Jews, Revolutionism, and Doublethink

In her memoir of Russian intellectual life under Stalin, Hope Against Hope, Nadezhda Mandelstam recalls that her husband Osip had “an occasional desire . . . to come to terms with reality and make excuses for it. . . . At such moments, he would say that . . . he feared the Revolution might pass him by if, in his short-sightedness, he failed to notice all the great things happening before our eyes.” She immediately explains that this mood can’t just reflect one person’s psychiatric stress since it was so widely shared. “It must be said that the same feeling was experienced by many of our contemporaries, including the most worthy of them, such as Pasternak.” Her most-quoted sentence follows: 

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About the Author

Gary Saul Morson is the Lawrence B. Dumas Professor of the Arts and Humanities at Northwestern University and the author of Anna Karenina in Our Time (Yale University Press), and, with Morton Schapiro, of Cents and Sensibility: What Economics Can Learn from the Humanities (Princeton University Press). An earlier version of this essay was given as a lecture at YIVO as part of its “Jews In and After the 1917 Russian Revolution” conference on November 5, 2017.


Shirleyknupp on April 3, 2018 at 5:16 pm
Astounding, to think that intelligent and educated people can be completely duped into believing such lies simply by desiring a false promise.
konige on May 26, 2018 at 6:26 pm
Not at all. Intelligence is no proof against insanity, and without wishing to distinguish any particular ethnic group, members of one in particular are not infrequently gifted with unusually strong mental powers, which not infrequently trail off into insanity. History has demonstrated this many times over, and it hasn't gone unnoticed by the rest of the population.

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