I believe that world literature has it in its power to help mankind, in these its troubled hours, to see itself as it really is, notwithstanding the indoctrinations of prejudiced people and parties.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918 – 2008) wrote books that shed a true light on what was happening behind the Iron Curtain: how many talented people were wasting away in prison camps. As a child, he wanted to be a writer, but without the right schooling available to him, he chose to study mathematics. It was to play a beneficial role: on at least two occasions he credits mathematics for saving his life.
During World War II, because of his mathematical knowledge, he was placed as the commander of an artillery-position-finding company. In February 1945 he was arrested for his unflattering portrayal of Stalin in private correspondence and writings. He was sentenced to eight years in a detention camp in July 1945. A month later, the full term of his status was changed to “exiled for life”.
In exile, Solzhenitsyn taught mathematics and physics in a primary school and wrote prose in secret. His first work was published in 1962: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Printing of his work, which reflected his years in the camps, was discontinued almost immediately. He spent the next thirty years writing and evading the Soviet government. At his return to Moscow in 1994 he was treated as a hero.
One word for mastery: Consistency.