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  1. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Well, Thomas of Erceldoune was a 13th century laird who had a reputation for being able to predict future events. So his being given a tongue that can't tell a lie is surely an etiological element. I seem to remember the bit about Thomas' holding his tongue in the fairy country, too, although I'm not sure from where. I checked Graves; he references Scott and the extra-Child version of the ballad, but he doesn't go into detail about them (he mentions that the queen forbade Thomas to eat from an apple tree on pain of death, but not much else). Graves also makes the extremely dubious assertion that the ballad recounts the historical Thomas of Erceldoune's initiation into an ancient witch cult. I remembered that he thought elements of a black mass could be discerned, but I couldn't find those references. In any case, The White Goddess is an eccentric work and can't be taken too seriously.
    There is a mention of a fruit, there is some typical allegorial images (a river of blood for example). I could probally send you a print of the page for the ballad, but not sure if this would go against the forum principle (since it is a copyrighted material). I havent read Graves to pass on a Judgement, but the Queen of Elfland in the ballad seems a benign creature (perhaps there is some elements of chrtistian influence already in this version) and there is little of the terrible side of being enchanted there (perhaps because Thomas played by the rule in the end).



    Well, he does good crazy people, that's for sure. I started rereading The Possessed this week (since it's a second reading, I'm calling it The Repossessed ). I haven't read it since the 1980s, but I'm remembering now how good the characterizations were. It's the combination of over-the-top political craziness and I-know-this-person realism that does it. I'm also impressed by the erudition (and hilarity) of his satire in the chapters where he describes the liberal generation that produced nihilist children they could neither understand or control. Where is this nasty cynic you keep telling me about? He sounds wise and worldly to me.
    I found Possessed (read it also long ago), of Dostoievisky most famous novels the one that we have to blame for the usual bad fame he has that shun readers (too much characters with big russian names, lots of things happening, etc). I agree it is somehow chaotic and Dostoievisky would address the theme with more talent in Ivan K. Anyways, you know how the novel is a satyre and a fierce attack on a collection of radicalism that Dostoievisky loathed (atheism, nihilism, socialism, etc), you know it ends. You know he is nasty since the title and the allusion of the power of people like Stavrogin and the mob's manipulation. Funny enough, to fit a circle, this is somehow part of the theme of Dickens Tale of Two Cities and that Madam Defarge bloodthirsty woman and funny enough both are considered the more violent/bloody work of both, which is notable since both loved a little murder.


    I wrote a response to Gladys, which you can read if you like. I'm not sure I understand Dostoyevsky's intent, but my suspicion is that he was asking the question rather than giving an answer. This can be taken as a kind of doubt or faith, but in fact it's a little of both. Dostoyevsky provided a kind of answer later (good enough for me) in Alyosha's existential choice at the end of The Brothers Karamazov. That was supposed to be the first of a trilogy of novels, but Dostoyevsky's death put an end to the project. It's interesting to speculate on where he might have gone with it, but at the same time Alyosha's choice seems like a good place to say goodbye to him.
    What, saying he is asking a question rather than presenting an answer is way to say what I am saying. This leads me to a conclusion. The Gospels for the their nature lead to an interpretation that is an answer (does not matter if Jesus is a mysterious man and sometimes he is in subtle way pointing questions towards us and that like many religious texts, it was important the experience rather than understadment and if sometimes the answer is a mistery on itself : Jesus), this is not the case of Dostoievisky. Not only because Jesus is a model (an ethical model, but also a literary model), butn not the only model (he basically equates Quixote and Jesus and they are obviously different flagships for different ideas, but very similar attitude as literary characters), so we are not going to find Dostoievisky motivations as a writer are first as a writer. He is no different than Robert Frost telling some madam that having to explain a poem would be writing it all over again. He left things hanging without answers because he is doing art, no theology or philosophy (much less science). I believe also most of religious view coming from Dostoievisky is filtered (taking a cue from Gladys mention) by Kierkegaard. I dont think everything reggarding Myshkin will have a link to a deeper theological discussion reggarding the gospels. If there is no answer, we can not call anything a failure or a success, since that would be an answer. He is the one making you question, that is it and when you question you pretty much did what is meant to do with his books. That was his intent. (So, perhaps, you are a Dostoievisky character )

