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Thread: Literature Ramble

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    Literature Ramble

    This is a continuation of a discussion on a Wuthering Heights thread that broadened into a discussion about various authors (Fielding, Dostoyevsky, Homer, etc.). I'll quote from that thread to get things started, but the idea is to just let the conversation go where it goes. Here's a link to the other thread for context:

    http://www.online-literature.com/for...-heights/page2

    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Well, God knows Dickens was full of self-importance. If Tom Jones had been a Dickens character he would have been deceiving villain like Harold Skimpole or at best a tragic youth-led-astray like Richard Carstone. I don't think Dickens believed in winning young men with a few all-too-human flaws.
    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Well, in the end it is the just the awareness of romantic age (which is probally ours), so full of human suffering, heritage, dramas that the Enlightenment people are free from the burden.
    I'll have to think about that. Voltaire may have acted and written like he was free of the burdens, but Fielding includes an extended depiction of a poor couple in Tom Jones (they had married for love and reaped poverty). And Tom himself is imprisoned for a time in wretched conditions. And what about the reality on the ground? Those inns full of homely rustics and buxom wenches were also full of small pox, French pox, cholera, and tuberculosis. London was sink of poverty and crime. Was Dickens world so much worse? I suppose it depends on whether one sees industrialization as alleviating human miseries or compounding them.

    Dickens was certainly aware of life's burdens (agonizingly so), but I think some of that was his own psychology. Dickens resented his parents imprudence with money and was mortified at his father's term in debtors' prison and his own stint in a blacking factory. Harold Skimpole and Wilkins Micawber are two sides of the same coin. Skimpole is designing villain and Micawber is lovable debtor, but both are hurting friends or family with their irresponsibility. I don't imagine Dickens would have cared much for Fielding (who was also bad with money), though he was certainly willing to learn from him as a writer.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    I shouldnt have mentioned Don Juan, with Byron being such champion of the early XVIII writers against the "evil wordsworth/coleridge" duo, that it is too obvious the apple wouldnt fall far from the tree in this case.
    Don't forget Robert Southey! At least Wordsworth and Coleridge could write.

    'Go, little book, from this my solitude!
    I cast thee on the waters-go thy ways!
    And if, as I believe, thy vein be good,
    The world will find thee after many days.'
    When Southey's read, and Wordsworth understood,
    I can't help putting in my claim to praise-
    The four first rhymes are Southey's every line:
    For God's sake, reader! take them not for mine.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Funny enough, despite being first a playwriter, Voltaire capacity to create characters was rather dull (or flat), he is a man of action. I read once a analyse of Candine which I foudn funny (and I can imagine Voltaire laughing at it too) saying that Martino, Pangloss and all people who Candide meets and receive some advice is actually Voltaire under disguise of one his moods, so Candine doesn't travel around the world, but around Voltaire.
    Yes, I'm not sure Voltaire acknowledged much of a difference. He probably liked himself a little more than he liked the world--though he liked both well enough. But yes, he would have laughed.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Of course Iven is a critic to atheism, but funny you pic a scene that has some Voltaire vibes on it, as it is all about the needful existense of the devil (thus God). Hows that is not a joke that Nietzche would love?
    The aspect I saw as vaguely comical (but also sinister) was that the devil is described as a "poor relation" in a dumpy, threadbare suit--turning up even though he's not welcome. How one wishes that he was not in the family at all! But there he is.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    I once said Dostoievisky was a cynic here in the forum and Gladys (our resident Dostoievisky fan) didnt like it, thinking of the negative meaning of the word, not, as I was thinking, of the phylosophical meaning.
    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    I love Wuthering Heights. The novel consistently transcends the lives of its characters and speaks to an unlimited universe of angst, suffering and emotional pain. Heathcliff and the first Catherine evoke the fallen Adam and Eve, struggling for meaning and integrity in a vale of tears. Their numinous perception and uncompromising honesty shames us all.

    Emily Bronte's contemporaries deplored an author - a man - who would plumb such dreadful depths. Nevertheless, Emily Bronte's expansive, panoramic and uncompromising introspection was a major influence on Emily Dickinson, Henry James and others.
    Ecce femina! I was hoping you might turn up today.

    Your evocation of life after the fall seems apt, even haunting--although personally I have enough to be ashamed of without letting Heathcliff in. Also, sorry to be so thick, but who was the male author you mentioned?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    And nice to see literature discussed on the forum once again.
    Amen. Let us be the change we wish to see.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 11-19-2017 at 09:16 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    I'll have to think about that. Voltaire may have acted and written like he was free of the burdens, but Fielding includes an extended depiction of a poor couple in Tom Jones (they had married for love and reaped poverty). And Tom himself is imprisoned for a time in wretched conditions. And what about the reality on the ground? Those inns full of homely rustics and buxom wenches were also full of small pox, French pox, cholera, and tuberculosis. London was sink of poverty and crime. Was Dickens world so much worse? I suppose it depends on whether one sees industrialization as alleviating human miseries or compounding them.
    I worded it badly. It was not my intention to suggest writers of XVIII century have no social notion or their own difficulties, but it is a bit like, a XVIII writer if got wings, would probally fly away and wonder how far he would go. One from XIX century would start wondering if he would forget how to walk if he started to fly a lot. Voltaire maybe would complain the wings are too heavy...

    Dickens was certainly aware of life's burdens (agonizingly so), but I think some of that was his own psychology. Dickens resented his parents imprudence with money and was mortified at his father's term in debtors' prison and his own stint in a blacking factory. Harold Skimpole and Wilkins Micawber are two sides of the same coin. Skimpole is designing villain and Micawber is lovable debtor, but both are hurting friends or family with their irresponsibility. I don't imagine Dickens would have cared much for Fielding (who was also bad with money), though he was certainly willing to learn from him as a writer.
    Have you read Chesterton Biografy about Dickens? Chesterton is always pleasant to read and he kind off create a Dickens that moved by his experiences with povertry started to desire this to not be true to anyone, so he wanted to create hope. Basically, he (with way better eloquence) equates Dickens capacity to represent humanity and the empathy he provokes with goodness. Certainly, there is a big moral factor in Dickens works, even tale of two cities...

