- 4:01 pm - Thu, Oct 25, 2012
- 4 notes
The always-excellent Helen Rittelmeyer reads the diaries of the Marquis de Custine, or as she calls him, “The Grouchier, Gayer Tocqueville of Russia.” Having departed post-Revolutionary France for Russia, he sought reasons to justify a return to aristocracy monarchy — but instead he found Russia a horrific shambles.
Custine was for Russia what Tocqueville was for the United States, and the two men, born fifteen years apart, had much in common. Both were aristocrats whose parents, under the Revolution, were either guillotined (Custine’s father) or imprisoned and very nearly guillotined (Custine’s mother and both Tocqueville’s parents). Both wrote masterpieces of similar length for similar reasons. Democracy had assumed a new level of importance in European affairs, and so had the United States and Russia—countries that were, coincidentally or not, the most democratic in the world and the least.
Custine also features prominently in the astonishing 2002 film Russian Ark, filmed in a single uninterrupted 96-minute shot inside the Hermitage Palace (which you can watch on Netflix)!