central planet

The unique domination of literature over life, and of one man over the entire consciousness and imagination of a vast nation, is a fact to which there is no precise parallel, not even in the place occupied in the consciousness of their nations by Dante or Shakespeare, Homer or Vergil or Goethe. And this extraordinary phenomenon, whatever may be thought of it, is, to a degree still unrecognized, the work of Belinsky and his disciples, who first saw in Pushkin the central planet, the source of light in whose radiance Russian thought and feeling grew so wonderfully. Pushkin himself, who was a gay, elegant, and, in his social life, an arrogant, disdainful, and whimsical man, thought this embarrassing and spoke of the angular and unfashionable Belinsky as ‘a queer character who for some extraordinary reason seems to adore me’.

—Isaiah Berlin, “Vissarion Belinsky”, Russian Thinkers (Penguin, 2008)

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