Posts Tagged ‘Robert Pogue Harrison’

 A triumph for Sándor Márai’s little-known classic Embers

Monday, October 23rd, 2017
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Another Look director Robert Harrison, with founding director Tobias Wolff

If you felt a slight tremor in the earth on Wednesday, October 18, the epicenter was at Stanford’s Encina Hall. The Another Look book club took on Sándor Márai‘s Embers – and the whole room rocked!

The event was close to a record-breaker, with about two hundred participants – not bad for an off-the-beaten track Hungarian novel (and only equaled by Zora Neale Hurston‘s Their Eyes Were Watching God).

Sándor Márai’s taut and mesmerizing novel, published in 1942, opens in a secluded Hungarian castle, where an old general awaits a reunion with a friend. It is 1940, and he has not appeared in public for decades. The long-estranged companions talk all night – or rather, the general talks, as the evasive visitor listens to the general discuss love, intimacy, honor, betrayal, and a beautiful, long-dead wife.

The novel is set against the backdrop of the disintegrated Austro-Hungarian empire, and shares the melancholy wisdom of its narrator: “We not only act, talk, think, dream, we also hold our silence about something. All our lives we are silent about who we are, which only we know, and about which we can speak to no one. Yet we know that who we are and what we cannot speak about constitutes the ‘truth.’ We are that about which we hold our silence.”

Acclaimed author Robert Pogue Harrison moderated the discussion. The Stanford professor who is Another Look’s director writes regularly for The New York Review of Books and hosts the popular talk show, Entitled Opinions. He was joined by renowned author and National Medal of Arts winner Tobias Wolff, professor emeritus of English at Stanford, and Jane Shaw, Stanford’s Dean for Religious Life at Stanford.

Toby Wolff, Another Look’s founding director, opened by praising the courage of author Márai to sit down and create a remarkable novel about an all-night conversation – two men meet, but only one of them talks, and they persevere till dawn. The end. A daunting creative challenge that Márai pulls off magificently.

We were happy to see a lively Hungarian contingent in the audience, too – including the Hungarian Consul General for the Bay Area. And boy, did the Hungarians have a different take on the book – they praised Carol Brown Janeway‘s translation, but said that the richness of their native tongue is AWOL. And while Márai is little known west of the Danube, they assured us his books are everywhere in Budapest.

The podcast is here. And all photos, as always, are by by loyal Another Look aficionado David Schwartz.

Is Henry David Thoreau a philosopher, too? Andrea Nightingale votes yes.

Friday, October 20th, 2017
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“He thought you could be awake every day.”

“He wanted to hear the language of the earth…”

This year our nation celebrates the bicentennial of Henry David Thoreau. But few of the commemorations have considered Thoreau as a philosopher, focusing instead on Thoreau as a champion of civil disobedience and the author of Walden.  Los Angeles Review of Books’ new Entitled Opinions channel fills the gap here.

Thoreau the philosopher? It’s a tough sell, according to Stanford Prof. Andrea Nightingale, who teaches a course on Thoreau and is the featured guest for this episode. Philosophers don’t consider Thoreau one of their tribe because “he didn’t mount arguments.” She continued: “Then and now, intellectual labor has always been privileged over manual labor. For Thoreau, you needed to learn things with your hands. You needed to get your hands dirty… I think manual labor is part of his philosophy in a very significant way.”

Nightingale and Robert Harrison discuss a common phrase in Walden: “to be awake,” which Thoreau took in a spiritual sense as a state of being. For him, it involved a deep sense of attunement to the natural world, in what Thoreau called an “infinite expectation of the dawn.”

Potent Quotes

“Your metaphysical desire can have an infinite object which is God. If you let go of that, your unlimited desires just want more and more and more.”

Harrison at the mic (Photo: L.A. Cicero)

 

“Thoreau found in nature an infinite manifestation of something deep and fulfilling – and it kept expanding and getting more vibrant.”

“He wanted to hear the language of the earth. … He was very interested in the wind in the trees – one way in which nature is publishing a set of ideas.”

“He thought you could be awake every day.”

“His point of course was to learn how to dwell on the earth in this mode of vibrancy.”

Check out the whole interview here.

Nightingale the philosopher

By the way, Nightingale writes and teaches Greek and Roman philosophy and literature – but she also teaches a course on Thoreau. And she has written on the philosophy and literature of ecology as well. Nightingale, a frequent Entitled Opinions guest, is the author of Genres in Dialogue: Plato and the Construct of Philosophy and Spectacles of Truth: Theoria in its Cultural Context (both with Cambridge University Press) and Once out of Nature: Augustine on Time and the Body (University of Chicago Press).

