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Tolstoy's Wisdom and Folly

In his speech “The Strenuous Life,” Theodore Roosevelt identified “the American character” with “the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife.” “The man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil,” Roosevelt asserted, “wins the ultimate . . . . Continue Reading »

On Demons

According to the Talmud, the demons are more numerous than we are. “They stand over us like mounds of earth surrounding a pit.” Rav Huna teaches that “each and every one of us has a thousand demons to his left and ten thousand to his right.” Abba Binyamin tells us that “if the eye had the . . . . Continue Reading »

The Greatest Christian Novel

When Dostoevsky wrote his last and greatest novel, The Brothers Karamazov, the ­revolutionary movement that would lead to Bolshevism was well ­underway. The terrorist organization People’s Will—one of the first such organizations in the world—performed daring assassinations and . . . . Continue Reading »

The Virtue of Jealousy

Jealousy is often confused with envy. Envy is coveting something someone else possesses. It is one of the deadliest corrosives on the human soul, as it suggests that we should not be content with what we have. Jealousy, in contrast, bespeaks a desire to hold on to what one has. Though often . . . . Continue Reading »

Poet of Loneliness

No writer understood loneliness better than Chekhov. People long for understanding, and try to confide their feelings, but more often than not, others are too self-absorbed to care. In Chekhov’s plays, unlike those of his predecessors, characters speak past each other. Often enough, they talk in . . . . Continue Reading »

Russian Purgatory

The Russian soul. The phrase serves as shorthand for Russia’s national character, after the manner of American innocence, French arrogance, Italian dolce far niente, and what used to be the English stiff upper lip. Russians are reputed to feel more than the rest of us do, think deep thoughts . . . . Continue Reading »

The New Lazarus

The Aviator by eugene vodolazkin translated by lisa c. hayden oneworld, 400 pages, $26.99 In one of the greatest memoirs of the Stalin years, Nadezhda Mandelstam wrote, “We have to get over our loss of memory.” Beginning with Gorbachev’s glasnost, and especially after the fall of communism, . . . . Continue Reading »

Royal Fatalism

The Romanovs:  1613–1918 by simon sebag montefiore vintage, 784 pages, $35 The Romanovs Under House Arrest:  From the 1917 Diary of a Palace Priest by afanasy belyaev translated by leonid michailitschenko holy trinity, 136 pages, $29.95 The Romanov dynasty begins and ends with one name: . . . . Continue Reading »

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