Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn at The Hudson Review:
But, more importantly: the artist does not in fact require too detailed a study of his predecessors. It was only by fencing myself off, and not knowing most of what was written before me, that I’ve been able to fulfill my great task: otherwise you wear out and dissolve in it and accomplish nothing. If I’d read The Magic Mountain (and I still haven’t), it might somehow have impeded my writing of Cancer Ward. I was saved by the fact that my self-propelled development didn’t get distorted. I have always been hungry for reading, for knowledge—but in my school years in the provinces, when I was freer, I didn’t have that sort of guidance or access to that sort of library. And starting from my student years, my life was swallowed up by mathematics. I’d just set up a fragile connection with the Moscow Institute of Philosophy, Literature and History when the war came, then prison, the camps, internal exile, and teaching—still mathematics, but physics too (preparing experiments for demonstration in class, which I found very difficult). And years and years of conspiring under pressure and racing, underground, to complete my books, for the sake of all those who’d died without a chance to speak. In my life I’ve had to gain a thorough grounding in artillery, oncology, the First World War, and then prerevolutionary Russia too, which by then was so impossible to imagine.