And read more about Robert Harrison’s thoughts on Thoreau here.

Robert Harrison’s acclaimed “Entitled Opinions” radio show gets a makeover

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017
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Robert Harrison as DJ (photo: L.A. Cicero)

From Stanford Report:

Robert Harrison‘s radio show Entitled Opinions has devoted fans all over the world – from Australia to China, Mexico to Russia. One blogger called the intellectually powered interviews, broadcast from KZSU (90.1 FM) and available for free download on iTunes, “one of the most fascinating, engaging podcasts in any possible universe.”

The Rosina Pierotti Professor in Italian Literature, who is also an acclaimed author and regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, has recorded more than 200 conversations since 2005, featuring some of our era’s leading figures in literature, philosophy, science, and cultural history, including Richard Rorty, René Girard, Peter Sloterdijk, Shirley Hazzard, Orhan Pamuk, Colm Tóibin, Marilynne Robinson, Paul Ehrlich, Michel Serres, Hayden White, and Abraham Verghese. It also provides an international platform to Stanford faculty.

But until very recently, the website still used the ancient html format created for the French & Italian Department website, with its long, unmemorable URL. Searching for past shows was clumsy and often impossible. Visitors had to scroll down through a seemingly endless chronological list of past episodes to find what they were looking for.

Among the guests: Pamuk

Harrison was beginning to worry about how to ensure that the program remain available in the future – it’s goldmine for scholars, as well as average listeners who “don’t consider themselves observers or listeners, but full-blown participants in the conversation.”

Meanwhile, journalist Cynthia Haven, who works with Harrison on Stanford’s Another Look book club, was trying to make the high-caliber broadcasts available to an even wider audience. Together, they found solutions.

A generous donation from outgoing Stanford president John Hennessy helped fund a redesign for the website, making it more searchable and up-to-date, with a new URL anyone can remember: entitledopinions.stanford.edu . Moreover, the show has forged a new alliance with The Los Angeles Review of Books. The Entitled Opinions channel on the journal’s website is boosting each featured episode by thousands of viewers. The channel also offers summaries of the conversations – another first for the show.

Among the guests: Girard

“Robert Harrison’s interviews are always incisive, smart, interesting. We are so excited to have Entitled Opinions as a new channel at the Los Angeles Review of Books,” said Managing Editor Medaya Ocher. “He has a devoted following around the world but we wanted to make sure that these conversations reached an even broader public. We’ve loved listening to his show over years and it’s a privilege to host these exceptional interviews on our site.”

In another move to preserve Entitled Opinions, the university librarian is now archiving Entitled Opinions as an important part of Stanford’s cultural legacy and history, even as more episodes are being added.

What keeps Harrison going? His fans, he said. A young woman recently wrote, “I am finally getting my oxygen in the barren and orthodox land of Pakistan where lunacy rules and religious fundamentalism along with brutal patriarchy destroys all the critical and creative potential in every thinking person.”

Another listener added: “your show accompanied me through pretty stressful times of intense military and political conflicts in Israel, when heavy objects were falling from the sky on both sides of the border and people were saying pretty dreadful things about other people. … The shows certainly helped me remain sane.”

Said Harrison, “When you look at the whole archive, it’s a lifeline to a world of intellectual ideas.”

We’ve describe the genesis of the changes – but two essential names must be mentioned in its implementation: the heroic Vittoria Mollo, who worked tirelessly to get the new website up and running, and academic technology specialist Michael Widner, who effected the redesign.

Last call for Sándor Márai’s Embers: We’ll explore lies, betrayals, secrets, and honor on Wednesday, Oct. 18!

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017
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Little-known Hungarian author

Last call for Sándor Márai‘s taut and mesmerizing Embers, published in 1942. The novel opens in a secluded Hungarian castle, where an old general awaits a reunion with a friend. It is 1940, and he has not appeared in public for decades. The long-estranged companions talk all night – or rather, the general talks, as the evasive visitor listens to the general discuss love, intimacy, honor, betrayal, and a beautiful, long-dead wife. “We are our secrets,” he says.

The autumn “Another Look” event at Stanford will discuss Márai’s superb novel. The discussion will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 18, at the Bechtel Conference Center.