    Don't forget Robert Southey! At least Wordsworth and Coleridge could write.
    Yeah, but wordsworth is often sleeping. Byron was at his best there. I recall Borges and Bioy Casares compaining about Byron rhyming system, of course, they may have some reason, it was what allowed Byron come often with those couplets that can have a life on their own.

    Yes, I'm not sure Voltaire acknowledged much of a difference. He probably liked himself a little more than he liked the world--though he liked both well enough. But yes, he would have laughed.
    As Carlyle would say and Voltaire would agree: If Voltaire didnt exist, we would have to invent him.

    The aspect I saw as vaguely comical (but also sinister) was that the devil is described as a "poor relation" in a dumpy, threadbare suit--turning up even though he's not welcome. How one wishes that he was not in the family at all! But there he is.
    Yeah, Dostoievisky exagerates some aspects of the characters, when he wants to expose and build some criticism towards those elements (something he probally learnt from dickens charactatures) and I think it is where his sarcasm is stronger. Ivan is too rational, dimitri is too pathetic, Aliocha is too good.. I recall a scene from Notes from Underground (if you dodnt read, do not worry, it is not really a spoiler as there is no real plot in the book) , where the main character "plans" his revenge against some characters, random people he usually see in the street, and it is basicallly bumping on them or ignoring them. Without humor the whole thing would be sound ridiculous, with humor it is a sharp critic.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    I worded it badly. It was not my intention to suggest writers of XVIII century have no social notion or their own difficulties, but it is a bit like, a XVIII writer if got wings, would probally fly away and wonder how far he would go. One from XIX century would start wondering if he would forget how to walk if he started to fly a lot. Voltaire maybe would complain the wings are too heavy...
    Well put. But I think 18th century elites would have flown into the sky to get away from the urban poor, while the 19th century ones would have swooped down to weep tears on them (while still enslaving them in nightmarish wing factories). In the 20th century they would have used the wings to bomb cities. And in the 21st century they would deconstruct the wings by pulling the feathers out. Anyway, I see what you mean. I think Enlightenment intellectuals got a little giddy when Hume assured them artillery technology was going to make war more humane. But by the 19th century, Napoleon had arrived.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Have you read Chesterton Biografy about Dickens? Chesterton is always pleasant to read and he kind off create a Dickens that moved by his experiences with povertry started to desire this to not be true to anyone, so he wanted to create hope. Basically, he (with way better eloquence) equates Dickens capacity to represent humanity and the empathy he provokes with goodness. Certainly, there is a big moral factor in Dickens works, even tale of two cities...
    No, I haven't read it. I usually think of Dickens as a frightened, somewhat tortured figured. He wanted to be a moralist and to champion the common man, but he was deeply ashamed of his family's shabby background, he famously married the wrong woman, and he may not have been a very faithful husband to her. To me, Dickens always seems to be hiding something dirty behind his judgmental morality. But as an English wordsmith and creator of vivid, eccentric characters he is almost without equal. He is, you know, Dickens.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Yeah, Dostoievisky exagerates some aspects of the characters, when he wants to expose and build some criticism towards those elements (something he probally learnt from dickens charactatures) and I think it is where his sarcasm is stronger. Ivan is too rational, dimitri is too pathetic, Aliocha is too good.. I recall a scene from Notes from Underground (if you dodnt read, do not worry, it is not really a spoiler as there is no real plot in the book) , where the main character "plans" his revenge against some characters, random people he usually see in the street, and it is basicallly bumping on them or ignoring them. Without humor the whole thing would be sound ridiculous, with humor it is a sharp critic.
    One of the reasons I prefer Dostoyevsky to Dickens is that his over-the-top characters are more believable--sometimes frighteningly so. How many Raskolnikovs did you have to suffer through as an undergraduate? (Well, hopefully not as bloodthirsty but each convinced he was the superman just the same). I read a NYT review recently claiming Alyosha was the least interesting of the Karamazovs. I don't agree--nor do I think he was "too good." What made Alyosha interesting and human was that by the end of the story he didn't know what to do. Understanding what people are, he didn't know how to go forward. But he did--as if going forward in faith alone was an act of courage. That is an experience I am not unfamiliar with (let's just leave it at that). Even Prince Myshkin, who seems like MisterRogers on steroids (sorry Gladys) could not be reconciled to the flawed world--and this could be interpreted as his one great flaw. Being flawed makes him human--and suddenly believable. Dickens characters are just as remarkable but, for me, less believable. Everyone knows Ebenezer Scrooge, but no one has ever really met him. But if you want to find the latest Raskolnikov, just look at the news.

    Oh, by the way, I've started Dead Souls. It already has me laughing. I'll tell you more about it tomorrow.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 11-19-2017 at 06:15 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Well put. But I think 18th century elites would have flown into the sky to get away from the urban poor, while the 19th century ones would have swooped down to weep tears on them (while still enslaving them in nightmarish wing factories). In the 20th century they would have used the wings to bomb cities. And in the 21st century they would deconstruct the wings by pulling the feathers out. Anyway, I see what you mean. I think Enlightenment intellectuals got a little giddy when Hume assured them artillery technology was going to make war more humane. But by the 19th century, Napoleon had arrived.
    Of course, war was always very humane. I believe XXI century would try to use wings to swin, drown and claim the result was irrelevant, what mattered was the inovation.



    No, I haven't read it. I usually think of Dickens as a frightened, somewhat tortured figured. He wanted to be a moralist and to champion the common man, but he was deeply ashamed of his family's shabby background, he famously married the wrong woman, and he may not have been a very faithful husband to her. To me, Dickens always seems to be hiding something dirty behind his judgmental morality. But as an English wordsmith and creator of vivid, eccentric characters he is almost without equal. He is, you know, Dickens.
    It is always a worth read, because Chesterton is always great with words and he paints a very lively Dickens (reminded me Carlyle painting of his Heroes, I am not sure if Chesterton would be too happy with the comparassion), without playing too much in deep psychological analyses. However, it is interesting how he is keen about the works and Dickens artistic merit.


