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Old January 11th, 2008, 02:46 PM   #1 (permalink)
kmik
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Tolstoy's view of history

I am reading now "War and Peace", absolutely amazing. In this novel Tolstoy proposes his view of history. He does not believe in the romantic view of history of so called "great men" who shape history by their will and ideas: not military leaders and politicians but also not poets and philosophers. Not only that, but history is also not governed by specific laws like Marx believed. Instead he neatly compares history with calculus: the sum of an infinite amount of small events, feelings and so forth which can not be predicted. Historians only describe events after they have occurred to fit to their own views, but it is nothing more than a chaotic mess. So according to him, the good humble Russian general is one who accepts this fact with humility and tries to act like a father to his soldiers, or like a doctor, and inspire them, not think about positions and plans.

I'm 2/3 in so I'm not sure if he proposes his own ideas of how to understand history. It seems contradicting to me that on the one hand he proposes that history is made of infinitely many small ideas - chaotic - and yet his own views are very consistent and he adheres to specific ideas, unlike Dostoevsky he has a "solid" world view. So I wonder how it works. Though it occurred to me while reading it that history is something very vague. I think it's closer to humanities than science, because "historical knowledge" is something problematic. Can you say that the historian knows more about an era than the people who lived in it? (Can't remember where I read that). I guess not. So maybe one learns his history, like Tolstoy says, through personal letters and diaries, and the art and language of the era. And yet this view does not give a coherent viewpoint and we're going back to where we started...

Thoughts are welcome (and please no spoilers
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Old January 24th, 2008, 05:42 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I like this thread. I wish I had had your reading when I was your age.

You do well to draw out the paternal gender model formulated as a response to Tolstoyan history - "So according to him, the good humble Russian general is one who accepts this fact with humility and tries to act like a father to his soldiers." This love of humble simplicity is further borne out in the 'peasant' chapter of Anna Karenin.

I can't resist drawing the parallels to Joyce.

Ulysses outlines the struggle of a humble, everyday fatherly Jew. Not a 'great man;' flawed and even perverse, but wise, kind and somehow deeply and nakedly heroic in his toils. The same might be said of Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker (man) & Here Comes Everybody (men) in Finnegans Wake. Might we draw a parallel of sorts between the celebration of the quotidian in Joyce and the rustic idealism of Tolstoy?

Both certainly possess a humbly decent masculinity (which in Joyce bleeds into androgyny). For both, too, (though more evidently, I think, in Joyce) this masculinity is somehow in need of redemption.

For Joyce, man is fallen through scandal, shame and uncertainty to be both tempted and washed clean in the river (the anna liffey) of (Molly Bloom's) womanhood. For Tolstoy, Anna Karenin concludes with Levin's 'redemption' through a kind of wise, paternal Christianity, while War & Peace ends with a son's wish to imitate his father. Perhaps there seems to be a sense that man must seek his own salvation in paternal archetypes (whether mortal or divine).

Their novels diverge from, yet resemble each other in conclusion.

The 'yes' that concludes Ulysses is feminine; the 'yes' that ends War and Peace is wholly, if gently, masculine. Anna Karenin concludes with Levin resigning his soul to a fatherly God; Finnegans Wake concludes (returns?) with Anna (primal mother)washing H.C.E. (and herself) clean into a new aeon. A clear sexuality of redemption?

Not quite. Tolstoy himself forced his young fiancee to read the entirety of his sordid diary before he would wed her, attempting to 'redeem' his veiled perversions by sharing them with a woman. Might we even discern a longing for a primal mother (A.L.P.?) in his diary writings as an old man? Joyce had Finnegan come before Earwicker yet be contained within him as the author of his own salvation, perhaps drawing on the Nietzschean notion that if one lacks a father he must go out and author his own. More trenchantly, too, he wrote earlier in his life, as a note to the play Exiles, "the soul like the body may have a virginity. For the woman, to yield it or the man to take it is the act of love."

Far from a distinct 'sexuality' or redemptive history, does it seem, in these changing perspectives, there instead emerges an 'androgyny' of redemption?

