Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Et tu, Пу́тин?

From the archives:

"Early in the Sixties Esquire was in the middle of the discovery that a novelist can sometimes do a journalist's job better than a journalist can, and got Mr. Bellow to interrupt briefly his work on Herzog for a report on the rhetorical style of the number-one diplomatic orator of his time. The result was published in March, 1961."

An excerpt from "Literary Notes on Khruschev" by Saul Bellow:

It may, in fact, take not only Russia, but the entire world to feed the needs of a single individual. For it can't be ideology alone that produces such outbursts; it must be character. "I have often thought," wrote William James, "that the best way to define a man's character would be to seek out the particular mental or moral attitude in which, when it came upon him, he felt himself most intensely active and alive. At such moments there is a voice inside which speaks and says: 'This is the real me!'" So perhaps Khruschev [Пу́тин?] feels himself, or attempts to reach himself, in these outbursts. And perhaps it is when the entire world is watching him soar and he is touching the limits of control that he feels most alive. He does not exhibit a great range of feelings.When he takes off the rudimentary masks of bureaucratic composure or peasant dignity or affability, he is angry or jeering. But fear is not the best school for expressiveness, and no man could be an important party functionary under Stalin without the ability to live in fear. We cannot therefore expect him to be versatile. He had, however, what it took to finish the course, the nerves, the control, the patience, the piercing ambition, the strength to kill and to endure the threat of death. It would be premature to say that he has survived all that there is to survive in Russia, but it is a safe guess that in the relief of having reached first place he is whooping it up. Instead of having been punished for his crimes he has become a great leader, which persuades him that life is inherently dramatic. And in his joy at having reversed the moral-accounting system of bourgeois civilization he plays his role with ever greater spirit.

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