The Paris Review

The Cornel West–Ta-Nehisi Coates Twitter Feud Explained Through Russian Writers

Cornel West and Ta-Nehisi Coates.

There’s a phrase I’ve been thinking about a lot recently by the great Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. He says in his book The Gulag Archipelago, “Wherever the law is, crime can be found.” —Ta-Nehisi Coates

Chekhov for me is the great writer of compassion. —Cornel West

It was the fall of 2008 and I had just started a Ph.D. program in Russian literature at Princeton University. In retrospect, I don’t know what kind of twenty-two-year-old I was that I would leap so enthusiastically into long days and nights spent reading about serfs, brain fever, and Cossack rebellions, but there I was. I was anxious about keeping up with all the reading, so I eagerly signed up for a course on Anton Chekhov, who once famously said, “Brevity is the sister of talent.” About a month into the class, my already frazzled nerves snapped in two when I,” an extra in my least favorite  film, and even a , but back then I did not associate him (or really anyone who’d ever been on TV) with nineteenth-century Russian literature.

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