    When I say this about the literary man being first, I think for example about Myshkin and Rogozhin. We know the "duple" is a popular motif in literature. One he picked up from Gogol (and others) as Nabokov would rant about. Dostoievisky was quite able to show the "duality" inside the human without playing this trick, but the literary man couldnt resist the chance. Well, it works fine, tada, and all, but it also brings some limitations. Dostoievisky solved this in an artistic way in his best novel, which is Brother K. He does not fall for the trap making only two brothers K (it would be Ivan and Aliocha, of course) opposite to each other, but he create all those cyclical interations from several voices now, they are not clear cut doubles. How much more masterful, elegant, intriguing and rich is Brothers K. He finally found a complete Stage for him to how the world. The philosophical/theological themes may still the same, but there is no solution. Even Aliocha is not a solution.

    Another thing, we must remember that not only Myshkin does not fit in Society or is not accepted by it. Rogozhin also. I think, the more relevant thing is to show to us or make us think not about Myshkin fate/sucess/failure, but what is this society that cannot accept Myshikin, but cannot accept Rogozhin also? Decandent, yes. Hypocrital, yes. Weak, yes. But they cannt even go all the way. They cannot "embrace satan" (as it is also an act of faith). Dostoievisky is not trying to solve a christian problem, but the problem of faith and a problem of russian society (he has his nationalistic views after all). This also brings me to a few differences in the Great Inquisitor: since the great inquisitor has also a more clear target (catholic church, so in a way, it is also a bit of nationalism) we do have this time an example of a society that embraced the other side. The Great Inquisitor knows and acknowledge Jesus. Perhaps understands him, something Myshkin never got a break. Unlike the idiots in The Idiot, the Great Inquisitor has no problem to make his stand and gather power from it. In a way, in this society Jesus is accepted, but his place is in the bottom of our souls.


    As far as Paul goes, I fear we are on the brink of another clash of perspectives: historical-critical vs. literary-analytical. Paul is certainly a character in Acts, but unlike Jesus in the Gospels, Paul left behind a small corpus of writings that must be considered more authoritative (historically) than Luke's apologetics. Some have suggested that the Paul of Acts has been tamed to an orthodoxy that the historical Paul never possessed. Minimally there are certain contradictions or omissions between Acts and Paul's letters in which the letters must be preferred. It's doubtful, for example, that Paul came from Tarsus or was any other kind of Roman citizen; and his relations with the Peter and James seem to have been less amicable than Luke lets on. There are other historical problems with Acts, too. For example, idea that Paul would have had the authority to carry a persecution from one Roman province to another (even if he had been a citizen) is untenable given what we know about Roman law. In short, Acts is primarily a theological narrative--a continuation of the Gospel of Luke--and although it contains some historicity it should not be confused with critical history. Bottom line: if you are seekingPaul's existential crisis, Acts is not the place to look. You will only find Luke's version of Paul there. Try the down-on-his-luck Paul who pitches up among the Corinthians. That is where you will find the real man.
    There is no fear, because it is basically what I meant. Paul in the acts is an authority. Existential crisis solved and all. Dostoievisky would probally wonder more about those blind momments. Perhaps in his mind there was a Paul that remained blind.



    I discuss the issue of who failed whom (in Dostoyevsky's eyes) in my message to Gladys. For me (again, in reference to Dostoyevsky's intent and not my personal beliefs), the jury is still out. If I'm hearing you correctly, you are suggesting that Dostoyevsky's ambiguity may have been somewhat intentional. Perhhaps "unavoidable for him" would be a better way to look at it. Dostoyevsky seems genuinely troubled by the shadows he uncovers, yet he is brave enough not to look away. For me, his strength is that he finds faith even among his shadows.
    Well, yes, it is intentional. I do not think a guy would use so many times his skill to paint those ambiguities with such nice colors without wanting it. He is a great writer, after all. But yeah, like all writers, he is the main source of everything and Dostoievisky, there is no doubt, was a believer with a lot of doubts, quite worried with after-life, with God existence, with the nature of sin and his own redemption. I just think he was able to do all this in an artistic way.
    #foratemer

