An Unnecessary Man: The Life of Appollon Grigor'Ev by Wayne Dowler
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With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russians have turned to their past to discover alternative intellectual traditions to those of revolution and socialism. Apollon Grigor'ev, one of the most influential literary critics and thinkers of nineteenth-century Russia, was at the forefront of the conservative anti-revolutionary movement in the mid-1800s. Deemed, as he himself ironically observed, `unnecessary' within the radical climate of his own day, and obscured by a century of anti-conservative suppression, Grigor'ev's ideas are only now coming to light.
Troubled by the growing inclination of radicals towards social engineering and notion of infinite progress, Grigor'ev proposed the alternative of organic development. Drawing on the idealist philosophy of Schelling, he stressed the primacy of life over theory, the concrete over the abstract, and the ethical over the social. He maintained that the ideal was not directly accessible, but rather expressed in the arts of particular nations and peoples. In a rare departure from the polarized politics of his day, he urged the organic development of Russia through a gradual merging of opposing elements. As a literary critic, he exerted considerable influence on the era's most prominent writers, serving as chief critic on Dostoevsky's journals, Time and Epoch, and helping to shape those ideas that we now see as profoundly Dostoevskian.
This is the first English-language biography of Grigor'ev and one of the few works in English on the Russian conservative tradition. In addition to treating his subject's life and work, Dowler summarizes Grigor'ev's major critical articles, thereby providing a comprehensive introduction to this important thinker.