The Corner

Lichnost

From Dutch by Edmund Morris:

“Many years later, I asked Gorbachev the question that tantalized me that morning: what he saw when he looked up into Ronald Reagan’s eyes.

“Sunshine and clear sky. We shook hands like friends. He said something, I don’t know what. But at once I felt him to be a very authentic human being.”

“Authentic? What word is that in Russian?” I asked the interpreter. He was startled to be addressed directly, and shot Gorbachev a nervous look.

Lichnost. It is a very difficult word to translate because it means ‘personality’ in English. Or ‘figure,’ but in the dignified Italian sense, figura. But in Russian its meaning is much bigger than in these languages: a lichnost man is someone of great strength of character who rings true, all the way through to his body and soul. He is authentic, he has…”

Kalibr,” said Gorbachev, who had been listening intently. He is so intuitive that he can follow dialogue without vocabulary.

“I know what kalibr is, Mr. President, ” I said. “We have the same word in our language.”

R.I.P.

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