by Peter Chaadayev, 130 pages
It’s a piece, or rather a collection of pieces, that demands context from the politics of the period. The book shows a major literary and philosophical thinker in Russia for the nineteenth century working to develop explanations and descriptions for it. What’s most compelling in the account is precisely the ways Chaadayev isn’t sure, doesn’t have a fine-grained political program or clear ideology to argue in relation in Russia. There’s an absence of utopian projections and certainty, and likewise a lack of knowledge on exactly what society must be avoided. Instead the text struggles with itself, at various points blasting all of Russia as a failure and seeking to develop a unique and valuable Russian path on enlightenment. The emotional engagement behind engaging with forms of politics, economy and culture are compelling, and in despair as well as specific rhetoric Chaadayev delives some compelling points.
On the whole, though, the varied conclusions and invested style of the work made the whole somewhat less than the sum of its parts to me. It was interesting at numerous points but was rarely truly engaging, and ultimately lacked that small ineffable spark of true philosohpical genius.
Worse than: Beyond Good and Evil by Frederich Nietzche
Better than: The Conquest of Bread by P. Kropotkin