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The Hedgehog And The Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History

Isaiah Berlin

8 Reviews

Rated 0

Prose: non-fiction, Literature: history & criticism, Literary studies: from c 1900 -

Isaiah Berlin's classic essay on Tolstoy - an exciting new edition with new criticism and a foreword.

'Brilliant ... searching and profound' TLS

Isaiah Berlin's classic essay on Tolstoy - an exciting new edition with new criticism and a foreword.

'The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.' This fragment of Archilochus, which gives this book its title, describes the central thesis of Isaiah Berlin's masterly essay on Tolstoy. There have been various interpretations of Archilochus' fragment; Isaiah Berlin has simply used it, without implying anything about the true meaning of the words, to outline a fundamental distinction that exists in mankind, between those who are fascinated by the infinite variety of things (foxes) and those who relate everything to a central all-embracing system (hedgehogs). When applied to Tolstoy, the image illuminates a paradox of his philosophy of history, and shows why he was frequently misunderstood by his contemporaries and critics. Tolstoy was by nature a fox, but he believed in being a hedgehog.

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Praise for The Hedgehog And The Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History

  • This little book is so entertaining, as well as acute, that the reader hardly notices that it is learned too - OBSERVER

  • The most important study of Tolstoy's thought written in English for a long time - THE LISTENER

  • Brilliant ... searching and profound - TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

  • Very readable, with a lively honed down style - SUNDAY MERCURY

  • Delightful to read - SUNDAY TIMES

  • [Berlin] has a deep and subtle feeling for the puzzle of Tolstoy's personality, and he writes throughout ... with a wonderful eloquence - NEW YORK TIMES

  • Beautifully written and suggestive - NEW YORKER

  • The argument is ingenious and subtle, full of overtones - exactly what good critical writing should be - GUARDIAN

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Isaiah Berlin

Sir Isaiah Berlin OM spent the whole of his professional life at Oxford, as a Fellow of All Souls College, a Fellow of New College, Chichele Professor of Social and Political theory and first President of Wolfson College. He is the author of many books and was President of the British Academy from 1974 until 1978. He died in 1997.

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