The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing. For Isaiah Berlin, there is a fundamental distinction in mankind: those who are fascinated by the infinite variety of things – foxes – and those who relate everything to a central all-embracing system – hedgehogs. It can be applied to the greatest creative minds: Dante, Ibsen and Proust are hedgehogs, while Shakespeare, Aristotle and Joyce are foxes.
Yet when Berlin reaches the case of Tolstoy, he finds a fox by nature, but a hedgehog by conviction; a duality which holds the key to understanding Tolstoy’s work, illuminating a paradox of his philosophy of history and showing why he was frequently misunderstood by his contemporaries and critics. With a foreword by Michael Ignatieff
– A W&N Essential
‘Brilliant. Searching and profound’ E.H. Carr, Times Literary Supplement
‘When reading Isaiah Berlin we breathe an altogether different air’ New York Review of Books
‘Beautifully written’ W. H. Auden, New Yorker
‘Ingenious. Exactly what good critical writing should be’ Max Beloff, Guardian