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Reviewed by:
  • "Gäste, die bleiben": Vladimir Solov′ev, die Juden und die Deutschen, and: Divine Sophia: The Wisdom Writings of Vladimir Solovyov
  • Catherine Evtuhov
Dmitrij Belkin, "Gäste, die bleiben": Vladimir Solov′ev, die Juden und die Deutschen ["Guests Who Stay": Vladimir Solov′ev, the Jews, and the Germans]. 424 pp. Hamburg: EVA Europäische Verlagsanstalt, 2008. ISBN 3865726240. €38.00.
Judith Deutsch Kornblatt, Divine Sophia: The Wisdom Writings of Vladimir Solovyov. 320 pp., illus. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009. ISBN-13 978-0801447297, $55.00 (cloth); 978-0801474798, $21.95 (paper).

The literature on Vladimir Solov′ev has experienced a quiet explosion over the past 20 years, beginning with the "revival of forgotten names" (vozvrashchenie zabytykh imen) of the perestroika years and continuing with a plethora of new publications and studies. Among the most noteworthy have been, in the early years, A. F. Losev and A. V. Gulyga's green two-volume late Soviet edition of selected writings (1988), followed by the wonderful Moscow re-edition of S. M. Luk′ianov's biography, complete with a third volume reconstructed from the author's notes. Manon de Courten wrote a significant study of Solov′ev's social philosophy and view of history, and a substantial edited volume, Solov′ev as Reconciler and Polemicist, included a variety of articles reevaluating Solov′ev and proposing a "deconstruction and normalization" of Solov′ev's thought. The Solov′ev Society based at Nijmegen—the soil that partially nourished the above two books—has provided a fertile milieu for discussion of Solov′ev; in addition, at least four major studies have been published in Poland and a Solov′ev Society founded in Granada, Spain.1 Many of these writers and researchers have doubtless been [End Page 193] inspired by what Randall Poole called, in a recent review, "the greatness of Vladimir Solov′ev."2

The two books under review here make a significant and original contribution to this burgeoning scholarship. It is perhaps an indication of the growing maturity of the field that they do so in entirely different ways. It makes sense, then, to examine each work separately, before drawing any more general conclusions.

Dmitrij Belkin's "Guests Who Stay" originated partly as a dissertation at the University of Tübingen, and partly as a series of articles on various aspects of the "Jewish question" in relation to Solov′ev. The author tells us explicitly at the outset that he intends neither to provide a new biography of Solov′ev nor to undertake a full analysis of his ideas; nor, indeed, to investigate the reception of these ideas. Rather, he is interested in Solov′ev's status vis-à-vis the concept "guest": Belkin shows us Solov′ev's remarkable presence in the writings and musings of both contemporary and subsequent Jewish and German intellectuals, whether as a "host" or as a visitor. How, in other words, did Solov′ev appear in the context of two cultures that were not his own? Belkin's book is virtually perfect in its dialectical structure. Part 1, "Host: The ‘Jewish Question' in Solov′ev's Russia," combs through the writings of Solov′ev's Jewish contemporaries in search of Solov′ev's traces. Part 2, "Guest: V. S. Solov′ev's Reception in Germany" (this was the dissertation) performs an equally meticulous investigation of contemporary German sources. A third part, "Teacher and Physician: Philosophy as Pedagogy and Medicine," moves into the interwar years, evoking the world of émigré and German intellectuals and the assimilation of Solov′ev in the middle of the 20th century, including the extraordinarily influential books and seminars of Alexandre Kojève.

The dialectical structure holds within each part as well. Belkin's study of Solov′ev and the Jewish question examines, first, the "imaginary Jew," or the image of Jews in 19th-century Russian thought prior to Solov′ev. Here Belkin follows his own schema of Russian philosophy (a not entirely original one) which he sees as beginning with Chaadaev and, curiously, concluding with Solov′ev himself—thus excluding the philosophers of the Silver Age and emigration. Not surprisingly, neither Slavophiles nor conservatives had a good deal to say, in quantitative terms...


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