  2. #62
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    Having read much of Soren Kierkegaard in my late teens, his influence on Dostoyevsky is obvious.
    Yes, I noticed your interest in Kierkegaard from your choice of avatars.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    For Kierkegaard, faith is only possible in a universe of doubt. In the absence of doubt, there is no need of faith.
    I agree. In fact, I made the same point to JCamilo a few posts back (although I cited Tillich, who was getting it from Kierkegaard). It is not my view that Dostoyevsky's doubt about reconciliation (if that is what we are seeing in The Idiot) was not "faithful doubt." Quite the contrary.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    Dostoyevsky ended the novel as he did to show how the witness to the truth is received in this world: like master, like disciple.
    I understand that Myshkin is martyred because of the sin of the world--that this is the picture Dostoyevsky is painting for us. But given the profundity of that vision, Myshkin's mission seems rather fruitless. He was unable to save Nastasya, who, on a symbolic level, probably represented humankind in need of Salvation. It would be easy enough for me to cite the Scripture you mention below about the narrow way and the few who find it. But I do not think that was anything like Dostoyevsky's point. Rather, I suspect he was entering the "universe of doubt" you mention--the one that makes faith possible. Kierkegaard would have responded to the end of The Idiot with faith. Perhaps despite Dostoyevsky's doubts--or indeed because of them--his intent was to give himself and his readers an opportunity for that kind of faith. I'm still thinking it over.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    In The Grand Inquisitor, once again the influence of Kierkegaard is patent, and Ivan Karamazov well expresses the essence of this scripture and Dostoyeveky's understanding of it.
    Unfortunately the same problem arises. The ideas in The Grand Inquisitor drive Ivan to madness (delivered by the devil himself). He cannot save his brother from Siberia; he cannot even save himself. Again, I don't think the narrow gate was Dostoyevsky's point. Rather it was the need to make the existential choice of faith despite the inherent depravity of humankind (as calmly and rationally articulated by the inquisitor). This is what Alyosha achieved and, in my opinion, is what the novel is about.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    Childish orthodoxy, fundamentalism and complacent Christianity have no place here.
    I appreciate that, Gladys. It is nice speak with so thoughtful and knowledgable Christian.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    Genuine Christianity is an offense to the religious and foolishness to the wise:
    The link wouldn't open, but from the above it sounds like we're singing in the same choir. I'll consider your views and maybe you could do the same for mine.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  3. #63
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    There is a mention of a fruit, there is some typical allegorial images (a river of blood for example). I could probally send you a print of the page for the ballad, but not sure if this would go against the forum principle (since it is a copyrighted material).
    No, let's keep things above boards for the sake of the site. I can probably find all the lyrics online (and I've already found some of the art on Google images).

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    I havent read Graves to pass on a Judgement, but the Queen of Elfland in the ballad seems a benign creature (perhaps there is some elements of chrtistian influence already in this version) and there is little of the terrible side of being enchanted there (perhaps because Thomas played by the rule in the end).
    Well, there are certainly some Biblical/Christian images being evoked and used in one way or another. The tree whose fruit you can't eat or you'll die is obviously one. Thomas also briefly mistakes the Queen of Elphame for the Virgin Mary:

    True Thomas he took off his hat,
    And bowed him low down till his knee:
    “All hail, thou mighty Queen of Heaven!
    For your peer on earth I never did see.”

    “O no, O no, True Thomas,” she says,
    “That name does not belong to me;
    I am but the queen of fair Elfland,
    And I’m come here for to visit thee.

    Graves thinks this represents a profanation of the Virgin and was part of the ritual of the (supposed) witch cult. There are other elements of the ballad that could be interpreted as a profanation of the Eucharist--something associated with the supposed black mass. In the next verse, the queen feeds Thomas bread and wine (from her lap, yet), then she lulls him into placing his head in the same bodily region. From there she shows him the three ways: the road to Heaven, the road to hell, and the road to her own realm. The profanation of the bread and wine speaks for itself. And to be discreet, the position of Thomas' head could also suggest a physical act associated by folklore with the black mass. 'Nuff said.