    One of the reasons I prefer Dostoyevsky to Dickens is that his over-the-top characters are more believable--sometimes frighteningly so. How many Raskolnikovs did you have to suffer through as an undergraduate? (Well, hopefully not as bloodthirsty but each convinced he was the superman just the same). I read a NYT review recently claiming Alyosha was the least interesting of the Karamazovs. I don't agree--nor do I think he was "too good." What made Alyosha interesting and human was that by the end of the story he didn't know what to do. Understanding what people are, he didn't know how to go forward. But he did--as if going forward in faith alone was an act of courage. That is an experience I am not unfamiliar with (let's just leave it at that). Even Prince Myshkin, who seems like MisterRogers on steroids (sorry Gladys) could not be reconciled to the flawed world--and this could be interpreted as his one great flaw. Being flawed makes him human--and suddenly believable. Dickens characters are just as remarkable but, for me, less believable. Everyone knows Ebenezer Scrooge, but no one has ever really met him. But if you want to find the latest Raskolnikov, just look at the news.
    Funny, I have seen many critics saying that the reason of Dickens populalirty is that his characters could be found in any corner by anyone reading his works (which may not mean his characters are more real, just that the readers are godo enough to understand his language, as it is possible a reader finds from Cinderella to Leopold Bloom in real life). But well, Dickens try to please a bit too much, Dostoievisky is a bit mean with the reader and his characters. And maybe... Characters for Dickens are like emotion and a function. They all have their social places, functions, addresses, while in Dostoievisky they are in first place ideas and somehow, their emotion is a bit of dialect. I guess each will have a more "real" feeling according the reader. I have enjoyed more reading Dostoievisky than Dickens, but that is me.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Of course, war was always very humane. I believe XXI century would try to use wings to swin, drown and claim the result was irrelevant, what mattered was the inovation.
    I looked for the Hume quote, which is somewhere in his (vast) History of England, but I couldn't find it. But he actually did speculate on how advancements in military technology were going to make war so much nicer. Dumbest thing he ever said.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Funny, I have seen many critics saying that the reason of Dickens populalirty is that his characters could be found in any corner by anyone reading his works (which may not mean his characters are more real, just that the readers are godo enough to understand his language, as it is possible a reader finds from Cinderella to Leopold Bloom in real life). But well, Dickens try to please a bit too much, Dostoievisky is a bit mean with the reader and his characters. And maybe... Characters for Dickens are like emotion and a function. They all have their social places, functions, addresses, while in Dostoievisky they are in first place ideas and somehow, their emotion is a bit of dialect. I guess each will have a more "real" feeling according the reader. I have enjoyed more reading Dostoievisky than Dickens, but that is me.
    His characters certainly strike a nerve, but I suspect that comes from an emotional recognition rather than a rational one (how exactly did Miss Havisham get her groceries? She doesn't seem to have any servants). Yet on an emotional (or even dream-like) level, she is one of the "realest" characters in literature. So I think you are right when you say "Characters for Dickens are like emotion and a function." For Dostoyevsky they are more intellectual--not ideas per se, but possessors of more complex psychologies. That's what makes them convincing to me.

    On another topic, I started Dead Souls last night. I love Gogol's nasty, sarcastic humor. I find him very different than Fielding, whose humor, however earthy, has more warmth. There is also a kind joie de vivre in most of Tom Jones' exploits, while there is none I can find in Chichikov's experiences in the Russian boonies. I need to read more, of course, but for now I'm inclined to doubt there was much influence. I did notice what looked like a Homeric metaphor at first. Chichikov is entering a brightly lit party full of men in black suits. Gogol says:

    "Everything seemed suffused with light, and everywhere, flitting and flashing, were to be seen black coats—even as on a hot summer's day flies revolve around a sugar loaf while the old housekeeper is cutting it into cubes before the open window, and the children of the house crowd around her to watch the movements of her rugged hands as those members ply the smoking pestle;"

    Now that's a Homeric metaphor as far as it goes. The comparison image overreaches the thing to which it is being compared. Fielding uses them, so it might have been evidence of influence. The problem is that Gogol continues the metaphor after the semicolon and brings the comparison back to the bright lights, party, and black suits:

    "and airy squadrons of flies, borne on the breeze, enter boldly, as though free of the house, and, taking advantage of the fact that the glare of the sunshine is troubling the old lady's sight, disperse themselves over broken and unbroken fragments alike, even though the lethargy induced by the opulence of summer and the rich shower of dainties to be encountered at every step has induced them to enter less for the purpose of eating than for that of showing themselves in public, of parading up and down the sugar loaf, of rubbing both their hindquarters and their fore against one another, of cleaning their bodies under the wings, of extending their forelegs over their heads and grooming themselves, and of flying out of the window again to return with other predatory squadrons."

    The figure of speech is brilliant if disgusting (after reading it, I decided I was going to like Gogol ), but it does break covenant with the Homeric metaphor and probably has nothing to do with Fielding. In fact, it reminds me a little of that magnificent chapter in War and Peace in which the abandoned city of Moscow is compared to a bee hive after the loss of its queen--the metaphor lasts the entire chapter and is the chapter. Gogol does not go to that extent, but I wonder if extended metaphors were typical of other Russian prose.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 11-20-2017 at 10:50 AM.
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    Accidentally, this was published yesterday:

    http://existentialcomics.com/comic/212

    His characters certainly strike a nerve, but I suspect that comes from an emotional recognition rather than a rational one (how exactly did Miss Havisham get her groceries? She doesn't seem to have any servants). Yet on an emotional (or even dream-like) level, she is one of the "realest" characters in literature. So I think you are right when you say "Characters for Dickens are like emotion and a function." For Dostoyevsky they are more intellectual--not ideas per se, but possessors of more complex psychologies. That's what makes them convincing to me.
    I think with Dostoievisky each character (at least the main characters) work in function of the ideas dialect Dostoievisky proposes. Not sure if we call them Intellectual, for example, being an Intellectual is a distinct trait of Ivan, but if we apply this to Dimitri, it will sound odd. I am not sure if this is a case of more complex psychology, perhaps a good for Crime and Punishment that examines guilty, but works so well for Myshkin? And sometimes Dickens seems to represent all this quite well, as bland as she is, Madame Defarge is somehow complex. But then, Tale may be a not conventional Dickens. Somehow, I think Dickens draws maps, so everything is clear, Dostoievisky leaves the suggestion of something unseen behind every character, giving a bigger impression of depth, but we never now how swallow is this unseen thing. I suppose this is effect of his admiration for Jesus as character.

