War, the writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was one of the most famous and recognizable people in the world. In July of that year he spent four days at Norwich University.
Who was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and why was his visit so important?
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn fought in World War II as an artillery officer in the Red Army. In 1945, after making a derogatory reference about Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, he was arrested and served years in various prisons and forced labor camps, known as Gulags. His experiences in these harsh camps provided the basis for his novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970. Solzhenitsyn continued to write secretly, and to smuggle his work out of the USSR for publication in the West. His most important work was The Gulag Archipelago, a massive history of the Soviet prison camp system.
The Soviet authorities were furious at its publication, but since he had achieved world-wide fame, they felt they could not imprison him again. Instead, Solzhenitsyn was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1974. The whole world watched as he was deported to Western Europe, temporarily settling in Switzerland. Newspapers and magazines provided the latest updates on his situation and where-abouts. He became an international symbol of the oppression and censorship of the Soviet Union.
In 1975, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn planned a trip to the United States, yet wanted to avoid the constant media scrutiny of his life. He was seeking a quiet place to finish an article he was writing, and through contacts with Dr. Pervushin and other Russian School faculty, chose to come to Norwich. His visit was secretly arranged, and he spent four days on campus. In addition to writing, he observed Russian School classes, and spent time talking with students, discussing literature, politics, even rock music. The Russian School students re-staged the Slavic Festival performance for him, and Solzhenitsyn remarked “I am impressed with your efforts to preserve Russian culture without the Soviet imprint.”
When asked if there was anything else he would like to do while at Norwich, he replied he would like to learn to play tennis. Marion Hubiak, the Dean of Students of the Russian School, volleyed with Solzhenitsyn on the Norwich courts. Solzhenitsyn had given Norwich English professor George Turner permission to document his visit, as long as the press wasn’t alerted until after he had left campus. After his departure, the photographs of Solzhenitsyn’s tennis match were picked up by the Associated Press and accounts of the famous author’s visit quickly spread to newspapers across the country. The University and Russian School offices were nearly overwhelmed with phone calls inquiring about Solzhenitsyn. “Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn must have been impressed with Vermont and his reception by the Norwich Russian School. In 1976, he purchased a home in Cavendish, Vermont. The remote property served as his family home for the next eighteen years. Solzhenitsyn closely guarded his privacy, and had almost no contact with the outside world. He wrote from 7 to 11 AM and from 12 to 5PM every day, and read all evening. However, his family continued to make trips to the Norwich Russian School. His three sons visited the school over the years and performed piano pieces and poetry in the Slavic Festivals. Solzhenitsyn’s wife, Natalia, spoke to the Russian School on behalf of the Solzhenitsyn Foundation, through which proceeds from his books went to aid political prisoners in the Soviet Union. Other dissident writers, such as Aleksandr Ginzburg, came to stay with the Solzhenitsyn family in Vermont, and often visited the Russian School at Norwich.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s visit brought international attention to Norwich University, at a time when the writer was sought after worldwide as a symbol of resistance to the Soviet Union. It remains vitally important that he chose to come to Norwich, and not to other Russian programs such as Columbia University, Indiana University, or Middlebury College. It was the unique composition and approach of the faculty of the Norwich Russian School that drew him here and eventually encouraged him to settle in Vermont during his exile from the Soviet Union.” (Cf. http://norwich.typepad.com/files/russian-only-please-catalogue.pdf).