Эссе: Chapter XVII in The Extraordinary Decade, Literary Memoirs


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Эссе
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...  The inextinguishable fireworks of his speech, his inexhaustible imagination and inventiveness, a sort of reckless intellectual prodigality-these things constantly aroused his conversation partners' astonishment. After the always impassioned, but not always strictly consecutive, speech of Belinsky, Herzen's tortuous, endlessly mutating, often paradoxical and irritating, but invariably intelligent talk required of his conversation partners, aside from strenuous attention, also the necessity of always being on guard and armed with an answer. For all that, however, no banality, no flabby thinking could withstand even a half-hour's confrontation with him, and pretentiousness, pomposity, and pedantic conceit simply fled from him or melted before him like wax before a fire. I knew people, people predominantly from among those called serious and competent, who could not abide Herzen's presence. On the other hand, there were people, even foreigners during the period of his life abroad, for whom he quickly became not only an object of wonder but of passionate and blind devotion. His literary and publicistic activity produced practically the same results. Herzen very early-from his first appearance in the social world-revealed the qualities of a first-class Russian writer and thinker, and he retained these qualities throughout the course of his life, even when he suffered from delusions. Generally speaking, few are the people to be encountered in the world who could maintain, as he did, their rights to attention, respect, and study at the very same time as being in the throes of some obsession. His mistakes and delusions bore the imprint of thought of the kind impossible to dismiss merely with an expression of scorn or rejection. In this aspect of his career, he resembled Belinsky, but Belinsky, constantly soaring in the region of ideas, had none of that ability to discern people's characters on first meeting and possessed none of that wicked humor of a psychologist and observer of life....