    On another topic, I started Dead Souls last night. I love Gogol's nasty, sarcastic humor. I find him very different than Fielding, whose humor, however earthy, has more warmth. There is also a kind joie de vivre in most of Tom Jones' exploits, while there is none I can find in Chichikov's experiences in the Russian boonies. I need to read more, of course, but for now I'm inclined to doubt there was much influence. I did notice what looked like a Homeric metaphor at first. Chichikov is entering a brightly lit party full of men in black suits. Gogol says:
    I am not sure if we can see the references with the humor style. Voltaire and Cervantes are huge influences on Dostoievisky, but his humor is nothing like theirs. Some suggest the influence was indirect, from french translations, and many french translations changed the style of Fielding a bit, it was less light because they saw some of the humor as something naive... you know, the whole Charles vs.Artur thing....

    Since I do not read french or russian, I have no opinion on those discussions, but I would make more sense to have more influence coming from france than from england.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Accidentally, this was published yesterday:

    http://existentialcomics.com/comic/212
    Yes, exactly. Accidentally.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    I think with Dostoievisky each character (at least the main characters) work in function of the ideas dialect Dostoievisky proposes. Not sure if we call them Intellectual, for example, being an Intellectual is a distinct trait of Ivan, but if we apply this to Dimitri, it will sound odd. I am not sure if this is a case of more complex psychology, perhaps a good for Crime and Punishment that examines guilty, but works so well for Myshkin? And sometimes Dickens seems to represent all this quite well, as bland as she is, Madame Defarge is somehow complex. But then, Tale may be a not conventional Dickens.
    No, I didn't mean the characters themselves were intellectuals, but that the connection between reader and character is more intellectual in Dostoyevsky and more emotional in Dickens. Dr Allan Woodcourt is presumably an intellectual, but the reader only cares that he is Esther Summerson's Mr Right. Dimitri Karamazov is passion personified, but Dostoyevsky let's us see the inner workings of his psyche. The comparison with Dickens is general, of course. The ghost of Christmas past sees to it that Scrooge gets more psychological background than most Dickens characters (and Miss Havisham has some, too), but it seems to me that Dostoyevsky's characters have more complex psychologies, even the relatively minor ones (think of all the head cases in The Possessed).

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Somehow, I think Dickens draws maps, so everything is clear, Dostoievisky leaves the suggestion of something unseen behind every character, giving a bigger impression of depth, but we never now how swallow is this unseen thing. I suppose this is effect of his admiration for Jesus as character.
    Your comment about Jesus is intriguing, but I'm not sure I understand it. Are you talking about Prince Myshkin or making a more general statement about Dostoyevsky's view of Jesus? I find Myshkin a remarkable character because he ought to be unbelievable but he isn't. If he had been a Dickens character, I imagine he would have been unlikely (although memorable and emotionally affecting). But Dostoyevsky is able to gives us a window even into his mind. That and Myshkin's "flaws" in relation to the real world (and ultimately--SPOILER--his failure to save Nastasya Filipovna) make him all too human and--for me, anyway--a more believable character than any of Dickens'. But maybe you meant something else.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    I am not sure if we can see the references with the humor style. Voltaire and Cervantes are huge influences on Dostoievisky, but his humor is nothing like theirs. Some suggest the influence was indirect, from french translations, and many french translations changed the style of Fielding a bit, it was less light because they saw some of the humor as something naive... you know, the whole Charles vs.Artur thing....

    Since I do not read french or russian, I have no opinion on those discussions, but I would make more sense to have more influence coming from france than from england.
    Well, if it's exclusively a philological issue, then obviously we will have to stand back. But as I read on, I thought I could see some of what the theorists meant in a literary terms. Some of the working class characters (Selifan the coach driver, for example) are right out of Fielding, as is the following:

    "Finally he decided to extend his visits beyond the urban boundaries by going and calling upon landowners Manilov and Sobakevitch, seeing that he had promised on his honour to do so. Yet what really incited him to this may have been a more essential cause, a matter of greater gravity, a purpose which stood nearer to his heart, than the motive which I have just given; and of that purpose the reader will learn if only he will have the patience to read this prefatory narrative (which, lengthy though it be, may yet develop and expand in proportion as we approach the denouement with which the present work is destined to be crowned)."

    That and similar passages have me thinking of Gogol as the Russian Henry Fielding, but I remain skeptical (philological arguments aside) about a direct literary relationship. In the end, I think, Gogol was Gogol and possessed of his own vision and style. I wish I'd read him earlier--he's hilarious.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    No, I didn't mean the characters themselves were intellectuals, but that the connection between reader and character is more intellectual in Dostoyevsky and more emotional in Dickens. Dr Allan Woodcourt is presumably an intellectual, but the reader only cares that he is Esther Summerson's Mr Right. Dimitri Karamazov is passion personified, but Dostoyevsky let's us see the inner workings of his psyche. The comparison with Dickens is general, of course. The ghost of Christmas past sees to it that Scrooge gets more psychological background than most Dickens characters (and Miss Havisham has some, too), but it seems to me that Dostoyevsky's characters have more complex psychologies, even the relatively minor ones (think of all the head cases in The Possessed).
    Of course, there is an inherent complexity to Dostoievisky's work because the whole idea of poliphony, but I think that is also a way he showed the interactions of the characters. Dostoievisky was a bit in love with the whole concept of duality, so even when he is not doing the game of two characters who are the exactly oposite of others (as you mentioned aboyt Myshkin and his devil), he likes to show the conflicts (one of the motives Brothers K is, imo, his best work is exactly because he increases the conflicts with 3 brothers and one father), but I am not sure if this is a psychological complexity exactly. Dickens, with his well defined moral extremes creates less gray areas (there is some of course, but often he does not cause this conflict of ideas, rather move the individual character, like Scrooge, for the moral spectrum, jumping from one side to another when the story required it. But I guess, that is a bit of the difference between using a tragic character and a comic character).



