On Not Taking Things Lying Down

I was rather tickled to learn that at some point in the 1830s Alexander Pushkin, Russia’s revered literary giant, found himself quarantined because of a cholera epidemic. He was at his country pile and alone, though I suspect his idea of ‘alone’ was no mates, no fiancée and just a skeleton staff. He wrote a letter describing a typical lockdown day.

I wake at 7.00, drink coffee and then lie down till 3.00.

I thought, lie down already? You only just got up. But then a Russian friend explained that Pushkin liked to work in a horizontal position. Like this?




Or perhaps like this?

The letter continues. At 3 o’clock I go for a ride. I take a bath at 5 and then eat. Potatoes or kasha, kasha or potatoes. I read until 9pm. That’s my day, each one the same, like peas in a pod.

Sounds pretty tedious, doesn’t it? And yet it is said that in terms of writing this was one of Pushkin’s most creative and prolific periods. I can make no such claim for my locked-down days. Creativity? Yes. I’m cooking (I have no serfs to stir my kasha), knitting, drawing, breeding paper rabbits. But cracking on with the next novel? Not so as you’d notice.

Tomorrow, I solemnly swear.

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