Vladimir and Volodymyr: A Pivotal Moment in History

Martha Bayles in The Hedgehog Review:

Published in 1953, The Captive Mind remains possibly the best book ever written about the lure and trap of totalitarian ideology. In his riveting collection of linked essays, the great poet Czesław Miłosz probed the motivations of Polish writers and intellectuals (Miłosz, at one time, included) who joined the Communist regime after World War II. The rewards of the book begin with its epigraph, which Miłosz attributes to “An Old Jew of Galicia”:

When someone is honestly 55 percent right, that’s very good and there’s no use wrangling. And if someone is 60 percent right, it’s wonderful, it’s great luck, and let him thank God. But what’s to be said about 75 percent right? Wise people say this is suspicious. Well, and what about 100 percent right? Whoever says he’s 100 percent right is a fanatic, a thug, and the worst kind of rascal.1

Where Miłosz found this epigraph, I cannot say. But it resonates today, in large part because the old Jew he quotes is from Galicia, the medieval name for a region stretching from eastern Poland to western Ukraine, whose principal city, Lviv, is now overflowing with refugees fleeing a scorched-earth invasion ordered by a twenty-first-century fanatic claiming to be 100 percent right.

More here.