    Your comment about Jesus is intriguing, but I'm not sure I understand it. Are you talking about Prince Myshkin or making a more general statement about Dostoyevsky's view of Jesus? I find Myshkin a remarkable character because he ought to be unbelievable but he isn't. If he had been a Dickens character, I imagine he would have been unlikely (although memorable and emotionally affecting). But Dostoyevsky is able to gives us a window even into his mind. That and Myshkin's "flaws" in relation to the real world (and ultimately--SPOILER--his failure to save Nastasya Filipovna) make him all too human and--for me, anyway--a more believable character than any of Dickens'. But maybe you meant something else.
    Well, Dostoievisky saw Jesus and Quixote as the best/perfect literary characters. Less about the obvious relaiton between them with Myshkin, he saw those two characters attitudes and dialogue showed their motivations and will to change the world without making them plain obvious and unbelievable. Their dynamic with other characters gave away the complexity of the ideas they expressed. As such, he expressed the desire to build his characters with this consistency, and still be able to show the doubts of the character (such as Jesus at getsami) without giving away the character traits.

    Well, if it's exclusively a philological issue, then obviously we will have to stand back. But as I read on, I thought I could see some of what the theorists meant in a literary terms. Some of the working class characters (Selifan the coach driver, for example) are right out of Fielding, as is the following:

    "Finally he decided to extend his visits beyond the urban boundaries by going and calling upon landowners Manilov and Sobakevitch, seeing that he had promised on his honour to do so. Yet what really incited him to this may have been a more essential cause, a matter of greater gravity, a purpose which stood nearer to his heart, than the motive which I have just given; and of that purpose the reader will learn if only he will have the patience to read this prefatory narrative (which, lengthy though it be, may yet develop and expand in proportion as we approach the denouement with which the present work is destined to be crowned)."

    That and similar passages have me thinking of Gogol as the Russian Henry Fielding, but I remain skeptical (philological arguments aside) about a direct literary relationship. In the end, I think, Gogol was Gogol and possessed of his own vision and style. I wish I'd read him earlier--he's hilarious.
    Well, of them have their own style, even Nabokov believed Dostoievisky was only a Gogol's hack. I think the major difficulty about the influences among novelists is that we have a collection of authors with great importance for the genre developed, but of course, inside each language it was needed an adaptation because in the end, it was a considerable change from the previous tradition of every culture. I think poetry, with forms, metrics, etc left a more clear fingertips (a meter being used here, a entire verse adapted there, etc), while prose was something more fluid, that could be break in several chapters. Anyways, I think the western cult of Dostoievisky and Tolstoy have done a damage to us that is often the neglect of Gogol and Pushkin, both great writers, as good as the other two.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Of course, there is an inherent complexity to Dostoievisky's work because the whole idea of poliphony, but I think that is also a way he showed the interactions of the characters. Dostoievisky was a bit in love with the whole concept of duality, so even when he is not doing the game of two characters who are the exactly oposite of others (as you mentioned aboyt Myshkin and his devil), he likes to show the conflicts (one of the motives Brothers K is, imo, his best work is exactly because he increases the conflicts with 3 brothers and one father), but I am not sure if this is a psychological complexity exactly.
    Ah, four brothers! Don't forget about Smerdyakov. Fyodor did and it cost him.

    Yes, I see what you mean about multiple conflicts. But I also also find Dostoyevsky describing the idiosyncratic thought processes of his characters in great detail, while Dickens often just paints them a certain way. Why is Flora Finching the way she is? Who knows--she's just like that. Why is Stepan Trofimovitch Verkhovensky the way he is? Sit down and I'll tell you--hope you're not in a hurry. Yet Flora is an AWESOME character. I can hardly think about her without laughing (and to be perfectly honest: yes, I knew that lady once).

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Dickens, with his well defined moral extremes creates less gray areas (there is some of course, but often he does not cause this conflict of ideas, rather move the individual character, like Scrooge, for the moral spectrum, jumping from one side to another when the story required it. But I guess, that is a bit of the difference between using a tragic character and a comic character).
    Dickens was also probably trying to show a St Paul-ish conversion to what would have been thought of as "good Christian virtues" by most of his readers. But it seems to me that mobility of characters within a story ("jumping from one side to another" as you say) requires more artistic skill with psychologically complex (or at least detailed) characters than with memorably painted ones. Perhaps we disagree, but this is how I see it (CRIME AND PUNISHMENT SPOILER): when Raskolnikov in Siberia looks at Sonya by the river bank and feels a surge of love go through his entire being and understands for the first time who he is, and what he's done, and that he has time to serve--it's real. It made me cry. When Ebenezer Scrooge tosses open his window on Christmas morning and sees a world made new, I cry, too. But that's, you know, Christmas morning.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Well, Dostoievisky saw Jesus and Quixote as the best/perfect literary characters. Less about the obvious relaiton between them with Myshkin, he saw those two characters attitudes and dialogue showed their motivations and will to change the world without making them plain obvious and unbelievable. Their dynamic with other characters gave away the complexity of the ideas they expressed. As such, he expressed the desire to build his characters with this consistency, and still be able to show the doubts of the character (such as Jesus at getsami) without giving away the character traits.
    Thank you for that explanation. Yes, Dostoyevsky was masterful in the way he revealed the complexity of his characters through small incident (and large as well). Do you know the (surely spurious) remark Stalin is supposed to have made about him: No man ever understood the depths of the human soul like Fyodor Dostoyevsky--and that's why we ban him. Heh.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Well, of them have their own style, even Nabokov believed Dostoievisky was only a Gogol's hack. I think the major difficulty about the influences among novelists is that we have a collection of authors with great importance for the genre developed, but of course, inside each language it was needed an adaptation because in the end, it was a considerable change from the previous tradition of every culture. I think poetry, with forms, metrics, etc left a more clear fingertips (a meter being used here, a entire verse adapted there, etc), while prose was something more fluid, that could be break in several chapters. Anyways, I think the western cult of Dostoievisky and Tolstoy have done a damage to us that is often the neglect of Gogol and Pushkin, both great writers, as good as the other two.
    How do you feel about Turgenev? I've heard he's Dostoyevsky without the religious baggage. My problem is I like the religious baggage, being somewhat in love with dualism myself. Don't tell my wife though--she's all good.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 11-28-2017 at 03:40 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Ah, four brothers! Don't forget about Smerdyakov. Fyodor did and it cost him.