Haven’t got the book? There’s still time: go to Stanford Bookstore on the Stanford campus, Kepler’s in Menlo Park, or Bell’s Books in Palo Alto. It’s a quick read, as are all the Another Look books.

The novel is set against the backdrop of the disintegrated Austro-Hungarian empire, and shares the melancholy wisdom of its narrator: “We not only act, talk, think, dream, we also hold our silence about something. All our lives we are silent about who we are, which only we know, and about which we can speak to no one. Yet we know that who we are and what we cannot speak about constitutes the ‘truth.’ We are that about which we hold our silence.”

Acclaimed author Robert Pogue Harrison will moderate the discussion. The Stanford professor who is Another Look’s director writes regularly for The New York Review of Books and hosts the popular talk show, Entitled Opinions. He will be joined by renowned author and National Medal of Arts winner Tobias Wolff, professor emeritus of English at Stanford, and Jane Shaw, Stanford’s Dean for Religious Life at Stanford. Wolff is founding director of Another Look, and of course many of you will remember Jane Shaw from our discussion of J.L. Carr‘s  A Month in the Country.

For Another Look newcomers, a map for the Bechtel Conference Center is here. The nearby Knight parking structure, underneath the nearby Graduate School of Business, has plenty of room for free parking (see here for a map). In addition, parking is available on Serra Street and in front of Encina Hall itself.

The Another Look book club takes on books that have been forgotten, neglected, or simply haven’t received the attention we think they merit. Again, all books are short, so they can be read in a few sittings.

All our events are free and open to the public – and please bring your friends! Come early for best seating.

 

 

“We are our secrets”: Hungarian author Sándor Márai’s Embers at Stanford on Oct. 18

Monday, October 2nd, 2017
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Little-known Hungarian author

Sándor Márai‘s taut and mesmerizing Embers, published in 1942, opens in a secluded Hungarian castle, where an old general awaits a reunion with a friend. It is 1940, and he has not appeared in public for decades. The long-estranged companions talk all night – or rather, the general talks, as the evasive visitor listens to the general discuss love, intimacy, honor, betrayal, and a beautiful, long-dead wife. “We are our secrets,” he says.

The autumn “Another Look” event at Stanford will discuss Márai’s superb novel. The discussion will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 18, at the Bechtel Conference Center.

The novel is set against the backdrop of the disintegrated Austro-Hungarian empire, and shares the melancholy wisdom of its narrator: “We not only act, talk, think, dream, we also hold our silence about something. All our lives we are silent about who we are, which only we know, and about which we can speak to no one. Yet we know that who we are and what we cannot speak about constitutes the ‘truth.’ We are that about which we hold our silence.”

Acclaimed author Robert Pogue Harrison will moderate the discussion. The Stanford professor who is Another Look’s director writes regularly for The New York Review of Books and hosts the popular talk show, Entitled Opinions. He will be joined by renowned author and National Medal of Arts winner Tobias Wolff, professor emeritus of English at Stanford, and Jane Shaw, Stanford’s Dean for Religious Life at Stanford. Wolff is founding director of Another Look, and of course many of you will remember Jane Shaw from our discussion of J.L. Carr‘s  A Month in the Country.

The Another Look book club takes on books that have been forgotten, neglected, or simply haven’t received the attention we think they merit. Here’s another draw: all books are short, so they can be read in a few sittings.

All our events are free and open to the public – and please bring your friends! Come early for best seating.

 

Bourgeois liberal democracy? “It’s done more for human happiness than the Buddha ever did.”

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017
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“What revitalizes philosophy is some genius suggesting new way of thinking.”

“Bourgeois liberal democracy has always been a very fragile creation … It’s easy to imagine after a nuclear terrorist attack that we’ll lose all our civil liberties overnight.”

Harrison as radio host (Photo: L.A. Cicero)

Richard Rorty is considered one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century – and one of his last interviews is now available on the Los Angeles Review of Books’ new Entitled Opinions channel here.

Rorty is credited with reviving the philosophical school of American pragmatism and challenging the accepted pieties of analytic philosophy. He championed “quietism,” which he says attempts “to dissolve, rather than solve” sets of problems that should now be considered obsolete. This November 23, 2005, interview with Robert Pogue Harrison is among his last; he died in 2007.

