I don’t have too much energy to write long about these essays. At points I felt like I was reading because I felt like I ought to and not because I really wanted to. Still I do like Isaiah Berlin. He’s probably more liberal than I am, but he’s a really deep thinker and extraordinarily literate. To his credit, he transcends the vast majority of liberal thinking, which is a cover for capitalist greed.
I think the portraits of the thought of writers like Belinsky, Herzen, Turgenev, Bakunin, and others if anything just makes me excited to learn more Russian. It’s funny like this–I mentioned this to Manu several weeks ago. My coming to Estonia has ironically made me a bit of a Russophile. There are two reasons for this. One is the status of the Russian population of Estonia. If you have a general tendency to sympathize with those out of power, and I try to have this tendency, it’s easy to be drawn to Russians.
The second reason is Aleksey Navalny. I don’t think that needs to much explanation. Anyway, it’s hard to summarize an essay by Isaiah Berlin. They’re extremely clear but also extremely full and subtle. What it’s done is made me excited to read these men in Russian, especially Turgenev and Herzen.