    Yes, I see what you mean about multiple conflicts. But I also also find Dostoyevsky describing the idiosyncratic thought processes of his characters in great detail, while Dickens often just paints them a certain way. Why is Flora Finch the way she is? Who knows--she's just like that. Why is Stepan Trofimovitch Verkhovensky the way he is? Sit down and I'll tell you--hope you're not in a hurry. Yet Flora is an AWESOME character. I can hardly think about her without laughing (and to be perfectly honest: yes, I knew that lady once).
    Well, that is whole psichological deep, etc. But I think they have different objectives with their novels and some of this may be behind Walter Benjamin ramble in The Stotyteller (a very interesting read, if you never saw it).



    Dickens was also probably trying to show a St Paul-ish conversion to what would have been thought of as "good Christian virtues" by most of his readers. But it seems to me that mobility of characters within a story ("jumping from one side to another" as you say) requires more artistic skill with psychologically complex (or at least detailed) characters than with memorably painted ones. Perhaps we disagree, but this is how I see it (CRIME AND PUNISHMENT SPOILER): when Raskolnikov in Siberia looks at Sonya by the river bank and feels a surge of love go through his entire being and understands for the first time who he is, and what he's done, and that he has time to serve--it's real. It made me cry. When Ebenezer Scrooge tosses open his window on Christmas morning and sees a world made new, I cry, too. But that's, you know, Christmas morning.
    I am not sure about more artistic skill. I think Comedy is hard as hell, but maybe, just maybe, the old classical classification, tragedy being subject to sublime, comedy to the popular, would not be so far fetched if we compare those two.


    Thank you for that explanation. Yes, Dostoyevsky was masterful in the way he revealed the complexity of his characters through small incident (and large as well). Do you know the (surely spurious) remark Stalin is supposed to have made about him: No man ever understood the depths of the human soul like Fyodor Dostoyevsky--and that's why we ban him. Heh.
    Well, Dostoievisky, Tolstoy, cia were in a dark place during the revolution days, they were too linked with the czars and such. Dunno how Gogol influence would come to this (you know Dostoievisky wasn't see by his peers as such artistic dude, but pretty much a popular hack).


    How do you feel about Turgenev? I've heard he's Dostoyevsky without the religious baggage. My problem is I like the religious baggage, being somewhat in love with dualism myself. Don't tell my wife though--she's all good.
    Turgenev of all the big XIX century russians is the only one that i have read only a tale or two. Pretty much by chance, my father had no books by him at home and last years I am not so keen on XIX novels... So Turgenev is a bit out of my radar.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Well, that is whole psichological deep, etc. But I think they have different objectives with their novels and some of this may be behind Walter Benjamin ramble in The Stotyteller (a very interesting read, if you never saw it).
    I haven't read it, but I just found this audio interview with his translators. Definitely worth checking out:

    https://archive.org/details/WalterBe...TheStoryteller

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    I am not sure about more artistic skill. I think Comedy is hard as hell, but maybe, just maybe, the old classical classification, tragedy being subject to sublime, comedy to the popular, would not be so far fetched if we compare those two.
    Hmmmm. Okay, A Christmas Carol is a comic novel, I'll give you that. It could have been a tragedy about an old miser whose money could not keep him out hell, but it was not (and in fact some of Scrooge's remarks to the ghosts haunting him are quite funny). But I am going to play the debater with you on Crime and Punishment (understanding of course that I'll respect your opinion even if we disagree). Didn't you suggest to me (on November 19, 2017) that Dostoyevsky had a "very cynical" sense of humor? I said at the time that that made sense for Raskolnikov, and on reflection, I can see that Lushin, Dunya's suitor is clearly an object of satire. So, of course, is Scrooge.

    That doesn't make Crime and Punishment a comedy, but neither is it a tragedy in any literary sense. It would have been one if the pawnbroker had been the main character (killed in the end by her own mendacity); or if Raskolnikov had been shot dead in a sewer (a la Harry Lime) like the rat he had become. But that's not what happened. (SPOILER ALERT). Instead, Raskolnikov was changed by love. It's too late, of course, for the pawnbroker and her sister. Raskolnikov can do nothing about his crimes but serve his time--that's the point. But he is far from a tragic hero/antihero). Like Scrooge, Raskolnikov manages to see the world afresh--and in doing so, he extricate himself from hell.

    That being the case, Dickens doesn't get a pass from me because tragedy is subject to the sublime and comedy to the popular. Crime and Punishment is not comedy, but it has elements of satire and is clearly not a tragedy. That is also the case for many/most of Dickens' novels (A Christmas Carol being rather atypical). Certainly Dickens and Dostoyevsky had different objectives--but that could be said of most novelists. And certainly both produced extraordinary characters. For me, Dostoyevsky's are more realistic and psychologically complex while Dickens' succeed best as unforgettable renderings and caricatures. As they say in the American South: your mileage may differ.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Well, Dostoievisky, Tolstoy, cia were in a dark place during the revolution days, they were too linked with the czars and such.
    I need to understand the period better, but for the life of me I can't understand how Dostoyevsky was linked with the Czars (although it is Bolshevik paranoia and not your remark that mystifies me). Hadn't he been arrested and literally set before a firing squad for discussing authors critical of the Czarist government? Hadn't he served four years in a prison camp (and a mine?) in Siberia and another six in compulsory military service as commutation? I may be missing something, but I think there is a kind of truth in the spurious Stalin quote. The Bolsheviks didn't need psychological insight. They needed slogans, icons, and compliant mindlessness. They weren't going to get that from Dostoyevsky. I imagine that was the extent of their quarrel. That and his religion.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Dunno how Gogol influence would come to this (you know Dostoievisky wasn't see by his peers as such artistic dude, but pretty much a popular hack).
    He lasted. I wonder how many of them did?