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Old January 25th, 2008, 05:59 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Very nice. I stopped reading Ulysses midway; it was to me a fascinating book, with a very mystical feel, like a scripture, but simply too difficult so I can't comment on it. I think the father-son relationship has to do with a sort of humble acceptance that is still somehow active: like Keats' Negative Capability. It will inevitably sound awkward but in sexuality we have the woman accepting and the man as active: and yet the woman is somehow in control. The man is traditionally the seducer, the writer of letters, the possessor of his wife and yet it is she who controls the household. The funny Napoleon of W&P is a severe case of exaggerated masculinity, despite the fact he's a dwarf, he has a very manly thought, fundamentally rationalist, thinking he's always in control. Kutuzov is like a father because he understands his child has a life of its own - he understand he himself is not in control - and yet he's willing to give a good advice and lift up the spirits. And though he is a very masculine man - a scarred general, almost the prototype of masculinity - he cares for his soldiers also like a mother, nourishing them and very caring for everyday desires. You mention Anna Karenina and Vronsky's horse is another good example of this. It is a magnificent literary symbolism on many levels but basically he tries to possess complete control over his horse while a relationship is two-sided and it results in injury. The Tolstoyan ideal is that of kneeling down before God not out of weakness but out of humility and wisdom, and it different from a fatalist feminism of "Nothing can be done" and the masculine idealism of "I'm capable of everything".

I don't know about the letter. I think it has more to do with sincerity and openness in marriage, and even though this autobiographical fact appears in Anna Karenina we'd do well to separate Tolstoy the man and his writing more than any other. Levin's and to a lesser extent Pierre's "redemption" has more to do with abandoning rationalism.
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Old January 27th, 2008, 10:00 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Just a few quick comments:

1) I read War and Peace when I was 18. I do find that Tolstoy's belief that history is made from the bottom up by the collective will or acceptance of the people, not by individual "great men", to be problematic. I think had he been raised in the 20th century, he never would have written the essays he included in War and Peace. Clearly, this last century was a century of great men. Had Stalin, Hitler, Mao, etc not have been alive, I think it is highly conceivable history would have turned out much differently for many souls.

2) The very post-modern view of history Tolstoy had (using the common people's notes and diaries to reconstruct the age), has been utilized by history departments everywhere for years now. There are some issues with this methodology of understanding history: namely, the ordinary persons are generally in the dark as to why a great many things that shaped their lives happened. Of course, the great men, are guilty of self-aggrandisement and not understanding many tims the common man. Anyway...

3) As for some of the ideas Nile presented, I think they're a wonderful insight into the minds and intentions of each writer. In fact, such views of history, sexuality, etc, are the very essence of the soul of each writer. Both Joyce and Tolstoy had very non-traditional if not commonly considered perverse personal sexuality or sense of family. Joyce perhaps had a sexual relationship with his daughter, and it went on for a long time. Tolstoy found his wife repulsive for much of his life and didnt touch her, and seemed to repress homosexual urges. In essence, what I am saying is that these ideas and the symbolism found in their books, are perhaps the products of their own unique minds and souls and shouldnt be read too far into by the reader to define some sort of higher meaning common to all of us; but rather force us to think and appreciate each writers soul and the transcendent art they created.
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Old January 27th, 2008, 02:21 PM   #5 (permalink)
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In essence, what I am saying is that these ideas and the symbolism found in their books, are perhaps the products of their own unique minds and souls and shouldnt be read too far into by the reader to define some sort of higher meaning common to all of us; but rather force us to think and appreciate each writers soul and the transcendent art they created.
Yes, but H.C.E. is cleary both man and every-man. The essence of Finnegans Wake is the revelation that all mythologies and human history reveal the "ontology" of man as 'fallen' - into language, being, sexuality, quotidian life and the broken pieces of humpty dumpty! Through cohabitation with woman, man becomes not only tempted but healed, authentic and, with woman, at one with the earth.

"every tale has a telling and that's the he and the she of it"

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Old January 27th, 2008, 02:39 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Just a few quick comments:

1) I read War and Peace when I was 18. I do find that Tolstoy's belief that history is made from the bottom up by the collective will or acceptance of the people, not by individual "great men", to be problematic. I think had he been raised in the 20th century, he never would have written the essays he included in War and Peace. Clearly, this last century was a century of great men. Had Stalin, Hitler, Mao, etc not have been alive, I think it is highly conceivable history would have turned out much differently for many souls.

2) The very post-modern view of history Tolstoy had (using the common people's notes and diaries to reconstruct the age), has been utilized by history departments everywhere for years now. There are some issues with this methodology of understanding history: namely, the ordinary persons are generally in the dark as to why a great many things that shaped their lives happened. Of course, the great men, are guilty of self-aggrandisement and not understanding many tims the common man. Anyway...