Rorty came to Stanford as a fellow at the Humanities Center in 1996 and then joined the faculty of the Comparative Literature Department in 1998. Beginning in the 1970s, he challenged the notion of philosophy as a discipline that could discern timeless truths about the world. Such attempts were motivated by western philosophy’s misguided reliance on Platonic metaphysics, the notion that there are underlying structures, realities or truths that stand firm against the vagaries of history and social mores. Rorty insisted that we have only a linguistic and causal relationship with the world, so any attempt to find some kind of transcendent, unmediated knowledge about it is futile. He famously urged that intellectuals shift their focus from “the problems of philosophy” to “the problems of men.”

Harrison and Rorty on air, 2005

His Entitled Opinions conversation with Harrison moves to the limits of philosophy in describing the nature of reality, and then whether philosophy should tackle human aspirations for greatness or stick to maximizing human happiness. In an occasionally testy exchange with Harrison, Rorty makes a controversial defense of bourgeois liberal democracy, arguing that the rest of the world should be more like America, and America should be more like Norway. The potential cost for cultural diversity? “That’s the price we pay for history,” he says. He takes a number of provocative positions in the conversation. Does he stand alone? As he notes, loneliness is the lot of mankind: “If you don’t have any sense of loneliness you probably won’t be interested in religion or philosophy; if you do, you will.”

Potent Quotes

“Quietists say there is no such thing as the nature of the world. Science doesn’t tell it to us. Nothing tells it to us. The whole question is a bad question. You can ask about a real Rolex and a fake Rolex, or real cream and a non-dairy creamer, but you can’t ask about reality in general. ‘Real’ only has a sense when it’s applied to something specific.”

“The problems of analytic philosophy keep changing with each generation. It’s given rise to a literature that goes out of date every ten or twenty years.”

“The main problem with metaphysics is that it’s a game without rules … anyone can say anything and get away with it.”

Is mankind “on the right track”?

“The development of bourgeois society in the last two hundred years has put mankind on the right track.”

“The best we can ever hope for the globalization of the society we’ve managed to create in the modern West.”

“Bourgeois liberal democracy has always been a very fragile creation … It’s easy to imagine after a nuclear terrorist attack that we’ll lose all our civil liberties overnight.”

“With all the nuclear weapons floating around, I didn’t realize how likely it was that they would be used on American cities before 9/11. Now I think it’s overwhelmingly likely.”

On bourgeois liberal democracy: “How about it’s the best thing anyone has come up with so far? It’s done more for human happiness than the Buddha ever did.”

“We secularists lead as spiritual a life as anybody has ever led, but our focus is on what might come to pass here below, in the human future.”

“What revitalizes philosophy is some genius suggesting new way of thinking.”

Check out the whole interview here.

“Empire of Disorientation”: Berkeley philosopher Hans Sluga discusses Donald Trump

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017
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“The values that have guided the republic since its beginning are no longer being taken seriously. Behind them is the cynicism of power and the sale of political power for money.”

 

The tip of an iceberg.

Who is Donald Trump, and what does he stand for? Do we know? Does he himself know? Or is he caught in that precarious state of disorientation that characterizes our current political predicament.

The public discourse is heated, the language inflammatory. Philosopher Hans Sluga of the University of California, Berkeley, brings a cool head and rational thinking to his interview about our 45th president, Donald Trump, with Entitled Opinions host Robert Harrison. Go here for the hour-long conversation on the brand new Entitled Opinions channel on the Los Angeles Review of Books

Trump has been a real estate developer, a reality TV star, a prolific tweeter, a politician, and has changed his party affiliation seven or eight times. Is he a fascist? Sluga, author of Wittgenstein and Heidegger’s Crisis, warns against easy tags: “We’ve drained this word of much of its specific meaning.” Fascism, he says, “is a form of statism quite different from what we have in America today.”

Is he a populist? That’s not clear, either. “Plutocrat,” the term Aristotle used to describe the rule of the rich, might be a more precise characterization. Sluga says we might turn to the world of real estate to understand Trump’s worldview.

Sluga is the author of Heidegger’s Crisis. Philosophy and Politics in Nazi Germany (Harvard, 1993); Wittgenstein (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011); and Politics and the Search for the Common Good (Cambridge, 2014).

He studied at the University of Bonn and the University of Munich. He subsequently got a B. Phil. in philosophy at Oxford, where he studied under R. M. Hare, Isaiah Berlin, Gilbert Ryle and Michael Dummett. “My overall philosophical outlook is radically historicist,” he has said. “I believe that we can understand ourselves only as beings with a particular evolution and history.” He received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1991-92.

