Cover: Wonder Confronts Certainty: Russian Writers on the Timeless Questions and Why Their Answers Matter, from Harvard University PressCover: Wonder Confronts Certainty in HARDCOVER

Wonder Confronts Certainty

Russian Writers on the Timeless Questions and Why Their Answers Matter

Product Details

HARDCOVER

$37.95 • £33.95 • €34.95

ISBN 9780674971806

Publication Date: 05/09/2023

Trade

464 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

Belknap Press

World

Add to Cart

Media Requests:

Related Subjects

A noted literary scholar traverses the Russian canon, exploring how realists, idealists, and revolutionaries debated good and evil, moral responsibility, and freedom.

Since the age of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov, Russian literature has posed questions about good and evil, moral responsibility, and human freedom with a clarity and intensity found nowhere else. In this wide-ranging meditation, Gary Saul Morson delineates intellectual debates that have coursed through two centuries of Russian writing, as the greatest thinkers of the empire and then the Soviet Union enchanted readers with their idealism, philosophical insight, and revolutionary fervor.

Morson describes the Russian literary tradition as an argument between a radical intelligentsia that uncompromisingly followed ideology down the paths of revolution and violence, and writers who probed ever more deeply into the human condition. The debate concerned what Russians called “the accursed questions”: If there is no God, are good and evil merely human constructs? Should we look for life’s essence in ordinary or extreme conditions? Are individual minds best understood in terms of an overarching theory or, as Tolstoy thought, by tracing the “tiny alternations of consciousness”? Exploring apologia for bloodshed, Morson adapts Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the non-alibi—the idea that one cannot escape or displace responsibility for one’s actions. And, throughout, Morson isolates a characteristic theme of Russian culture: how the aspiration to relieve profound suffering can lead to either heartfelt empathy or bloodthirsty tyranny.

What emerges is a contest between unyielding dogmatism and open-minded dialogue, between heady certainty and a humble sense of wonder at the world’s elusive complexity—a thought-provoking journey into inescapable questions.

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

Composite photograph showing (top) entrance to the Prudential Center in Boston and (bottom) an internal construction partition/wall printed with the words 'Opening Day 2023' and other decorative text

A New Chapter for Harvard Book Store

Starting in the summer of 2023, for the first time in almost thirty years, Harvard Book Store will have two locations: the flagship store in Harvard Square, and a large new store in the Prudential Center in Boston. For University Press Week we wanted to show some bookseller love, so we reached out to Rachel Cass, General Manager of the Harvard Book Store, to see what’s planned for their exciting new location