3) As for some of the ideas Nile presented, I think they're a wonderful insight into the minds and intentions of each writer. In fact, such views of history, sexuality, etc, are the very essence of the soul of each writer. Both Joyce and Tolstoy had very non-traditional if not commonly considered perverse personal sexuality or sense of family. Joyce perhaps had a sexual relationship with his daughter, and it went on for a long time. Tolstoy found his wife repulsive for much of his life and didnt touch her, and seemed to repress homosexual urges. In essence, what I am saying is that these ideas and the symbolism found in their books, are perhaps the products of their own unique minds and souls and shouldnt be read too far into by the reader to define some sort of higher meaning common to all of us; but rather force us to think and appreciate each writers soul and the transcendent art they created.
Good post. Not too knowledgeable about history myself but regarding Hitler at least Ian Kershaw has a very interesting view (have not read him but my father did). Hitler was not really involved in the decision making process, often late for meeting and not terribly interested in everyday "clerk" decisions. His significance is how he presented himself to the people, as some sort of messiah, so in all the Nazi bureaucracy people were working to do what he would find appealing. I don't think the historians should work with the 'ifs' but the Nazi ideology was in the air and if it wasn't Hitler it would have been someone else. Besides, I am not sure if Tolstoy necessarily proposes that great men have no influence, but rather his point is that if they have an influence it is essentially unpredictable because history is too chaotic and involves too many factors and people. It is interesting to me what is his view regarding artists in that matter; are they mere carriers of past traditions, essentially devoid of individuality, or geniuses who create something out of the blue?

History, for Tolstoy, has no "why". It is a continuous nightmare (like in Ulysses) nobody has control over and where all is inevitable; historians don't point out at the "whys", they merely point out at supposed military genius after the events have happened, even if in reality the decisions made had nothing to do with the consequences even if those were positive. Each cause has another cause and there are too many causes because it's like a river, or something. You can only pretend to be in control. I don't know if that's what Tolstoy meant with the diaries but for me history has a "feel" one should look at from the INSIDE rather than the OUTSIDE, like the life of a nation. You and I know more "history" than anyone who will write about our lives in a 100 years will, and that is the reason art is important, it allows you to experience (Tolstoy explicitly states that and for me it was reason enough to go through all the pages of his book).
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Old January 27th, 2008, 02:46 PM   #7 (permalink)
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3) As for some of the ideas Nile presented, I think they're a wonderful insight into the minds and intentions of each writer. In fact, such views of history, sexuality, etc, are the very essence of the soul of each writer. Both Joyce and Tolstoy had very non-traditional if not commonly considered perverse personal sexuality or sense of family. Joyce perhaps had a sexual relationship with his daughter, and it went on for a long time. Tolstoy found his wife repulsive for much of his life and didnt touch her, and seemed to repress homosexual urges. In essence, what I am saying is that these ideas and the symbolism found in their books, are perhaps the products of their own unique minds and souls and shouldnt be read too far into by the reader to define some sort of higher meaning common to all of us; but rather force us to think and appreciate each writers soul and the transcendent art they created.
Separate author and work; frankly I don't care what Joyce or Tolstoy thought but what their works mean to me. What somewhat bothered me in War and Peace is that Tolstoy seemed to have ideas first and then art; there is something not very genuine about it, as if his work merely illustrates his theories. I suppose an idealization like this of the artist is impossible - i.e Tolstoy tried to describe an authentic battle and his noble soul unconsciously made it chaotic, rather than he made it so - but it feels like there's no infinity there. It's very rich, of course, but what he said in his literary analysis is all there is - or at least all he meant. But that's probalby just me
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Old January 27th, 2008, 03:54 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Separate author and work; frankly I don't care what Joyce or Tolstoy thought but what their works mean to me. What somewhat bothered me in War and Peace is that Tolstoy seemed to have ideas first and then art; there is something not very genuine about it, as if his work merely illustrates his theories. I suppose an idealization like this of the artist is impossible - i.e Tolstoy tried to describe an authentic battle and his noble soul unconsciously made it chaotic, rather than he made it so - but it feels like there's no infinity there. It's very rich, of course, but what he said in his literary analysis is all there is - or at least all he meant. But that's probalby just me
Well, I think I understand you and agree with you. I usually try to seperate artist and work, but for these two writers it becomes more difficult. Especially Tolstoy, as his writings were extensions of his life and ideas; specifically (post-writing sabbatical phase) his later writings had moral and instructional aims tied to his own beliefs about God, Christianity and the world.
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Old January 27th, 2008, 04:01 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Good post. Not too knowledgeable about history myself but regarding Hitler at least Ian Kershaw has a very interesting view (have not read him but my father did). Hitler was not really involved in the decision making process, often late for meeting and not terribly interested in everyday "clerk" decisions. His significance is how he presented himself to the people, as some sort of messiah, so in all the Nazi bureaucracy people were working to do what he would find appealing. I don't think the historians should work with the 'ifs' but the Nazi ideology was in the air and if it wasn't Hitler it would have been someone else. Besides, I am not sure if Tolstoy necessarily proposes that great men have no influence, but rather his point is that if they have an influence it is essentially unpredictable because history is too chaotic and involves too many factors and people. It is interesting to me what is his view regarding artists in that matter; are they mere carriers of past traditions, essentially devoid of individuality, or geniuses who create something out of the blue?

