Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Volume II, Book III, Chapter VI

More Speransky. A private visit. Andrei's moving up. Kind of insufferable. Between him and Andrei they believe they are the saviors of the world. Much talk about how stupid everyone else is.
T puts it beautifully, with a great capture of the condescension:

Speransky...flaunted his impartial, calm reason before Prince Andrei and flattered Prince Andrei witih that subtle flattery...which consists in silently acknowledging on'es interlocutor and oneself as the only people capable of understanding all the stupidity of all the rest, and the intelligence and profundity of one's own thoughts.

In the course of their long conversation on Wednesday evening, Speranksy said more than once: "Among
us everything that lies outside the general level of inveterate habit is considered..." or with a smile: "But we want the wolves well-fed and the sheep safe..." or: "They cannot understand it...." And all that with an expression which said: "We, you and I, understand what they are and who we are."

And in the end, Andrei gets a commision. Andrei's got his head on his shoulders and some compassion, which he notes Speransky does not have. I think I agree - religious zealot turned politico can't be a good thing.

Plus ├ža change, right? Amazing it still happens, and certainly with Russia there seems to be a history of charismatic religious figures swaying the monarchy. Perhaps a genetic weakness? Or just humanity. People like a strong sense of direction and what feels like new ideas. Look at Pierre with the masons. Same thing. I don't know Russian history, so Speranksy could be a good thing, but I always marvel at that kind of ego, who is so sure to have the answer to everything.

Actually, Andrei even thinks that: "In general, the main feature that struck Prince Andrei in Speransky's mind was his unquestionable, unshakeable faith in the power and legitimacy of reason. It was clear that the notion, so usual for Prince Andrei, that it was after all impossible to express everything one thinks, would never have entered Speransky's head, and it never occured to him to wonder: 'Isn't everything I think and believe sheer nonsense?' And that special cast of Speransky's mind attracted Prince Andrei most of all."

That's why the Speransky's of the world cast forth into power, and the Andrei's clean up the mess. At least that's how I see it now. Either way, it's so incredible that Tolstoy hits right on it every time- not just the types of personality, but their attraction to each other.

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