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22 In her autobiography The Italics Are Mine (1992), Nina Berberova, one of the most important writers in twentieth-century Russian literature, describes a struggle that is at once profoundly personal and profoundly suggestive of the Russian character. She describes “one of the most important themes of [her] inner life,” as she aims for the “fusing of opposites” in her very being: All dualism is painful for me, all splitting or bisecting contrary to my nature. . . . My whole life has been the reconciliation within myself of the old dichotomy. . . . [D]iverse and often contrasting traits fuse in me. Long ago I stopped thinking of myself as being composed of two halves. I feel physically, that a seam, not a cut, passes through me, that I myself am a seam, that with this seam, while I am alive, something has united in me, something has been soldered, that I am one of many examples in nature of soldering, unification, fusion, harmonization , that I am not living in vain, but there is sense in that I am as I am, an example of synthesis in a world of antitheses. (23–24, 36) No theme has been more central to the history of Russian thought than this struggle against dualism. It emerges from a desire to transcend the dichotomies that fragment human existence: spirit versus flesh, reason versus emotion, the moral versus the practical. This yearning to achieve synthesis in the human condition was fully absorbed by Ayn Rand and became one of the earmarks of her Objectivist philosophy. synthesis in russian culture synthesis in russian culture  23 Ayn Rand was born Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum,1 in St. Petersburg on 2 February 1905, during the Silver Age of Russian cultural history. Though she later attributed much of Russia’s cultural brilliance to its Westernized elements, she reveled in the beauty of the epoch: As a child, I saw a glimpse of the pre–World War I world, the last afterglow of the most radiant cultural atmosphere in human history (achieved not by Russian, but by Western culture). So powerful a fire does not die at once: even under the Soviet regime, in my college years, such works as Hugo’s Ruy Blas and Schiller’s Don Carlos were included in theatrical repertories, not as historical revivals, but as part of the contemporary esthetic scene.2 Rand’s recollection reflects her abiding contempt for the specifically “Russian” aspects of the culture. By emphasizing the achievements of the period as distinctly “Western,” Rand disowned the Slavic mysticism and collectivism that she considered characteristic of the Russian psyche. This fact is crucial to our understanding of Rand’s early intellectual development . It helps us to grasp why Rand could never admit that she was a child of her Russian past. For Rand, Russian culture meant hatred for the individual and the rational mind. Russian thought stressed emotion and intuition, not logic and reason; it rejected individualism and embraced communal organicism as expressed in the concept of sobornost’ (conciliarity );3 it was antimaterialist and, above all, anticapitalist. Each aspect of this Russian totality was a natural extension of the other. In Rand’s view, the rejection of reason required the renunciation of individual freedom, material wealth, and capitalism. When Rand tied her defense of the free market to her celebration of the free mind, she was establishing an inseparable link between reason, freedom, individualism, and capitalism, all elements that were absent from the Russian culture that she despised.4 Tatyana Tolstaya (1991) echoes much of Rand’s own view of the constituent elements in the Russian psyche: In Russia, in contrast to the West, reason has traditionally been seen as a source of destruction, emotion (the soul) as one of creation. How many scornful pages have great Russian writers dedicated to Western pragmatism, materialism, rationalism! They mocked the English with their machines, the Germans with their order and precision, the French with their logic, and finally the Americans with their love of money. As a result, in Russia we have neither machines, nor order, nor logic, nor money. (6) 24 ayn rand It was perhaps in reaction to this Russian hostility toward reason and individualism that the mature Rand seemed to overemphasize the rational and individuating aspects of human nature.5 But inherent in Rand’s view is an integration of reason and emotion, individual and community. By explicitly rejecting conventional rationalism and atomistic individualism , Rand implicitly affirms important elements in the Russian critique of “Western” dualism...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780271061214
Related ISBN
9780271062273
MARC Record
OCLC
860712160
Pages
496
Launched on MUSE
2013-11-04
Language
English
Open Access
No
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