Saturday, January 18, 2020

In English at last …

… The American Scholar: Revolutionary Chaos. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The first-ever English translation of a 20th-century Russian masterpiece

Heavily indebted to Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Solzhenitsyn (1918–2008) borrows a central insight of his great predecessor: war is far more chaotic, random, and contingent than its representation in historical narratives. Tolstoy described battle as no one had ever done before, showing soldiers moving blindly in fog with no idea what is going on and generals, unable to keep up with ever-changing situations, issuing orders that are impossible to execute. After the fact, however, historians construct a smooth story bearing little or no relation to reality. Solzhenitsyn makes the same point about revolution. “What happened … no one was sure, except for what was right in front of him.”

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