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Turgenev of all the big XIX century russians is the only one that i have read only a tale or two. Pretty much by chance, my father had no books by him at home and last years I am not so keen on XIX novels... So Turgenev is a bit out of my radar.
    It's interesting that your father had none of his books (and wonderful that he had so many others--what a gift to a son!). I may have it wrong, but I think Turgenev was neglected in the West for much of the 20th century and has only recently come into vogue. There was also some sort of scandal in Turgenev's life--an act of cowardice of some kind. But I am hazy on what happened and I don't know if it ever affected his literary success. I wish I knew more about him. Maybe I'll toss a couple of his works on my 2018 reading list.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 11-28-2017 at 09:16 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    I haven't read it, but I just found this audio interview with his translators. Definitely worth checking out:

    https://archive.org/details/WalterBe...TheStoryteller
    His essays are quite good, pretty much responsable for the first swift of perfection towards Kafka, but he has also great stuff about Baudelaire and most of the "failures" of modernism.

    Hmmmm. Okay, A Christmas Carol is a comic novel, I'll give you that. It could have been a tragedy about an old miser whose money could not keep him out hell, but it was not (and in fact some of Scrooge's remarks to the ghosts haunting him are quite funny). But I am going to play the debater with you on Crime and Punishment (understanding of course that I'll respect your opinion even if we disagree). Didn't you suggest to me (on November 19, 2017) that Dostoyevsky had a "very cynical" sense of humor? I said at the time that that made sense for Raskolnikov, and on reflection, I can see that Lushin, Dunya's suitor is clearly an object of satire. So, of course, is Scrooge.

    That doesn't make Crime and Punishment a comedy, but neither is it a tragedy in any literary sense. It would have been one if the pawnbroker had been the main character (killed in the end by her own mendacity); or if Raskolnikov had been shot dead in a sewer (a la Harry Lime) like the rat he had become. But that's not what happened. (SPOILER ALERT). Instead, Raskolnikov was changed by love. It's too late, of course, for the pawnbroker and her sister. Raskolnikov can do nothing about his crimes but serve his time--that's the point. But he is far from a tragic hero/antihero). Like Scrooge, Raskolnikov manages to see the world afresh--and in doing so, he extricate himself from hell.

    That being the case, Dickens doesn't get a pass from me because tragedy is subject to the sublime and comedy to the popular. Crime and Punishment is not comedy, but it has elements of satire and is clearly not a tragedy. That is also the case for many/most of Dickens' novels (A Christmas Carol being rather atypical). Certainly Dickens and Dostoyevsky had different objectives--but that could be said of most novelists. And certainly both produced extraordinary characters. For me, Dostoyevsky's are more realistic and psychologically complex while Dickens' succeed best as unforgettable renderings and caricatures. As they say in the American South: your mileage may differ.
    My fault for throwing that idea and not developing anything about it. Yeah, of course that even Dickens Comedy is not the same as a classical Comedy, after all Gospels, Dante, Cervantes, Shakespeare, etc. happened and changed for good the definitions and of course, blurred a lot of the lines between Comedy and Tragedy. But still there is something in the way they treat their characters that seems to play that part, Dostoievisky wasnt writting a comedy or a tragedy. His characters are not heroic (Myshkin, as example, has the noble qualities of a hero, but his story is hardly the story of a Hero, and of course, Dostoievisky characters are too mundane, perhaps too humane to be heroes in the old sense), but all his characters seems to live (with prompts so many comparassion with Shakespeare, and sure, many of those XIX novelists seemed to love turn their novels in a stage) in a drama, how he approaches and explores their conflicts, emotions, etc. seems to walk towards this direction. While Dickens still works his characters inside a scheme, inside sittuations as if the conflict is less about the "human vs.human", but "society vs.human". I would suggest that this is not about artistic merit exactly, but an option of what is the fuction of those characters. It would be easier if we had someone who could easily move from one style to another, but I guess that is asking a bit too much (I believe Flaubert tried a bit with this, but I am not sure how to classify Flaubert success or failure), but the best character of Dostoievisky would be unsuitable for a Dickens novel as much as the best of Dickens would be awkward in a Dostoievisky novel.



    I need to understand the period better, but for the life of me I can't understand how Dostoyevsky was linked with the Czars (although it is Bolshevik paranoia and not your remark that mystifies me). Hadn't he been arrested and literally set before a firing squad for discussing authors critical of the Czarist government? Hadn't he served four years in a prison camp (and a mine?) in Siberia and another six in compulsory military service as commutation? I may be missing something, but I think there is a kind of truth in the spurious Stalin quote. The Bolsheviks didn't need psychological insight. They needed slogans, icons, and compliant mindlessness. They weren't going to get that from Dostoyevsky. I imagine that was the extent of their quarrel. That and his religion.
    At first, the Bolcheviks shunned away the author from the Czar time (Tolstoy, who was also a noble, so, go figure, Dostoievisky, Chekhov, Gogol, etc.) in an attemp to build up a new identidy. It didnt help much that the pre-revolution generation (with great poets, Mayakovisky, Akhamatova, etc.) were more left-wing and saw the those authors - even those with a more socialist view - as something outdated from an ancient russia. It was the basic old, lets build something new, lets combat the old. Dostoievisky was also seen as a popular author, but "swallow" (funny enough, the view they had of him was similar of the view Dickens had before the XX century critical review recognized Dickens as not just another Eugene Sue or something), and the new authors needed to had some engagement. Futhermore, Dostoievisky religiousity also played against him. Now you must remember, that Dostoievisky was arrested and all, but since he was released he adopted a more critical approach towards radical movements and was critical of socialism (albeit, it is hard to claim he was critical of Socialism per si and not the socialist groups), and some saw that as him licking boots of the system. Fact is, while he could be suggesting that all humankind could be united in some kind of brotherhood, he was not suggesting it to happen as a political-economic reform, but from a moral point of view, many times almost a "social-christian" version. You may imagine how this didnt sounded all too well for the revolutionaries (of course, there was dissident opinions and the development of literary critic in Russia, plus the awareness of Dostoievisky/Tolstoy popularity in west, kind changed their importance for the system, etc).

