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Russian Thinkers (Penguin Philosophy) Paperback – 28 Jul 1994

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New edition edition (28 July 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140136258
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140136258
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,114,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

The enduring vitality of Berlin's characterisation of Russian thought is demonstrated by the publication [...] of a new edition of Russian Thinkers, painstakingly revised and augmented by Henry Hardy ... a series of sparkling and sympathetic essays (Times Literary Supplement) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

The work of Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997) covered a wide variety of subjects, mostly appearing in periodicals and symposia. Apart from Russian Thinkers, Isaiah Berlin's other contributions to Russian studies include his translation of Ivan Turgenev's First Love (available from Penguin) and his Introduction to Alexander Herzen's memoirs, My Past and Thoughts. Sir Isaiah was awarded the Jerusalem Prize in 1979 for the expression in his writings of the idea of the freedom of the individual in society.


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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This collection of essay and lectures was a revelation. Absolutely brilliant. I am inspired to read more Turgenev, Herzen and Belinsky. I identified with all three writers, who, while they respected the goals of socialism found themselves wavering in terms of achieving this through violent insurrection. Herzen particularly was very interesting as he didn't see socialism as an end in itself - the goal for him was to live well and creatively, which is what he saw socialism as engendering. It is a paradox that by making everyone equal then people are happier, generally, and therefore uniqueness and individuality can be fostered as people don't have to struggle as much. I agree to an extent - however sometimes struggle can bring about uniqueness and positive outcomes, so I don't think there is one norm. Herzen also had a hatred of abstractions and generalisations which again I identified with. Berlin's analysis is very readable it kept me hooked all the way through. The book did take a while longer to read but I was reading it carefully as a work of non-fiction rather than as a novel so this was to be expected. Belinsky also piqued my interest - he can be seen as the father of modern criticism. He wasn't able to separate a writer from the writer's life. Obviously a laudable aim when you frame this as part of Belinsky's overpowering search for honesty and truth. However when you look at this in a modern context we now see every writer and personality has a persona either real or imagined that cannot be separated from their work and is possibly more important than the creative activity they are known for. In this respect he has a lot to answer for - but I doubt he could have imagined the extremes his passionate honesty would have led to. There was so much food for thought in this book and it discusses issues that are of great interest at the moment. Fabulous.
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Format: Paperback
This book is made up of transcripts of lectures by Isaiah Berlin. Berlin was a liberal, having emigrated from the Soviet Union, and so understandably dislikes non-liberal authoritarian or radical ideas. These views tend to come through in the book a lot - when comparing liberal Herzen to anarchist Bakunin, almost the entire chapter is devoted to Herzen, and only the last few pages to Bakunin, who's views are written off as "adolescent" and "meaningless" - a horrific oversimplification. At times it feels as if Berlin has a big bone to pick with the thinkers responsible for the Soviet political and social extremes around when he was lecturing.

Therefore this book is useful for a liberal perspective on 19th Century Russian thought, but lacks breadth or depth on other strains of thought; most of which were much more influential than liberalism at the time. For a much wider and deeper array of knowledge, I'd recommend "A History of Russian Thought: From the Enlightenment to Marxism" by Walicki, a much better read!
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Format: Paperback
Published in 1978, Isaiah Berlin’s ‘Russian Thinkers’ is a masterpiece on nineteenth-century Russian intelligentsia formed from a collection of his essays such as the fascinating ‘The Hedgehog and the Fox’ which discusses the Russian author Count Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy (1828-1910) and the tension that exists between monist and pluralist interpretations of history and the world. Truly enlightening!
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Format: Paperback
This book contains ten exponential essays on nineteenth-century Russian literature and thought.

Isaiah Berlin expounds the thoughts of Russian writers of importance like no other
intellectual has managed to do. He has explored the historical roots and consequences
of the Russian thinkers depicted.

Greatly recommended!

Dag Stomberg
St Andrews, Scotland
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