NABOKV-L post 0007136, Sat, 23 Nov 2002 09:23:41 -0800

Fw: Hitchens//Herzen/VN

----- Original Message -----
From: Dasa Duhacek
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum
Sent: Friday, November 22, 2002 1:09 PM
Subject: Hitchens//Herzen/VN

Just for the record. Cheers, Ranko Mastilovic

The Atlantic Monthly | December 2002


EDNOTE. I don't know where the formidable Mr. Hitchens got his bit of Nabokoviana from. Can anyone provide the source? Stoppard, of course, is, like VN, a Slav who writes brilliant English prose.

A Nine-Hour Resurrection

Alexander Herzen, Marx's rival and Tolstoy's nonfiction counterpart, enjoys a well-deserved return to center stage in Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia
by Christopher Hitchens

[...]By a smaller irony, Herzen's nemesis was someone whose character
and temperament he held in some esteem. Mikhail Bakunin, the
charismatic anarchist and internationalist, was a colossal figure in those days, appearing not to know the meaning of fear, let alone prudence. In 1862 Herzen, rather against his better judgment, allowed himself to be persuaded that a revolution in oppressed Poland might help to ignite a sympathetic uprising in Russia. But Bakunin's hectic and irresponsible adventurism-marvelously captured by E. H. Carr in The Romantic Exiles-ensured that everything went off at half cock, with the Polish revolutionaries being assured of help that never came, and with their brave Russian co-thinkers vulnerable to charges of treason. A terrible Slavophile backlash ensued, with every liberal in
Moscow accused, in effect, of aiding and abetting a Polish terrorist scheme. Nothing is more lethal to liberal and socialist aspirations than competing xenophobias, and among the chief victims of this calamity was The Bell, which lost almost all its circulation. Herzen's remaining years of life were poisoned by financial exigency (he finally stopped being an easy touch for any posturing revolutionary mendicant), by malicious accusations from hard-faced radicals that he had sold out, and by a series of personal tragedies and sexual humiliations that, to be appreciated, simply have to be read in full. (Vladimir Nabokov is said to have admired My Past and Thoughts so much that he tried retrospectively to alter its title to something less pompous-sounding.)
More annihilating than anything, one suspects, must have been
Herzen's realization that from now on the initiative would come not from those who spread emancipating ideas but from the sanguinary
clash of nations and classes. This has been the fate of conscientious
radicals throughout history, but nobody ever recorded the emotions of
disaster and disillusionment with more care and scruple and poetry than Herzen did.