Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-8kt4b Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-25T00:22:38.391Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

6 - Todorov and Bakhtin

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 April 2020

Henk de Berg
Affiliation:
Department of Germanic Studies University of Sheffield. UK
Get access

Summary

IT IS COMMON TO VIEW Tzvetan Todorov's life as made up of two distinct parts. There is less consensus, though, on what may constitute these two parts. Is it structuralism and humanism? Literary theory and philosophy? Or totalitarianism in Bulgaria and liberal democracy in France? How one defines these two parts of course influences when one would set the break. Although his thought evolved over several years, Todorov himself conceded that his engagement with Mikhail Bakhtin’s work had a decisive impact on his own approach, that it was “the dividing line,” thus drawing it in the late 1970s to early 1980s. In more recent years though, Todorov glossed on his childhood and youth under communist rule in his native Bulgaria and how this background had shaped his thinking. This would suggest the existence of another dividing line, much earlier, in the early 1960s, when he moved from communist Bulgaria to democratic France. Totalitarianism obviously stands in stark contrast to democracy politically. But for Todorov that early break was no less sharp in personal terms: before the demise of the various Eastern European regimes in the years following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a move from Bulgaria to Fr ance constituted an irremediable split. Yet Todorov himself complic ates this picture by pointing out that until the demise of communist Bulgaria he remained in some ways hostage to his homeland's regime for fear that his views might trigger reprisals against his parents and the other family members he had left behind. It is worth noting that he did not defect but that his departure was entirely legal: he went to study for a year in Paris, then stayed for another two years, and finally was granted permanent residency before gaining French citizenship ten years later in 1973.

These considerations aside, Todorov himself highlights his encounters with Arthur Koestler and Isaiah Berlin as two crucial moments in the development of his thought. From the former, he garnered the feeling that his own apolitical stance was fruitless. From the latter, he took away the idea that philosophical topics such as nihilism and liberalism might be worth studying. Literature, Berlin had told him, “is not made up of structures alone, but also of ideas and history.”

Type
Chapter
Information
Tzvetan Todorov
Thinker and Humanist
, pp. 109 - 126
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2020

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×