“Beauty will save the world.”
—Prince Myshkin, Dostoevsky
Nick Fabrikant used that quotation in a recent conversation with me. He spoke with only a hint of irony. Why kid about such a grand ambition—to save the world with beautiful buildings? Knowing Nick for a decade, I felt no impulse to snicker. He talks like a character in a 19th century novel, with whole-souled intensity. If he had not accomplished so much, you’d think: Wait till “the malady of the quotidian” infects his dream! But I’ve seen enough of him and his work to bet on the dream.
Nick has spent years traveling to 30-plus countries to feed his eye and spirit on great buildings. Ask him about the Parthenon, the Alhambra, or Chartres, and his vibrant word-pictures convey a rare passion. He calls architecture his “calling,” and his work—a spectacular house he designed in Vershire, Vermont, a pocket park he drew up for the town of Hanover, a granite monument he designed then placed on Dartmouth College campus—testifies to a genuine vocation. He’d bring colleagues human depth, a vocabulary steeped in the built culture of continents, and the experience of a carpenter who has restored old barns and churches with his hands.
I am A News Analyst for the National Public Radio program “On Point” and the author, most recently, of The Lost History of 1914. For thirty years I was Literary Editor of the New Republic and a Senior Editor of the Atlantic. In these positions, I was pleased to help advance the careers of young writers. I believed in them but not nearly so much as I do in Nick. He inspires confidence. His talent does, his commitment does, his vision does. Maybe beauty can’t save the world. But it’s worth a try, Nick is game, and you can give him the chance.