Potent quotes:

“What you see is what you get. But the problem is, what do you see? You don’t understand it. You don’t know what to make of it.”

Philosopher Sluga

“The values that have guided the republic since its beginning are no longer taken seriously. Behind them is the cynicism of power and the sale of political power for money.”

“Trump seems to represent the reunification of the political and the economic. He’s a businessman, and remains a businessman while he’s president.”

“We have underestimated the political significance of real estate in our world.”

“Trump is not anti-government, he just has a different notion of what government’s role is in the alliance between economy and politics.”

“He wants regulation to assert his own will-to-power more effectively. He’s an authoritarian, certainly, we shouldn’t doubt that at all – but not necessarily someone out to destroy the state or its institutions.”

“Plutocrats have interests that any ruler has: to be legitimized, to be accepted by the population.”

“Money has begun to undermine everything in politics now.”

“He is the tip of an iceberg. What I’m really interested in is the iceberg itself.”

Thoreau on his bicentennial: did a “truer American” ever exist?

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017
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One of two photos we have of him, from 1856

When Henry David Thoreau was near death, a friend at his bedside asked, “You seem so near the dark river, that I almost wonder how the opposite shore may appear to you.” Thoreau’s reply: “One world at a time.”

And what a world it was. According to Robert Pogue Harrison, writing in the current New York Review of Books,  “Thoreau was almost superhumanly awake to the flora and fauna of his surrounding environment.” Trees, turtles, huckleberries, or wildflowers would send him into ecstasies.

Robert’s article, “The True American,” reviews ten – that’s right, ten – new books on Thoreau during the Saint of Walden Pond’s bicentennial year. The title of the article borrows from Ralph Waldo Emerson‘s funeral eulogy that “no truer American existed.” But the word “true” requires some parsing. According to Robert:

These days the question of what it means to be a “true” American resists rational analysis. Whatever one can say about Americans that is true, the opposite is equally true. We are the most godless and most religious, the most puritanical and most libertine, the most charitable and most heartless of societies. We espouse the maxim “that government is best which governs least,” yet look to government to address our every problem. Our environmental conscientiousness is outmatched only by our environmental recklessness. We are outlaws obsessed by the rule of law, individualists devoted to communitarian values, a nation of fat people with anorexic standards of beauty. The only things we love more than nature’s wilderness are our cars, malls, and digital technology. The paradoxes of the American psyche go back at least as far as our Declaration of Independence, in which slave owners proclaimed that all men are endowed by their creator with an unalienable right to liberty.

Another contradiction then: Thoreau was ethereal and sensual, unworldly and deeply incarnate – “we occupy the heaven of the gods without knowing it,” he claimed. “I stand in awe of my body, this matter to which I am bound,” Thoreau wrote in his journal. “Daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it,—rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks!… Contact! Contact!

Elsewhere, “We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn.” And the dawn is right here, right now. At least potentially. Thoreau declares: “Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me.”

Robert concludes:

Robert Harrison hosting “Entitled Opinions” (Photo: L.A. Cicero)

Among Americans nothing has more authority than facts. Of course the contrary is also true (a quarter of Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth; more than three quarters believe there is indisputable evidence that aliens have visited our planet). Is it true that we crave reality? Yes, but we crave irreality just as much if not more. Our addiction to our television, computer, and cell phone screens confirms as much. As for death, it does not seem that today we have a knack for concluding our mortal careers “happily.” …

The other equally important lesson is how to touch the hard matter of the world, how to see the world again in its full range of detail, diversity, and infinite reach. Nothing has suffered greater impoverishment in our era than our ability to see the visible world. It has become increasingly invisible to us as we succumb to the sorcery of our digital screens. It will take the likes of Henry David Thoreau, the most keen-sighted American of all, to teach us how to discover America again and see it for what it is.

Read the whole thing here. It’s terrific.

An overlooked classic? Stanford makes the case for Dostoevsky’s The Double

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017
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An overlooked classic? Robert Harrison, Monika Greenleaf, and Lena Herzog debate.

On a bright spring day in May, a surprising number of people skipped the pleasant weather to discuss Fyodor Dostoevsky‘s dark and comic novella, The Double. It was all part of Stanford’s Another Look book club. An eloquent panel made the case that the 1846 novella is one of the renowned Russian author’s forgotten classics.

The Double portrays the disintegration of a neurotic government clerk into two distinct entities – one toadying and nervous; the other self-assured, exploitative, and aggressive. Vladimir Nabokov, not usually a fan of Dostoevsky, called The Double “the best thing he ever wrote” and “a perfect work of art.”