    He lasted. I wonder how many of them did?
    Well, some of those critics are well alive, after all this include Tolstoy and Chekov (Albeit, it seems that the count was deeply touched by the humanity in Dostoievisky books, but regreted that he couldn't take a bit more care with the language he used. But then, he was quite a demanding critic, that couldn't spare even Shakespeare )



    It's interesting that your father had none of his books (and wonderful that he had so many others--what a gift to a son!). I may have it wrong, but I think Turgenev was neglected in the West for much of the 20th century and has only recently come into vogue. There was also some sort of scandal in Turgenev's life--an act of cowardice of some kind. But I am hazy on what happened and I don't know if it ever affected his literary success. I wish I knew more about him. Maybe I'll toss a couple of his works on my 2018 reading list.
    It was just an accident. He used to buy those "collections" of classical works that were released monthly and missed Fathers and Sons. Turgeniev is believe is victiom of Dostolstoyevisk. The whole west discovered russian literature by those two, you can see how they are way more popular and how even Gogol and Pushkin are a bit neglected. I have see many people think of the duo as the most popular authors of russian, etc when Pushkin is as popular as Tolstoy and it is between them the real "greatest russian author" discussion in Russia. There, Dostoievisky popularity is nowhere like it is for us (which make me suspect the critics about Dostoievisky language to have a hint of truth and we in the west have no way to know about it). It is no different from People who think that all Siglo de Oro from Spain to be about Cervantes and ignore Lope de Vega, San Juan de La Cruz, Quevedo, etc.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    But still there is something in the way they treat their characters that seems to play that part, Dostoievisky wasnt writting a comedy or a tragedy. His characters are not heroic (Myshkin, as example, has the noble qualities of a hero, but his story is hardly the story of a Hero, and of course, Dostoievisky characters are too mundane, perhaps too humane to be heroes in the old sense),
    I'm not sure what to say about Myshkin. I suppose he could be seen as a tragic hero with (SPOILER) his reversion to idiocy a kind of living death. In other words, the novel could be taken as a comment on the Gospel narrative; that rather than a moment of triumph, the departure of Christ indicated humankind's inevitable alienation from God. Or perhaps Myshkin's relapse was a return to perfect innocence. Perhaps that is what humanity is alienated from. I'm not sure.

    Gladys, would you come back please and tell me I'm being thick again.

    Oh, and did you mean Dostoyevsky's characters were too human or too humane to be like the ancient heroes? You said humane but I think you meant human. If so, it is an insightful comment about the none-too-humane Raskolnikov, whose problem is that he thinks he is the superman. His redemption comes in the moment he discovers that he is guilty, human, and as capable of love as anyone else. Myshkin is also human, but rather than a redeeming factor, it seems more like a fatal flaw. Dostoyevsky's Christianity (and all Nicene Orthodoxy) insists that Jesus Christ was fully human and fully divine. Did Myshkin's human nature mean he was destined to fail? Was that his tragedy? Is it ours?

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    I would suggest that this is not about artistic merit exactly, but an option of what is the fuction of those characters. It would be easier if we had someone who could easily move from one style to another, but I guess that is asking a bit too much (I believe Flaubert tried a bit with this, but I am not sure how to classify Flaubert success or failure), but the best character of Dostoievisky would be unsuitable for a Dickens novel as much as the best of Dickens would be awkward in a Dostoievisky novel.
    Hmmm. I can't imagine Dickens being up to Myshkin, Raskolnikov, or any of the brothers K. They would all have become cartoons. Dostoyevsky might have done some interesting things with Oliver Twist and the Artful Dodger, but the result wouldn't have ended up looking anything like Dickens' novel. Maybe we are talking about apples and oranges after all.

    Okay, let's split the difference and call it personal preference. I prefer the way Dostoyevsky handles his characters. You have said you prefer reading Dostoyevsky to Dickens. Me too, but I can't fault Dickens as a writer for that. I don't read Russian so I have no direct way to compare their prose. And God knows Dickens was an English wordsmith. Very well. Good luck, Chuck; I adore Fyodor. That'll have to do it.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    At first, the Bolcheviks shunned away the author from the Czar time (Tolstoy, who was also a noble, so, go figure, Dostoievisky, Chekhov, Gogol, etc.) in an attemp to build up a new identidy. It didnt help much that the pre-revolution generation (with great poets, Mayakovisky, Akhamatova, etc.) were more left-wing and saw the those authors - even those with a more socialist view - as something outdated from an ancient russia. It was the basic old, lets build something new, lets combat the old.
    Building the new by combatting the old sounds like revolution to me. I think Pol Pot's year zero or the Red Guard smashing Chinese art and ruins with sledgehammers. Or (to go way back), the first emperor Qin Shi-Huang's attempts to destroy the Confucian texts because nothing significant could have happened before his lifetime. Of course Qin was really attempting to control the Confucian scholars, whom he was violently persecuting. All of which makes me wonder what the real reasons for suppressing Dostoyevsky were. Establishing a literary identity doesn't require banning books and chucking those who read them into camps. But individual psychologies are bad for business in a revolutionary generation.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Futhermore, Dostoievisky religiousity also played against him. Now you must remember, that Dostoievisky was arrested and all, but since he was released he adopted a more critical approach towards radical movements and was critical of socialism (albeit, it is hard to claim he was critical of Socialism per si and not the socialist groups), and some saw that as him licking boots of the system.
    Are you thinking of The Possessed? I haven't read it for a long time, but I remember its main target being nihilists. Still I don't imagine the Bolsheviks were in a mood to split hairs. It could also be taken as an indictment of a vapid will to revolution in general, and that would have been bad for business, too. I suppose the Possessed would have been a black mark on Dostoyevsky's record. Anyway, I'll need to give that one a reread.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    There, Dostoievisky popularity is nowhere like it is for us (which make me suspect the critics about Dostoievisky language to have a hint of truth and we in the west have no way to know about it).
    I heard a modern Russian say that no one reads Dostoyevsky now because his books are too long. Oh for the days when they hated him because we loved him!
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 12-01-2017 at 09:32 AM.
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    Aside: Like Pompey, I had never read Gogol. Inspired by this thread, I went to the library to check out "Dead Souls" and correct that omission, but someone else had beat me too it. So I got a little story, appropriate to the season, called "The Night Before Christmas". It's a folksy, Russian story, filled with witches, peasants, and strange events. I can't say it's as much fun as (say) "The Little Man as Big as Your Thumb with the Mustaches Seven Miles Long", but what is?

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    Hey, ecurb! Welcome to the ramble. I don't know either of those folk stories/collections but both sound great. I'm not sure if you are into ebooks, but you can download a free copy of Dead Souls at the link below (Project Gutenberg):

    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1081
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