Political Scientist Ekaterina Shulman About Her Favorite Books

A life 2023

Table of contents:

Political Scientist Ekaterina Shulman About Her Favorite Books
Political Scientist Ekaterina Shulman About Her Favorite Books

Video: Political Scientist Ekaterina Shulman About Her Favorite Books

Отличия серверных жестких дисков от десктопных
Video: Круг чтения: художественное, научное, случайное (неполитическое) 2023, January

IN THE HEADING "BOOKSHELF" we ask the heroines about their literary preferences and publications, which occupy an important place in the bookcase. Today, political scientist, associate professor of the Institute of Social Sciences of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, member of the Human Rights Council Ekaterina Shulman tells about her favorite books.

INTERVIEW: Alisa Taezhnaya

PHOTOS: Alena Ermishina

MAKEUP: Julia Smetanina


Ekaterina Shulman

political scientist

Fiction is the highest manifestation of the human spirit, which is already there. She is our mother

and the nurse, and support us

for all days of our life


It happens that a person has read some text - and his life has changed dramatically. For me, the very fact of independent reading became the beginning of being as a person. Like more or less all children of intellectuals, I was taught to read at the age of four, and since then, in general, I haven't done anything else. We all belong to an estate that makes a living by reading and writing.

Since then, there have been several, not even books, but rather corpuses of texts that have really influenced the way of thinking. First, Soviet popular science literature. There was a two-volume encyclopedia “What is? Who it?". There was a book by Ilyin, who is actually Marshak - the brother of Samuil Marshak, "How a man became a giant." This is a book about scientific and technological progress, about the development of human thought, science and technology since primitive times, and it ends with the burning of Giordano Bruno. There was indispensable Kun with "Legends and Myths of Ancient Greece". There was even Perelman with "Entertaining Physics" and a ten-volume "Children's Encyclopedia", yellowish. These are the fruits of the bright era of the sixties, progressive technicism and the cult of science, which the Soviet government encouraged at that time.

As a child, I read a lot of literature about animals. I had a book called Entertaining Zoology. There was a translated four-volume encyclopedia "The Joy of Cognition" - with gorgeous illustrations, maps and diagrams of how different ecosystems work. Even if these sciences then mean nothing to you, this very way of comprehending reality, a benevolent interest in it and at the same time rationality has something very charming in itself. From this comes respect for science, respect for the human mind, faith in progress and the conviction that reality is knowable. So I'm an atheist, not an agnostic.

I cannot name any book that would make a political scientist out of me. Interest in politics was natural during the years when I was growing up. It was now a forgotten era - the late eighties and nineties, when everyone subscribed to many newspapers and magazines, watched political television programs, which then were not at all what they are now. I remember the Ogonyok magazine, the thick magazines Druzhba Narodov and Znamya, the young early Kommersant even before Boris Berezovsky bought it - and I remember what all this meant for those people who read it.

In order not to get the impression that I was brought up by perestroika journalism, it is necessary to mention books that teach a systematic, procedural view of historical and political processes. For me, Eugene Tarle has become a very important author. On the letter it will not matter how his surname is pronounced, but later people who knew him told me that he was actually Tarle. At home were his books on Napoleon, Talleyrand and the war of 1812. There was also Manfred's book "Napoleon Bonaparte", but it was perceptible in the class below. Tarle's Talleyrand impressed me especially. There was also a wonderful book about Napoleon, but as far as the conflict with Russia was concerned, even at a tender age I could see the pressure of Soviet ideology.Talleyrand did not particularly disturb anyone, he was an unambiguously negative character, there was no need to breed patriotism - it was not so much about a diplomat as about an internal political intriguer. Of course, all this was based on the Marxist view of historical formations and their change, but at the same time it was terribly charming and meaningful, and stylistically.

Then, when I got older, I began to buy other Tarle's books, which are not so well known and not so often published: for example, he had an excellent work about the colonial wars, more precisely, about the great geographical discoveries and their consequences for European countries. and a book on the First World War, Europe in the Age of Imperialism. Already being an independent working girl in Moscow, I bought a twelve-volume collection of Tarle's works in the antique department of the Moskva store on Tverskaya for terrible money for me at that time. It was even harder to get him out of the store by subway. I am very glad that I did it then - now stands this blue monumental collection of works by the author to whom I am very indebted.

My second favorite historian is Edward Gibbon. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is extremely difficult to read to the end, and I myself am stuck on Justinian, but his style and logic are irresistibly charming. By the way, much later I realized that stylistically it was he, and not one of the previous novelists, who was Jane Austen's real father.

I have always treated with some disdain for people who say that "with age" they began to read less fiction, because they are drawn to everything so authentic and real. A fictional text is a complex text, and with any kind of textual memoirs it will always be easier: no matter how well they are written, they still have linear composition. It's always a kind of life storytelling in a more intelligent way. And fiction is the highest manifestation of the human spirit, which is already there. She is our mother and nurse, and support for us all the days of our lives. Nevertheless, when you look at your reading lists, it turns out that even if you do not take professional scientific literature and megabytes of bills and explanatory notes to them, then you read an enormous amount of memoirs and historical non-fiction. I will name my old and new favorites: De Retz, Saint-Simon, La Rochefoucauld, Nancy Mitford about Louis XIV, Voltaire and Madame de Pompadour (about Frederick the Great, it seems to me, she did not have a very good book), Samuel Pips about himself, beloved, Walter Scott about Scottish history, Churchill about Marlborough's great-grandfather, Peter Ackroyd about everything in the world (he has a good biography of Shakespeare, a new volume of "History of England" has recently arrived).