History, for Tolstoy, has no "why". It is a continuous nightmare (like in Ulysses) nobody has control over and where all is inevitable; historians don't point out at the "whys", they merely point out at supposed military genius after the events have happened, even if in reality the decisions made had nothing to do with the consequences even if those were positive. Each cause has another cause and there are too many causes because it's like a river, or something. You can only pretend to be in control. I don't know if that's what Tolstoy meant with the diaries but for me history has a "feel" one should look at from the INSIDE rather than the OUTSIDE, like the life of a nation. You and I know more "history" than anyone who will write about our lives in a 100 years will, and that is the reason art is important, it allows you to experience (Tolstoy explicitly states that and for me it was reason enough to go through all the pages of his book).
I dont know. I agree the world seems too chaotic for one person to change the outcome, but I dont know...with Hitler especially, as you've stated, he inspired the people and the movement as an almost religious figure. Mao was similarly worshipped, and Stalin feared. Without Hitler, would the Nazi's have obtain
the slim majority in 1932? He really was an amazing speaker.
Had Trotsky taken power instead of Stalin, how would have the USSR fared? Had Gore been elected over Bush? McCarthy over Nixon? Lets not fool ourselves. People in power make a great deal of decisions for the common people that change their lives. They do so everyday in such low places as Town or Village Councils.

I do think Tolstoy helped mankind onto the path of concerning itself more with the common people, and the chaos of history and the world.
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Old January 27th, 2008, 04:10 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Joyce perhaps had a sexual relationship with his daughter, and it went on for a long time. .
They certainly had a strange relationship but I don't think there is any evidence to suggest it was sexual. Carol Shloss - in my opinion without base - suggests that Lucia's brother may have abused her.

Personally I think being locked in a room with someone writing Finnegans Wake and dating Samuel Beckett would alone be enough to develop schizophrenia! (Jung - who examined Lucia - actually thought, from reading Ulysses, it was clear that Joyce was suffering from the illness himself).
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Old January 27th, 2008, 04:53 PM   #11 (permalink)
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They certainly had a strange relationship but I don't think there is any evidence to suggest it was sexual. Carol Shloss - in my opinion without base - suggests that Lucia's brother may have abused her.

Personally I think being locked in a room with someone writing Finnegans Wake and dating Samuel Beckett would alone be enough to develop schizophrenia! (Jung - who examined Lucia - actually thought, from reading Ulysses, it was clear that Joyce was suffering from the illness himself).
True, there is no evidence other than a very bizarre relationship that seems to have permeated his works. And you know I love Joyce!!!

I dont know really. I have no point here other than the assumption that parts of his personal life clearly shaped his writing, its symbolism and meaning. Which really isnt a point (almost a rhetorical assumption) now that I think about it.
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Old January 27th, 2008, 05:01 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I dont know. I agree the world seems too chaotic for one person to change the outcome, but I dont know...with Hitler especially, as you've stated, he inspired the people and the movement as an almost religious figure. Mao was similarly worshipped, and Stalin feared. Without Hitler, would the Nazi's have obtain
the slim majority in 1932? He really was an amazing speaker.
Had Trotsky taken power instead of Stalin, how would have the USSR fared? Had Gore been elected over Bush? McCarthy over Nixon? Lets not fool ourselves. People in power make a great deal of decisions for the common people that change their lives. They do so everyday in such low places as Town or Village Councils.

I do think Tolstoy helped mankind onto the path of concerning itself more with the common people, and the chaos of history and the world.
To quote Tolstoy again (I am playing devil's advocate here although I don't really have my own formed view on the subject), a king is history's slave. In elections, of course, we can see that "history" - the people - chose this one over another, so it fits the theory. Are presidents and leaders that important figures in decision making? Doubtful; they have advisers, they have to worry about too many things, they rule for a too short period of time to make a significant change. There would have been WWII with or without Hitler. So what matters for leaders? How they are viewed by the people; if they can encourage the spirit, take advantage of what they have and not resist the flaw of history. A leader is a father who lets his kid live his life, he is there for the people to know they are right, to believe they're making a change, and not make the change itself. So speeches are indeed extremely important. That's Tolstoy's view at least how I understand it.

