The Strastnoy of Ayn Rand

[cross-posted at POT and Facebook]

Ayn Rand’s Red Pawn, written in the 1930s, takes place on the imaginary Strastnoy (“Passion,” in the Christian theological sense) Island, in “the Arctic waters off the Siberian coast,” where a Christian monastery has been converted into a Soviet prison camp.

In real life there actually was, during the 1920s and 30s, a Christian monastery that had been converted into a Soviet prison camp, on a remote island in Arctic waters – though on the western side of Russia, not the eastern, Siberian side – namely Solovki Prison on Solovetzky Island, which was actually the nucleus of the entire Gulag system. (Appropriately enough, the Gulag Archipelago began on a literal archipelago.)

Solovki Prison is not as forbidding-looking as the one described in Rand’s story (Rand’s version has a bit more the flavour of the Château d’If), but I still suspect it influenced the tale. (During World War II, Solovki became a military base. Today it is a monastery again.) (There was also a Strastnoy monastery in Moscow that was demolished by the Soviets, and might have influenced Rand’s choice of name.)

Would Rand have been aware of Solovki Prison? I think likely yes, since two books had been published on it in the west during the 1920s, by former inmates – S. A. Malsagoff’s An Island Hell: A Soviet Prison in the Far North, and Youri Bezsonov’s Mes vingt-six prisons et mon évasion de Solovki.


Sewer Song

In my latest YouTube video, I share a totally authentic song from the mean streets of Gotham City (and below).

Thanks to Alicia Homer for introducing me to the Wellerman song!

Apologies for the change of key and tempo toward the end. If you’re looking for musical competence, you’ve chosen the wrong YouTube channel.


Maxwell’s House of Books!

Continuing the San Diego bookstores series, I chat with Craig Maxwell of Maxwell’s House of Books (good to the last drop of ink!) in La Mesa, featuring titles in philosophy, history, science, law, literature, poetry, drama, literary criticism, science fiction, mystery, and more.


Learning MacLeod’s World

In my latest YouTube interview, I chat with science fiction author Ken MacLeod about Scottish space opera, libertarianism and Marxism, individualist anarchism, the Austrian calculation debate, Neoreaction, Brexit, Scottish independence, paternalism and anti-vaping laws, James Hutton and deep time, the Scottish Enlightenment, what he owes to David Friedman, what he owes to Margaret Thatcher, and that time Charles Darwin changed history by vomiting.


Eternal Return!

Continuing the San Diego bookstore series (yet also transcending it), I chat with Jeff Mezzocchi, proprietor of the Eternal Return Antiquarian Bookshop, devoted to rare editions of philosophical classics. The conversation centers heavily on Nietzsche, but also ranges over the conflict between Cartesian caution and Spinozistic radicalism, Russian nihilism, Shakespeare in performance, dogmatic vs. skeptical readings of Plato, the perils of translation, teaching philosophy in the age of Zoom, the agonising tension between book collecting and bookselling, and the lakeside rock in Switzerland where Nietzsche and Jeff each experienced life-changing events.

Like my earlier interview with Sean Christopher of LHOOQ Books, this interview should appeal to anyone with an interest in bookstores, philosophy, art, literature, etc., even if they have no specific interest in San Diego or its bookstore scene.


Virtual Molinari Society Panel on Rights

[cross-posted at POT]

The Molinari Society will be holding its mostly-annual Eastern Symposium in conjunction with the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association via Zoom (7-9 and 14-16 January). Only those who cough up the hefty registration fee will be able to access the session, so no chance of free-riding this time around (the APA’s decision, definitely not ours; the APA is both pragmatically and morally confused about the costs and benefits of allowing free-riding at its conferences, but that’s another story). But there’s a substantial student discount, verb. sap. Anyway, here’s the schedule info:

Molinari Society symposium:
Radical Rights Theory

[Two timeslots back to back; we havent yet sorted the order of speakers or who’ll be in which timeslot – it depends on some logistical details that remain to be worked out (check back here for updates).]

12K. Thursday, 14 January 2021, 9:00-10:50 a.m. E
13K. Thursday, 14 January 2021, 11:00 a.m.-12:50 p.m. E

chair:
     Roderick T. Long (Auburn University)

presenters:
     Jesse Spafford (The Graduate Center, CUNY), “When ‘Enough and as Good’ Is Not Good Enough
     Daniel Layman (Davidson College), “Keeping the Proviso in Its Place
     Roderick T. Long (Auburn University), “How to Have Your No-Proviso Lockeanism and Eat It Too
     Jason Lee Byas (University of Michigan), “Alienation, Forfeiture, and Two Concepts of Natural Rights
     Cory Massimino (Center for a Stateless Society), “Two Cheers for Rothbardianism

See the full schedule here.

Were it not for the pandemic, I’d be heading to Manhattan for this event, preparing to dine with my co-panelists, to see friends in the NYC area, to catch up with colleagues in the profession, to visit some new museums, etc. But alas!


Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes