Was Solzhenitsyn a Synesthete?

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn - source Wikimedia CommonsDifferent writers have different methods of working – methods they employ to shape their work.  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn used different coloured pens.  He wasn’t doing this to reflect which character he was talking about, but to convey the mood of each sentence.  Different moods got different colours.  This method seems completely alien to me, I can’t imagine it being useful to my writing, but it meant something to Solzhenitsyn.  That’s why I wonder if he was a synesthete.  Synesthesia is a crossover between senses.  Different synesthetes experience it in different ways.  Some see numbers, letters or words as having particular colours – and for one person, one number will always have the same colour – others experience words as tastes.  I wonder if Solzhenitsyn had a mild form and experienced emotions as colours and felt the need to express the feeling in his writing.

This sort of method would not help me at all, but as a writer, you have to do the things that help you to write.  (This can include habits – where you write, when you write, how you sit – it can include the tools you use, from HB pencils to computer programmes and, as in Solzhenitsyn’s case, your practices whilst thinking and writing.)  In all probability, your method will not be visible to your readers; you do it for yourself.  Solzhenitsyn’s method did nothing for his readers directly, but he thought it helped him writing, and who am I to argue?  He won the Nobel Prize for literature, so if adopting particular methods helps you to write, by all means adopt them.  However, do it for yourself, not for your readers.  When you next take down your well-thumbed copy of One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich from your book shelves, you will notice that although Solzhenitsyn wrote his stories with multiple colours of ink, his publisher only printed them in black type.

3 thoughts on “Was Solzhenitsyn a Synesthete?

  1. That ‘black ink’ must have disturbed him greatly. I myself, a (possibly)-fellow cursed/blessed one, miss the ease of colouring text we had at the now-defunct Xanga blog-site. Didn’t use it often, since font-colour is not really how we ‘see differently’. But god help me if I see the letter ‘A’ in green (ugh) or the number ‘4’, red, for example. Makes me queasy.
    Hadn’t read about Solzhenitsyn. Nabakov yes, though.
    A fascinating article, and thanks./JS Tel aviv

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