Tolstoy paints idealized versions of himself in his novels, I have a hard time believing he really was like that. I just say that sometimes over-analysis seems to us really weird: it's impossible he meant that, there's no way he thought about this. This is the killing of genius. The great works of literature are holy. It really doesn't matter at this point what the author meant.
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Old January 29th, 2008, 09:12 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Tolstoy paints idealized versions of himself in his novels, I have a hard time believing he really was like that. I just say that sometimes over-analysis seems to us really weird: it's impossible he meant that, there's no way he thought about this. This is the killing of genius. The great works of literature are holy. It really doesn't matter at this point what the author meant.
Here, here.

You know, I'm such a hypocrite. I argue so many points, I cant remember which one I belive. I suspect I dont believe any of them. As really, I do agree with much of what Tolstoy wrote on history, and that literature is holy; and yet, I disagree. My brain is tired.
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Old January 29th, 2008, 09:13 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Personally I think being locked in a room with someone writing Finnegans Wake and dating Samuel Beckett would alone be enough to develop schizophrenia! (Jung - who examined Lucia - actually thought, from reading Ulysses, it was clear that Joyce was suffering from the illness himself).
Haha. Can one imagine dating Beckett?, is it even possible to date such a man? Or being married to, or the daughter of Joyce?
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Old January 30th, 2008, 03:53 AM   #15 (permalink)
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By holy I mean it should be read like a holy scripture, i.e don't look for "errors".

I always wonder what kind of a baby Beckett was. He probably gazed at his parents with a serious look and murmured something about sins.
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Old February 3rd, 2008, 06:15 PM   #16 (permalink)
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By holy I mean it should be read like a holy scripture, i.e don't look for "errors".

I always wonder what kind of a baby Beckett was. He probably gazed at his parents with a serious look and murmured something about sins.
This whole holy thing of yours has stayed on my mind since I read it. It reminds me of why I dislike 99% of literary theory and criticism. Most profs, make ridiculous claims and use literary masterpieces to justify their theories on philosophy, social trends, politics, etc, rather than discussing what makes the work holy. They overanalyse, and then analyze all the things that are unimportant. This is why I think Nabokov's literary comments on Western lit and Russian lit are so good, same with Harold Bloom (or James Wood when he's not being a prick); they accept the genius of the work and discuss what made it so good from a truly human and artistic perspective. The characterization, the prose, the plotting, some innovation or foreshadowing.
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Old February 4th, 2008, 05:03 AM   #17 (permalink)
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By holy I mean you should read it as if it were the word of God. Cultural and historical context should not be taken into account when you appreciate a work of art, much less biographical account. Read the work and see what it means to you; don't say "well, it's crap, the writer put it there because he didn't know what to say or to show everyone he's smart or because he is unconsciously tormented by his treatment of women and the working class"; assume, in other words, that there are no mistakes on the author's part, but rather if you don't understand something, the mistake is yours.

I don't see a problem with "over analyzing"; art is food for thought, not preaching, so you can always meditate on it, infinitely. Literary over analysis is not necessarily interesting, can be pedantic, but perfectly fine, so long as aesthetic appreciation remains and is not replaced by it. I also don't think there's something WRONG per se with political analysis, like you can analyze any piece of writing and learn something from it (letters in the 19th century are like this or like that because in the 19th century there was this political institution or others), but it shouldn't replace literary analysis.
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Old February 4th, 2008, 09:12 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Good post. Not too knowledgeable about history myself but regarding Hitler at least Ian Kershaw has a very interesting view (have not read him but my father did). Hitler was not really involved in the decision making process, often late for meeting and not terribly interested in everyday "clerk" decisions. His significance is how he presented himself to the people, as some sort of messiah, so in all the Nazi bureaucracy people were working to do what he would find appealing. I don't think the historians should work with the 'ifs' but the Nazi ideology was in the air and if it wasn't Hitler it would have been someone else.
(Forgive me for veering a little off original topic here)
The above is a curious, if somewhat misleading depiction of Adolf Hitler, who is admittedly perhaps the most throughly misunderstood and misrepresented figure in history - whether one adores or despises him.
The Hitler of myth was, not surprisingly, very different from the man himself. This dichotomy increased dramatically from the time war-preparations began in the mid-later thirties, and became absolutely pronounced once the war itself bagan. The messiah figure was at best the very early pre-war Hitler, if you will. While he may not have cared deeply for political minutae in terms of details, he was with regards to many areas from architecture and statecraft to building and even designing the military infrastructure, as detail-oriented as one could be - overbearingly so, by most accounts. Hitler was far more involved in the greater decision-making process than most would imagine.
The major turning point was when his focus turned from the political to the martial - a change which seems to have all but consumed the man.
Once hostilities broke out, he became so focused on the war, particularly in the East(Russia)he allowed more and more of what people traditionally think of as business of the Reich, from Jewish expulsions right on through, to be dealt with by others.
Hitler actually spent most of the war in his headquarters near the front, often handling even the most mundane details, rarely sleeping or eating, and obsessing over military strategy.

