This chapter focuses on Ginzburg's notes about others. In particular, it examines her character analyses from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1970s, where she tries to explain history through character and character through history. Following the model of two literary landmarks from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—Herzen's My Past and Thoughts (published in installments beginning in 1854), and Mandelstam's The Noise of Time (1928)—she tells not life stories, but stories of personality in which history is reflected. At a time when the official doctrine of Socialist Realism and the strict censorship regime had cut off any genuine intercourse between literature and life, Ginzburg's sketches constitute a gallery of portraits of her contemporaries, and a valuable literary history of her social group. They also represent a defense of “true” intelligentnost' (an orientation toward higher cultural and social values, ideals, and willingness to suffer for these) against the easy lamentations and lacerations unleashed and made more socially permissible by oppressive circumstances.
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