onsdag 6. august 2008

Chesterton, Solzhenitsyn and Liberalism

What better way of returning from holliday than finding an illuminating article on two of my very fav authors? Even if there ideally could have been better occasions for media coverage than the recent passing away of one of them, death does have a knack for putting things in perspective.

Still, it is revealing that so many seem so clueless about Chesterton and Solzhenitsyn - including those who strive for an originality of their own (which in the post Mencken period seems more to be about a cynical than a thoughtfull style).

However, Dhoutat is very much on the right track:
But as with Chesterton, the two faces of Solzhenitsyn were really one face: His witness against Communism emerged from the same ground as his critique of Western liberalism. When Hitchens writes that the great dissident's "mixture of attitudes and prejudices puts one in mind more of Dostoyevsky than of Tolstoy," he's absolutely right. But it's not a coincidence that Russia's two most eloquent and prophetic critics of utopian radicalism - Dostoevsky who attacked it in its infancy, and Solzhenitsyn who helped usher it into extinction - were both standing outside Western liberalism, while so many people inside liberalism busied themselves making apologies for terror and mass murder. Which is why Solzhenitsyn, like Chesterton, isn't important despite his deviations from "the current consensus of liberal good will." He's important because of them - because his deviationism allowed him to see things that others were blind to, and because reading past giants who stand foursquare outside the current New York Times/New Yorker consensus provides an opportunity to interrogate one's own premises, and ponder the ways in which contemporary deviationists might be right, and the contemporary consensus wrong.
One does not need to be a prophet to know which face Dhoutat will be met with.

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