Well, among fiction, the author of my soul is, of course, Nabokov. Here it was a significant transformational shock, but not one-time, but gradual. This is the author who best suits my emotional and intellectual needs. Nothing has changed: as long as I have read it, somewhere since 1993, I continue to read so much. The last incredible gift is Alexander Dolinin's commentary on The Gift, published at the end of 2018. I had the good fortune to receive this major work one of the first, from an acquaintance, and even to record an interview with the author when he came here. I read the entire volume very quickly: it seems thick, overwhelming, and when it ends, I want it to be even thicker. If the "Gift" itself is pure joy, then Dolinin's commentary is distilled joy. You just read and you envy yourself.

I don't like many of those who like others - and this is not surprising. I do not like Dostoevsky (and a diluted version of him - Rozanov), I absolutely do not see an artistic component in him, but I see the conjuncture, commercial writing and violent emotional influence on the reader, which usually annoys me too.It is known that in Russia Tolstoy and Dostoevsky are two parties (apparently, due to the absence of political parties, people are segregated in this way). And I, of course, belong to the party of Tolstoy - certainly not to the party of Dostoevsky. And the well-known dichotomy “tea, dog, Pasternak” vs “coffee, cat, Mandelstam” in my version should sound like “tea, children, Shakespeare”. Although Mandelstam is, of course, a great poet.

Who don't I love yet? Well, in order to offend everyone at once - let's offend everyone! I am always alarmed when a person praises the Strugatsky brothers: if these are his favorite authors, I will suspect him of a person, shall we say, non-humanitarian, a representative of the Soviet engineering and technical intelligentsia. They are good people, but they do not understand what literature is. Because this is very Soviet literature. And Soviet literature is the work of prisoners. They are not to blame for this, they are least of all to blame for this. They achieve outstanding results in their glass carving and making an art object from the handle of a spoon - but still it all breathes prison. Therefore, I find it painful to read Soviet writers: their philosophy seems to me superficial, their artistic skill is doubtful. I also treat the novel “Monday starts on Saturday” with some fondness, because it is a description of a certain narrow, specific social stratum and its way of life, and this has its own charm. And everything else - in my opinion, is a deep philosophy in small places. And I repeat once again, I do not grope there for artistic fabric.

And there are things that are considered overrated, but are not. The Master and Margarita is a great Russian novel. Bulgakov is generally a very significant author, both in himself and as the heir to a whole large layer of Russian prose, about which we have a vague idea, because the Soviet government cut it all down, leaving only the permitted pillars with the heads of the classics of the school canon sticking out. For some reason, I also love Theatrical Novel, which seems strange to me myself: I’m not exactly indifferent to the theater, but generally don’t understand why it exists. Few things make me so melancholy as stories about actors, theatrical tales, and that's all: I don't understand why act out on stage what can be easily read in letters, and why all these people do what they do at all. But "Theatrical Novel" really fits my soul.

And second: Ilf and Petrov, compromised by excessive quotations, are in fact also extremely great writers. Nabokov appreciated them and called them "a two-pronged genius" (he was generally attentive to Soviet literature). The Golden Calf is a beautiful Russian novel, and 12 Chairs too, although a little weaker. Therefore, when they say that it is over-praised - no, in fact, no. These are genuine values ​​that will pass the envious distance for centuries.

The famous dichotomy "tea, dog, Pasternak" vs "coffee, cat, Mandelstam"

in my version it should sound like "tea, children, Shakespeare"


M. Ilyin (Ilya Marshak)

Encyclopedia “What is? Who is he? "," How a man became a giant"

From these two books originate, I suspect, and atheism, and belief in progress, and a general reverence for the invincible human reason.

Alexandra Brushtein

"The road goes into the distance …"

Although with later re-readings, a feeling of vague discomfort began to arise, you cannot pick out what you read in childhood - and you don’t need to. In general, the book is about the fact that you can laugh all over the street for ten minutes under someone else's fence, as before - I did not tell them about this …

Michelle Montaigne


Skepticism is such skepticism. Well, the idea that there is nothing extraordinary about death.

Evgeniy Tarle

"Napoleon", "Talleyrand"

The basis of the previous - elitist - period of my political views. The current, democratic, was formed without any books, direct professional experience. And once I was a Bonapartist too, yes.

Bertrand Russell

"History of Western Philosophy"

For candidate and general head clearing. Although there are many complaints about the author as a public figure, this book is excellent.

Jane Austen

"Feelings and Sensitivity", "Emma"

He who thinks clearly expounds clearly. It would be nice to stick Pope "An Essay on Man" and Gibbon somewhere, but they don't fit anymore. Austin is talking about what? About personal courage, about facing self-deception, disappointment and death itself. There is some connection between this quality and a tendency towards absurd humor (another example is Kharms).

Vladimir Nabokov

"Other shores", "Comments to" Eugene Onegin"

What is not "Gift"? But for some reason not "Gift". I would rather add “Pale Fire” - apparently, the very form of the commentary acts on me enchantingly.

Lev Tolstoy

"War and Peace"

I love Anna Karenina more, but War and Peace was postponed more: I read it at a time when it was postponed more.

John Tolkien

The Silmarillion, The Hobbit

Plus all the innumerable marginality to them. Books about the beauty of the outside world, oddly enough, and about the eternal sorrow of immortals. And about the inalienable freedom of people who are free to die and are not attached to anything.

Popular by topic