If one has the interest (in correlation with a related thread) read an updated copy of "Hitler's War" by David Irving. Despite what some inexplicably insist, it is not the work of a mindless neo-Nazi "apologist," nor is it without keen criticism and insight into the more nasty details of the war. It does, however, serve to illustrate where Hitler's interests really lay, and just how involved with and ultimately consumed by such things he really was.

Last edited by OldScratch : February 4th, 2008 at 09:15 PM.
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Old February 5th, 2008, 05:04 PM   #19 (permalink)
speed
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Originally Posted by kmik View Post
By holy I mean you should read it as if it were the word of God. Cultural and historical context should not be taken into account when you appreciate a work of art, much less biographical account. Read the work and see what it means to you; don't say "well, it's crap, the writer put it there because he didn't know what to say or to show everyone he's smart or because he is unconsciously tormented by his treatment of women and the working class"; assume, in other words, that there are no mistakes on the author's part, but rather if you don't understand something, the mistake is yours.

I don't see a problem with "over analyzing"; art is food for thought, not preaching, so you can always meditate on it, infinitely. Literary over analysis is not necessarily interesting, can be pedantic, but perfectly fine, so long as aesthetic appreciation remains and is not replaced by it. I also don't think there's something WRONG per se with political analysis, like you can analyze any piece of writing and learn something from it (letters in the 19th century are like this or like that because in the 19th century there was this political institution or others), but it shouldn't replace literary analysis.


Well, I think we agree here then.
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Old February 6th, 2008, 06:52 AM   #20 (permalink)
kmik
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OldScratch View Post
(Forgive me for veering a little off original topic here)
The above is a curious, if somewhat misleading depiction of Adolf Hitler, who is admittedly perhaps the most throughly misunderstood and misrepresented figure in history - whether one adores or despises him.
The Hitler of myth was, not surprisingly, very different from the man himself. This dichotomy increased dramatically from the time war-preparations began in the mid-later thirties, and became absolutely pronounced once the war itself bagan. The messiah figure was at best the very early pre-war Hitler, if you will. While he may not have cared deeply for political minutae in terms of details, he was with regards to many areas from architecture and statecraft to building and even designing the military infrastructure, as detail-oriented as one could be - overbearingly so, by most accounts. Hitler was far more involved in the greater decision-making process than most would imagine.
The major turning point was when his focus turned from the political to the martial - a change which seems to have all but consumed the man.
Once hostilities broke out, he became so focused on the war, particularly in the East(Russia)he allowed more and more of what people traditionally think of as business of the Reich, from Jewish expulsions right on through, to be dealt with by others.
Hitler actually spent most of the war in his headquarters near the front, often handling even the most mundane details, rarely sleeping or eating, and obsessing over military strategy.

If one has the interest (in correlation with a related thread) read an updated copy of "Hitler's War" by David Irving. Despite what some inexplicably insist, it is not the work of a mindless neo-Nazi "apologist," nor is it without keen criticism and insight into the more nasty details of the war. It does, however, serve to illustrate where Hitler's interests really lay, and just how involved with and ultimately consumed by such things he really was.
I only meant that I think that Kershaw meant that Hitler's image is more crucial in understanding the Nazi regime than the man itself, and that people were acting according to this image. Nobody's denying that Hitler had an influence on his country's policies because dictators usually have an influence. His emotional response is largely irrelevant to the matter and he had little experience as a politician. I have not read any biography about Hitler so I simply won't comment, just stating this other guy's thesis. There's this German movie about Hitler in the bunker but I fell asleep in the middle. What do you think about it?
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