Freedom to Breathe (A. Solzhenitsyn)

“A shower fell in the night and now dark clouds drift across the sky, occasionally sprinkling a fine film of rain. I stand under an apple-tree in blossom and I breathe. Not only the apple-tree but the grass round it glistens with moisture; words cannot describe the sweet fragrance that pervades the air. Inhaling as deeply as I can, the aroma invades my whole being; I breathe with my eyes open, I breathe with my eyes closed – I cannot say which gives me the greater pleasure.

This I believe, is the single most precious freedom that prison takes away from us: the freedom to breathe freely, as I now can. No food on earth, no wine, not even a woman’s kiss is sweeter to me than this air steeped in the fragrance of flowers, of moisture and freshness.

No matter that this is only a tiny garden, hemmed in by five storey houses like cages in a zoo. I cease to hear the motorcycles backfiring, the radios whining, the burble of loudspeakers. as long as there is fresh air to breathe under an apple-tree after a shower, we may survive a little longer.”

Freedom to Breathe

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

(Stories and Prose Poems)

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