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The Final Inch

March 11, 2010

Featured Article, Words

“AND NOW LISTEN: THE RULE OF THE FINAL INCH! The realm of the Final Inch! In the language of Maximum Clarity it is immediately clear what that is. The work has been almost completed, the goal almost attained, everything completely right and the difficulties overcome. But the quality of the thing is not quite right. Finishing touches are needed, maybe still more research. In that moment of fatigue and self-satisfaction it is especially tempting to leave the work without having attained the apex of quality. Work in the area of the Final Inch is very, very complex and also especially valuable, because it is executed by the most perfected means. In fact, the rule of the Final Inch consists in this: not to shirk this crucial work. Not to postpone it, for the thoughts of the person performing the task will then stray from the realm of the Final Inch. And not to mind the time spent on it, knowing that one’s purpose lies not in completing things faster but in the attainment of perfection.”

~ DMITRI SOLOGDIN, Chapter 24
from “The First Circle” by Alexsandr I. Solzhenitsyn

PS: In this day and age of publishing whenever, whatever you want, in whatever fashion you wish, it’s instructive and illuminating to consider the life of Solzhenitsyn, whose works have been among the most influential of the 20th century in exposing the crimes of the Stalinist era,  and arguing for, as Wikipedia puts it, “stoic integrity and humanism” (even despite his own conservative politics once landing in America). Yet for much of his adult life, Solzhenitsyn despaired of ever publishing his works:

“During all the years until 1961, not only was I convinced that I should never see a single line of mine in print in my lifetime, but, also, I scarcely dared allow any of my close acquaintances to read anything I had written because I feared that this would become known. Finally, at the age of 42, this secret authorship began to wear me down. The most difficult thing of all to bear was that I could not get my works judged by people with literary training. In 1961, after the 22nd Congress of the U.S.S.R. Communist Party and Tvardovsky’s speech at this, I decided to emerge and to offer One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Such an emergence seemed, then, to me, and not without reason, to be very risky because it might lead to the loss of my manuscripts, and to my own destruction. … | read on

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