Florensky's was a life of scholarship and service, 'of intensely experienced identity problems, of dramatic familial interest, of joy, suffering and endurance, a very private life full of unanswered questions.' He was a man who lived his ideas in all their complexity, difficulty and consequence. While there are many who surmise he may one day be canonized a saint (shortly after Florensky's death, the editor of the Paris-based journal Vestnik
concluded a memorial piece with the words, 'Father Pavel, pray to God for us'), Pyman claims no authority to judge his worthiness. Her part is 'simply to tell the story' before it becomes complicated by the demands of hagiography. But Pyman is no amateur biographer. Well-known for her two-volume work on Aleksandr Blok, she is more than up to the task of parsing the life and intellect of one of Russia's most fascinating figures. She offers a straightforward, compelling narrative that begins with the story of the infant Pavel rolling off the edge of a steep riverbank (his first years were spent in railway carriages by the River Kura), only to be caught by his 'laughing, dark-eyed Aunt Sonya.' Her restrained account of Florensky's religious conversion is quietly instructive: 'He knew beyond doubt that there was a way before his feet and he was being called to tread it.' Florensky's life was short (he died at 31), but Pyman ably tends not only to the breadth of his work in theology and science, but also to the depth of his personal relationships. Her glossary, chronology, notes, and index take up nearly a quarter of the book's length, and her telling gracefully ends not with Florensky's execution, but with last letters to his family, telling them to 'get out in the fresh air, just a step from the house to hear the larks or see the corn come into ear (Pyman's paraphrase), or, more especially 'to go for a stroll as evening falls and think of me'.'
An Eighth Day View: