chapter  2
6 Pages

Berdyaev’s life

As most readers will not be familiar with Berdyaev, I want to begin, in addition to offering some biographical details, by conveying a flavour of his personality. The French writer Madeleine Davy, who knew him personally, gives us a particularly vivid description of her impression of Berdyaev:

Tall, of athletic stature, although fragile, a subtle dignity emanated from his personality. Nothing was vulgar with him or the least bit banal. When one listened to him, his sonorous voice awakened the best in oneself. His sheer presence drew one beyond one’s limitations, communicated a new dynamism to the spirit and modified the rhythm of time. Everything received a new clarity. . . . When one was with him one forgot oneself and savoured a strange joy . . . Something became alive . . . to use an expression of Novalis, it seems possible to say that it was the ‘divine child’ in oneself that moved.