A Spy for an Unknown Country: Essays and Lectures by Merab Mamardashvili

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A Spy for an Unknown Country: Essays and Lectures by Merab Mamardashvili

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About the book


Soviet-era philosopher Merab Mamardashvili developed an original and subtle philosophical system distinct from both his orthodox and dissident colleagues. This volume provides English-speaking audiences with a range of his lectures and writings on ancient philosophy, civil society, the European project, and literature. After many decades hiding in plain sight, he emerges as a Soviet thinker who writes in the double-voiced manner of an ideologically surveilled academic and a potent literary and theoretical innovator independent of his context.
The author

About the author

The author:

Merab Mamardashvili (1930–1990) was born in Soviet Georgia and occupied an atypical socio-political position on the margins of Europe and Russia. Early in his career, he had close contact with European philosophers active in the 1960s, but was banned from travel and visited the West again only at the end of his life, when the Soviet system was collapsing throughout Eastern Europe. From the vantage point of a scholar who lived in a totalitarian state, he emphasized the need for a vibrant civil society and the role of the humanities in maintaining it. Like many Soviet-era thinkers and philosophers, Mamardashvili disguised important thinking about freedom, democracy, and civil society in works about literature. When he died in 1990, he was known and respected in Eastern and Central Europe, and since then some of his writings have been translated into French, German, Italian, and Bulgarian, but very little into English. Jean-Pierre Vernant, a French historian specializing in ancient Greece, called Mamardashvili “the Georgian Socrates” for his singular style of thinking.


The editors and translators:

Julia Sushytska (PhD in Philosophy, SUNY Stony Brook) is an Assistant Professor in Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture at Occidental College and teaches philosophy courses at Whittier College. In 2015–2016 she was Visiting Professor at the Centre de Recherches en Philosophie Allemande et Contemporaine at the University of Strasbourg. Her research focuses on metics: those who find or place themselves in-between major cultures, languages, or ethnicities.

Alisa Slaughter (MA in Comparative Literature, University of Arizona; MFA in Creative Writing, Warren Wilson College) is a Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Redlands.


“Mamardashvili was admired as a ‘modern-day Socrates’ whose lifestyle was characterized by the practice of sustained self-reflection. The theme of his reflection was philosophy itself, which he regarded as a moral imperative to question all values and to contribute the value of non-understanding to the world of total and conventional understanding. In this sense he was a spy for an unknown country, and this beautiful collection presents a short guide to its mysteries.”—Mikhail Epstein, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Cultural Theory and Russian Literature at Emory University

“This welcome volume allows us to savor the sweep of Mamardashvili’s wide-ranging mind, swinging between philosophy and literature boldly and brilliantly. Whether he is discussing Proust or Tolstoy, Kant or Marx, the reader of the scintillating texts here assembled is treated to the unique insights of someone who moves with agility and in depth between Eastern and Western European sensibilities. The translation is sparkling in its lucidity, and the selection of texts is at once representative and irresistible.”—Edward S. Casey, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, SUNY at Stony Brook
Additional Information

Additional Information

Delivery time 2-3 Tage / 2-3 days
Author Merab Mamardashvili, Alisa Slaughter, Julia Sushytska, Caryl Emerson, Annie Epelboin, Miglena Nikolchina
Editor Alisa Slaughter, Julia Sushytska
Number of pages 242
Language English
Publication date Nov 17, 2020
Weight (kg) 0.3180
ISBN-13 9783838214597