Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Russia, it is said, is reverting to autocratic type. A writer I know was working on something about that country, but gave up because he found it too depressing. With this partly in mind, I am reading Conrad's Under Western Eyes - a touch mechanical to be counted among his best. But it contains this:
'Whenever two Russians come together, the shadow of autocracy is with them, tinging their thoughts, their views, their most intimate feelings, their private life, their public utterances - haunting the secret of their silences.'
Putin knows his Conrad.


  1. Just like our geography shapes our national outlook and culture, being surrounded by the sea, as does Russia, with it vast borders it will always be inward looking, prone to fits of paddy lashing out at it neighbours (it even nearly went to nuclear war in 1969 with china)

  2. Bryan, the "eyes" really have it for you these days. Wonder why.

  3. Not sure if it's 'reverting'; Yeltsin's anarchic bandit state was but a brief interregnum in a long, continuing tradition of autocracy that stretches back centuries, one of many numerous periods of chaos between authoritarian rulers. Democracy in any meaningful sense, it wasn't, though western media types and analysts have fond memories of that criminal regime because they were treated like gods for a brief spell. I lived there; I remember.

  4. Whatever happened to the humbling, humanist instinct expressed in Yevtushenko's words and quoted in Shostakovich's 'Babi Yar':

    "Fears are dying out in Russia
    And while I am writing these lines,
    at times unintentionally hurrying,
    I write haunted by a single fear
    of not writing with all my strength."