Thursday, June 7, 2018

In Memory of Isaiah Berlin

Nice essay from Tablet. 

"The manner in which Berlin lived his life remains eminently, even achingly, attractive and a stirring example of how to compose one’s being in the world. Perhaps more than any other thinker of the 20th century, Berlin personified the contemplative life with an engagement with the world—an engaged connoisseurship with the arts coupled with a tireless pursuit of pleasure and friendship. Berlin took part in likely every interesting cultural phenomenon of his time, and personally engaged in the cultural politics that involved the occasional bout of espionage—like his assistance in getting the manuscript of Boris Pasternak’s banned novel Doctor Zhivago out of the Soviet Union."

"Berlin’s pluralism was most keenly connected to his thinking about the multiple selves of an individual with multiple contradictory allegiances—a truly British-Russian Jew."

"Haunted by childhood experiences of having to flee the Russian empire in the midst of the carnal violence wrought by the Bolshevik revolution, Berlin was also throughout the course of his long career a keen student of the character, internal processes, aesthetics, ideological structures, and cultural apparatus of totalitarian systems."