Isaiah Berlins första intryck av Amerika

Isaiahs osäkerhet inför framtiden upplöstes mycket snabbt. Plötsligt fick han besök av Guy Burgess som påstod sig ha ordnat en tjänst åt Berlin vid ambassaden i Moskva. Det beslöts att Burgess skulle följa med på resan dit, och bara några dagar senare begav de sig på en resa över Atlanten för att via ett stopp i New York och Washington ta sig till Ryssland. Men väl i New York började personer i den engelska administrationen ana oråd när det gällde Burgess och hans planer. Tillslut kom beskedet att deras vidare resa till Moskva blivit inställd.

Dessa misstankar var korrekta. Burgess hade ordnat jobbet och resan för att få en ursäkt att själv ta sig Moskva utan misstankar och där kunna konferera med överordnade i NKVD, vars kontaktman i London hade tvingats bli hemkallad. Isaiah hyste aldrig några misstankar om att Burgess kunde vara spion.

Beskedet till Isaiah var att han var fri att göra som han ville och att varken Foreign Office eller ambassaden kunde erbjuda honom tjänst. Han valde att stanna, och med tiden började det tisslas och tasslas bakom hans rygg och man försökte hitta en post på ambassaden. En av dem som arbetade för att skaffa fram en tjänst åt Isaiah var John Wheeler-Bennett. Han hade ätit middag med Isaiah under dennes första kväll i Washington och blivit djupt imponerad. I sina memoarer skrev han senare att Berlin ”had been in America scarcely forty-eight hours but his comments on the situation would seem to betoken a lifetime of acquaintance with that country” [s. 325].

Här nedan följer några av Berlins beskrivningar av Amerika ur de brev han skrev hem.

The United States is both predictable and not. At first it seems familiar enough [. . .]. Soon the illusion is dispelled. The chief advantage is that everyone and everything is very easy. Nothing lacks to human comfort. Everything has been foreseen. [s. 319]
[. . .]
I quite see why they find the English unnecessarily complicated about nothing, why they are surprised and wounded by the elaborate, & as seems to them, deliberately difficult attitude adopted to their simple behaviour.
[. . .]
There may be individual introversion, mystery etc. There is no social mystery, no social mazes which in principle cannot be represented by a definite plan, as e.g. Oxford, Cambridge, Bloomsbury, even Edinburgh I expect. This is very grave. There is a total lack of salt, peppar, mustard, etc. No spark, at least none I’ve met yet. Everything is stated. [s. 320]

Mother would like America very much: open, vigorous, 2×2=4 sort of people, who want yes or no for an answer. [s. 323]

As for the U.S.A. I haven’t seen it. Such odd corners of it as I have come across strike me as full of individuals endowed with far greater vitality, honesty and simplicity than anyone in Europe: everything is clear, explicit, floodlit even. [. . .] I am myself a little disturbed by this terrific clarity & emphasis: where nothing is taken for granted, everything is stated in so many unambiguous terms, no secret seasoning is tasteable, everything is what it is and proclaims itself sometimes at great length, to be so. But it is superior to the nuances and evasions of England and France. Aesthetically inferior but morally superior. It destroys art but conduces to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. [s. 327]

I cannot say how much I long to go home. How much nicer England is. [s. 332]

Remaining here in any capacity is a nightmare to me. No one I’ve met — the nicest even, have the slightest element of the suppressed reserve of European life which functions as a background unfelt until one is withdrawn from it into this great big glaring sunlit extravert over-articulated scene. [. . .] My admiration for Roosevelt has greatly grown when one realizes the crassness he is faced with: to like Americans very much — as opposed to admiring, respecting, enjoying, believing in them, is, I am now sure, a mark of absence of soul: of a passion for the aerated, hygienic and wholesome, an open air attitude which you cannot, I suddenly say testily, expect me to sympathize with. [s. 337]

Isaiah Berlin, Flourishing. Letters 1928—1946, Chatto & Windus, London, 2004, s. 311–37.

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