Another Look Director Robert Harrison

Russian photographer Lena Herzog joined us from Los Angeles. (Her husband Werner Herzog was an interlocutor for the Another Look event on J.A. Baker’s The Peregrine. I interviewed her at that time for Music & Literature here.)

Acclaimed author Robert Pogue Harrison moderated the discussion. The Stanford professor writes regularly for The New York Review of Books and hosts the popular talk show, Entitled Opinions. He and Lena were joined by Monika Greenleaf, associate professor of Slavic languages and literatures. Monika was a panelist from our event on Joseph Conrad’s Shadow-Line, and some of you met Lena at our mega-event for The Peregrine.

David Schwartz was our photographer for the occasion, and captured Lena in elegant black-and-white, and the others in color. A surprise for the evening was the eminent author and psychiatrist Herant Katchadourian, author of Guilt: The Bite of Conscience (he’s Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry and Human Biology at Stanford University), spoke for a few minutes to give a psychiatric evaluation of the novella’s protagonist, Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin.

The preeminent Dostoevsky scholar of our times, Stanford’s Joseph Frank, said of the novella: “the internal split between self-image and truth, between what a person wishes to believe about himself and what he really is – constitutes Dostoevsky’s first grasp of a character type that became his hallmark as a writer.” The Double marks a turning point in the life of the author. While the book owes a debt to Nikolai Gogol, the younger author moves beyond social critique to the psychological drama that would become his trademark in the great novels that followed.

It’s sad that Joe Frank, who died in 2013, couldn’t join us for the discussion. Fortunately, his widow, the mathematician Marguerite Frank, did.

You can listen to the podcast that includes all the voices here, including some very lively questions from our audience. All photos by Another Look fan David Schwartz (the top one is the good Doctor Katchadourian). We are always grateful for David’s presence at our events, and his camera!

 

 

Is it “the best thing he ever wrote”? Nabokov thought so. Join us for Dostoevsky’s The Double on Monday, May 15!

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017
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Dostoevskij_1872

He’s nervous. Very nervous. Be there.

Our spring “Another Look” event at Stanford will discuss Fyodor Dostoevsky‘s The Double: A Petersburg Poem. The 1846 novella portrays the disintegration of a neurotic government clerk into two distinct entities – one toadying and nervous; the other self-assured, exploitative, and aggressive. Vladimir Nabokov, not usually a fan of Dostoevsky, called The Double “the best thing he ever wrote” and “a perfect work of art.” And so Another Look champions The Double as an overlooked masterpiece from a familiar author. It is our final event of the season.

We’ll have a special guest for the event: Russian photographer Lena Herzog will be joining us from Los Angeles. Some of you met Lena at our event with Werner Herzog for J.A. Baker’s The Peregrine. I interviewed her at that time for Music & Literature here. An excerpt, where she remembers moving to St. Petersburg as a teenager in 1986:

“Everybody wanted jeans, wanted to be a Westerner, but in the most superficial, shallow way. And yet it still was St. Petersburg. It still had walls and the canals that whispered with the voice of Dostoevsky. It still had culture and ideas and architecture. Saint Petersburg is such a beguiling city. … I loved to walk through the fog enveloping the cathedrals and canals, heart pounding, anticipating the gold-winged griffins on the Bank Bridge over the Griboyedov canal, which emerged from the fog as I walked past them.”

The discussion will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, May 15, at the Bechtel Conference Center. We recommend the Vintage Classic edition, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

Acclaimed author Robert Pogue Harrison will moderate the discussion. The Stanford professor writes regularly for The New York Review of Books and hosts the popular talk show, Entitled Opinions. He and Lena will be joined by Monika Greenleaf, associate professor of Slavic languages and literatures. Many of you will remember Monika from our event on Joseph Conrad’s Shadow-Line, and some of you met Lena at our event with Werner Herzog for J.A. Baker‘s The Peregrine.

The preeminent Dostoevsky scholar of our times, Stanford’s Joseph Frank, said of the novella: “the internal split between self-image and truth, between what a person wishes to believe about himself and what he really is – constitutes Dostoevsky’s first grasp of a character type that became his hallmark as a writer.” The Double marks a turning point in the life of the author. While the book owes a debt to Nikolai Gogol, the younger author moves beyond social critique to the psychological drama that would become his trademark in the great novels that followed.

 

dostoyevsky-poster-EMAIL