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Russian Thinkers (Pelican Books) by Isaiah…
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Russian Thinkers (Pelican Books) (original 1978; edition 1979)

by Isaiah Berlin

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419None25,268 (4.29)16
Member:wildbill
Title:Russian Thinkers (Pelican Books)
Authors:Isaiah Berlin
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (1979), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library, off the shelf, favorite authors
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Tags:philosophy, Russian

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Russian Thinkers by Isaiah Berlin (1978)

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My current standard for critical writing. Berlin is just masterly in his command of his subject, and he's able to convey that mastery to the reader. While for my own sake, I could wish he didn't use such complex syntax -- it can be a little too easy to get lost in his dense sentences -- I can easily understand why such complicated, nuanced concepts demand such writing. The essay on Tolstoy's historiography is fascinating, and has probably made me think more about my own attitudes and assumptions toward writing and history than any other single piece of writing. ( )
  cricketbats | Mar 30, 2013 |
Classic work on Russian literature and ideas. Included in his excellent collection of essays, Russian Thinkers, Isaiah Berlin has a fascinating essay, The Hedgehog and the Fox. In this essay Berlin uses the distinction found in a fragment of the poet Archilocus that argues that there are two types of thinkers: Hedgehogs, who know one big thing and foxes, who know many things. Berlin goes on to categorize the great thinkers of the ages into groups based on this distinction. Hedgehogs like Dante, Plato, Lucretius, Pascal and Dostoevsky versus foxes like Shakespeare, Herodotus, Aristotle, Goethe and Balzac. He goes on to attempt to classify Tolstoy and analyze his view of history. It is a worthy task and I will recommend to all that they read the essay and decide for themselves what Berlin succeeds in accomplishing with all his analysis. It is essays like this one that document the seriousness of the thought of Isaiah Berlin. His insight into Russian authors like Turgenev is magnificent. This is a delightful collection of essays. ( )
  jwhenderson | Nov 25, 2011 |
It should be noted first that Isaiah Berlin knew his material backwards and forwards; the book bears the mark of exhaustive study. Russian Thinkers is a collection of essays on Russian luminaries, including Alexander Herzen, Belinsky, Tolstoy, Bakunin, and the populists (including Chernyshevsky). It would be helpful to have background knowledge about Russian history in this time period (mainly 19th century) before reading the book, but it is also intersting as a philosophical text, and Berlin expertly outlines the thought of these major figures. The main obstacle to reading this work may be Berlin's writing style, which is initially somewhat clunky (strangely, I found this to be the case mainly in his famous essay "The Hedgehog and the Fox"), but it does flow better once one gets used to it. Like all philosophical texts, though, what at first seems abstruse often proves rewarding and enriching. This book would be of interest to those who enjoy history or philosophy. (note: if you like this text, Personal Impressions is also worth a look) ( )
1 vote elvisettey | Jul 8, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Isaiah Berlinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hardy, HenryEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kelly, AileenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The year 1848 is not usually considered to be a landmark in Russian history.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140136258, Paperback)

Among the seven essays collected in Russian Thinkers is perhaps Isaiah Berlin's most famous work, "The Hedgehog and the Fox," which begins with an ancient Greek proverb ("The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing") before taking on Leo Tolstoy's philosophy of history, showing how Tolstoy "was by nature a fox, but believed in being a hedgehog." The other half dozen pieces examine other Russian writers and philosophers, including Alexander Herzen, Ivan Turgenev, and Mikhail Bakunin--although the latter, Berlin says, "is not a serious thinker. There are no coherent ideas to be extracted from his writings of any period, only fire and imagination, violence and poetry, and an ungovernable desire for strong sensations." Few, if any, English-language critics have written as perceptibly about Russian thought and culture as the Latvian-born Berlin, and the history covered in Russian Thinkers is a unique elaboration of Berlin's theses concerning the impact of ideas upon culture.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:38 -0400)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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