Sorokin and Defoe (and Winston Churchill)

 

 

 

 

imageedit_1_2520341161.jpg

 

 

Daniel Defoe’s customary skill as a writer was to speak in the voices of others. His novels are only the most famous examples of the first-person accounts, memoirs, and polemics that he fabricated throughout his career. Memoirs of a Cavalier is a special example because it took the pursuit of authenticity–which is the standard of all Defoe’s novels–to its limits. So successfully did it mimic the voice of the seventeenth-century soldier of fortune who is its narrator, that for over half a century the memoirs were considered to be genuine. The struggle of this narrator to turn his observations into facts, to make a certain history of his uncertain experiences, was so well caught that, as one of its eighteenth-century editors declared, “tis a Romance the likest to Truth that I ever read’. It is this struggle, as much as the battles and adventures which comprise the Cavalier’s story, that gives this narrative its dramatic qualities.

 

— back cover copy; Daniel Defoe, Memoirs of a Cavalier, or a Military Journal of the Wars in Germany, and The Wars in England; From the Year 1632, to the Year 1648 (World’s Classics Edition; Oxford University Press 1991)

 

 

 

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In my post

 

“Sorokin” (“Сорокин”)

 

https://pitirimsorokin.com/2018/02/03/sorokin%d1%81%d0%be%d1%80%d0%be%d0%ba%d0%b8%d0%bd/

 

 

I wrote:

“Leaves from A Russian Diary,” which details Sorokin’s experiences as a revolutionary opponent of the Czarist government, an official in the short lived Kerensky government, and an anti-Bolshevik, was a work that I could not put down. It has a cogency and dramatic interest, being written at white heat, so to speak, that make it compelling. It reads live a novel, a sort of “Les Misérables” minus about a thousand pages. l feel that it is an underrated book and could never understand why it never achieved a wide readership. For me, it is the best book on the Russian Revolution, the only one I practically ever read about it, in fact. It made me feel what the revolution must have been like. I regard it as a classic, and I felt it was very well written, much more so than when Sorokin was writing as a scholar.

The analogy to Defoe, applied to Sorokin’s reminiscences of the February Revolution and it’s immediate aftermat, is very apt. I am happy to say that I have just recently interested a literarily minded friend in reading Leaves from a Russian Diary, a book I couldn’t put down.

 

 

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In his preface to The Second World War: The Gathering Storm (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1948), Winston S. Churchill wrote:

I have followed, as in previous volumes, as far as I am able, the method of Defoe’s Memoirs of a Cavalier, in which the author hangs the chronicle and discussion of great military and political events upon the thread of the personal experiences of an individual. I am perhaps the only man who has passed through both the two supreme cataclysms of recorded history in high Cabinet office. Whereas, however, in the First World War I filled responsible but subordinate posts, I was for more than five years in this second struggle with Germany the Head of His Majesty’s Government. I write, therefore, from a different standpoint and with more authority than was possible in my earlier books.

Precisely the same as Leaves from a Russian Diary. Both Sorokin and Churchill were participant-observers.

 
— Roger W. Smith

   February 2019

“Denies U.S. Recognition Will Bring Soviet Trade” (article by Sorokin, Washington Post, 1922)

 

 

article by Sorokin – Wash Post 4-26-1925

 

 

Denies U.S. Recognition Will Bring Soviet Trade

Kerensky’s Former Secretary Shows Russia Was Never Big Customer Here.

Recognized by Berlin, German Figures Fall.

Data Reveal that Diplomatic Intercourse Has Little Bearing on Business.

America, Now Second in List of Concessions, Existing Mainly on Paper.

Of Little Value Now; Less in the Future.

Will Be Repudiated, Thinks Prof. Sorokin, By Next Russian Regime.

 

By Pitirim Sorokin, Professor of Sociology, University of Minnesota, and Former Private Secretary of the Russian Prime Minister Kerenksy.

The Washington Post, Apr 26, 1925, pg. E3

 

 

PITIRIM O. [sic] SOROKIN, professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, left Russia in October, 1922. Before the Russian revolution, he was a member of the social revolutionary party in Russia. He has been arrested three times by agents of the czar, and later as many times by the communist rulers.

While professor sociology in the University of Petrograd, he was also editor of the newspaper “Will of the People.” During the revolution, he was one of the organizers and a member of the executive committee of the first all-Russian peasants soviet, a member of the council of the republic and of the constitutional assembly, in addition to being private secretary to Prime Minister Kerensky.

 

 

The entire article is posted (above) as a downloadable PDF file.

Pitirim A. Sorokin, foreword to “Leaves from a Russian Diary,” 1950 edition

 

 

 

foreword to Leaves from a Russian Diary

 

 

Pitirim A. Sorokin, foreword to Leaves from a Russian Diary, and Thirty Years After (Boston: Beacon Press, 1950)

 

downloadable PDF file attached

Pitirim A. Sorokin, foreword and preface to “The Crisis of Our Age”

 

 

foreword & preface to The Crisis of Our Age

 

 

Pitirim A. Sorokin, foreword and preface to The Crisis of Our Age (paperback edition; New York: E. P. Dutton, n.d.)

 

 

downloadable PDF file attached