To the Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History

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New York Review of Books, 2003 - Political Science - 507 pages
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Edmund Wilson's magnum opus, To the Finland Station, is a stirring account of revolutionary politics, people, and ideas from the French Revolution through the Paris Commune to the Bolshevik seizure of power in 1917. It is a work of history on a grand scale, at once sweeping and detailed, closely reasoned and passionately argued, that succeeds in painting an unforgettable picture--alive with conspirators and philosophers, utopians and nihilists--of the making of the modern world.
 

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Contents

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About the author (2003)

Wilson roamed the world and read widely in many languages. He was a journalist for leading literary periodicals: Vanity Fair, where he was briefly managing editor; The New Republic, where he was associate editor for five years; and the New Yorker, where he was book reviewer in the 1940s. These varied experiences were typical of Wilson's range of interests and ability. Eternally productive and endlessly readable, he conquered American literature in countless essays. If he is idiosyncratic and lacks a rigid mold, that probably contributes to his success as a literary critic, since he was not committed to interpretation in the straitjacket of some popular approach or dogma. His critical position suits his cosmopolitan background---historical and sociological considerations prevail. He went through a brief Marxist period and experimented with Freudian criticism. Axel's Castle (1931), a penetrating analysis of the symbolist writer, has exerted a great influence on contemporary literary criticism. Its dedication, to Christian Gauss of Princeton, reads:"It was principally from you that I acquired.. .my idea of what literary criticism ought to be---a history of man's ideas and imaginings in the setting of the conditions which have shaped them."His volume of satiric short stories, Memoirs of Hecate County (1946), with its frankly erotic passages, was the subject of court cases in a less tolerant decade than the present one. It was Wilson's own favorite among his writings, but he complained that those individuals who like his other work tend to disregard it.

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