NationalCharacters

In War and Peace, Book III, Part One, Chapter 10, Leo Tolstoy comments (perhaps in part with comic intent?) on the archetypal styles of people from various European countries. As Prince Andrei Bolkonsky observes:

It was obvious that Pfühl, always prone to irritability and sarcasm, was particularly exasperated that day by the fact that they had presumed to inspect and criticize his camp in his absence. Thanks to his Auserlitz experiences, Prince Andrei was able to form a clear conception of the man's character from this brief encounter. Pfühl was one of those inordinately, unshakable self-assured men—self-assured to the point of martyrdom, as only a German can be, because only a German bases his self-assurance on an abstract idea: science, that is, the supposed knowledge of absolute truth. A Frenchman's self-assurance stems from his belief that he is mentally and physically irresistably fascinating to both men and women. An Englishman's self-assurance is founded on his being a citizen of the best-organized state in the world and on the fact that, as an Englishman, he always knows what to do, and that whatever he does as an Englishman is unquestionably correct. An Italian is self-assured because he is excitable and easily forgets himself and others. A Russian is self-assured because he knows nothing and does not want to know anything, since he does not believe in the possibility of knowing anything fully. But a German's self-assurance is the worst of all, more inflexible and repellant than any other, because he imagines that he knows the truth, science, which is his own invention, but which for him is absolute truth.

(from the Ann Dunnigan translation, 1968; cf. TruthInBattle (11 Feb 2001), OozeOnVerst (22 Sep 2004), UntutoredVoice (3 Nov 2004), BodyMnemonic (4 Dec 2004), PerfectCommunication (14 Feb 2005), LadderOfLife (10 Apr 2005), BeaconOfHope (17 Apr 2005), ...)


TopicLiterature - TopicScience - TopicArt - Datetag20050516


(correlates: NeatsAndMessies, WarAndCheckers, LadderOfLife, ...)