    Now the mystery for me is that I thought Graves had mentioned all this in his nutty book. But having checked after many years I could not find his references to the black mass. He claims that the ballad is about a witch cult and says the confusion with Mary is a profanation--but that's it. Maybe I read it in another book (though I can't think where), or maybe the version of The White Goddess I have now has been expurgated. It seems a bit too crazy to have come from anyone but Graves.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    I found Possessed (read it also long ago), of Dostoievisky most famous novels the one that we have to blame for the usual bad fame he has that shun readers (too much characters with big russian names, lots of things happening, etc). I agree it is somehow chaotic and Dostoievisky would address the theme with more talent in Ivan K. Anyways, you know how the novel is a satyre and a fierce attack on a collection of radicalism that Dostoievisky loathed (atheism, nihilism, socialism, etc), you know it ends. You know he is nasty since the title and the allusion of the power of people like Stavrogin and the mob's manipulation.
    Yes, The Possessed can be a little chaotic at times, but I wonder if that could be at least partly intentional. It's really not an issue until the nihilists arrive, so perhaps it's meant to express the anarchic feel they bring to provincial Russia (especially as it follows the witty and controlled narrative about the failures of the previous generation). Although The Possessed is considered by many to be one of Dostoyevsky's masterpieces, some modern (post-modern?) academic have decided that it is not. I suspect they are confusing Dostoyevsky's "conservatism"--his objection to atheism his and his skepticism about progress doing much to help problems created by human nature--with a more class-based, hierarchical conservatism. But The Possessed, in an odd way, ought to refute that view. The novel is (strangely) decided between two protagonists, one of whom, Stavrogin, is a maverick aristocrat, and the smug mugwumps of provincial Russia (whom Dostoyevsky also loathed) are skewered alongside the self-impoverished nihilists. Since one protagonist per book is the norm, it appears that Dostoyevsky was at odds to make this point.

    Well, in any case, I can only say that the prose itself is giving me pleasure, as I clearly remember it having done more than 30 years ago--long before I became a (moderate) conservative myself. The failed idealists reminded me of the older liberals I grew up among, and the nihilists were right out of my college days. Similarities were so precise that I concluded (and still believe) that although Dostoyevsky was writing a topical novel, his characters touched on some universal human truths. The scary thing is that I really knew a couple of those people.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Funny enough, to fit a circle, this is somehow part of the theme of Dickens Tale of Two Cities and that Madam Defarge bloodthirsty woman and funny enough both are considered the more violent/bloody work of both, which is notable since both loved a little murder.
    Yes, it's an interesting comparison. Dostoyevsky, of course, is more graphic in his violence (the murder scene in C&P is still shocking--especially when *SPOILER* poor Lizaveta gets it); but I am not one of those readers who looks down on A Tale of Two Cities. One of the best and "bloodiest" scenes in Dickens' book had no blood in it at all). Near the beginning, a cask of red wine falls from a cart and breaks open, spilling red liquid into the streets of Paris. It runs through the cobbles and into city byways (very much like the fog rolling everywhere at the start of Bleak House). The urban poor--the very men and women who will soon be operating the guillotine--declare a holiday from work so they can scoop up the wine and make themselves drunk on it. It's one of the best images in the novel.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    What, saying he is asking a question rather than presenting an answer is way to say what I am saying.
    Yes, I think agree (but see below).

    [QUOTE=JCamilo;1346928]This leads me to a conclusion. The Gospels for the their nature lead to an interpretation that is an answer (does not matter if Jesus is a mysterious man and sometimes he is in subtle way pointing questions towards us and that like many religious texts, it was important the experience rather than understadment and if sometimes the answer is a mistery on itself : Jesus)

    Yes, the Canonical Gospels provide answers to the root questions of Christology: who is Jesus and why is he important? They contain other material including sayings and teachings of the historical Jesus. Some of those ask questions or may even have been originally intended as riddles. But the Canonical Gospels were written to give answers to a generation that would soon have no memory of Jesus.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    this is not the case of Dostoievisky. Not only because Jesus is a model (an ethical model, but also a literary model), butn not the only model (he basically equates Quixote and Jesus and they are obviously different flagships for different ideas, but very similar attitude as literary characters), so we are not going to find Dostoievisky motivations as a writer are first as a writer. He is no different than Robert Frost telling some madam that having to explain a poem would be writing it all over again. He left things hanging without answers because he is doing art, no theology or philosophy (much less science).
    Well, he had different goals than the Gospel writers in that he wasn't trying to preserve a memory before it was lost. But please note that Robert Frost never told the lady the poem didn't have a discernible meaning, just that he wasn't going to do the discerning for her. But I think Dostoyevsky's "asking the question" is not quite as neutral as you say--it's not just leaving things hanging. Frost presumably could have answered the lady's question. Dostoyevsky, I believe, wasn't sure--at least where The Idiot is concerned. So for him there was more personal investment in the question--more angst. But I agree that Dostoyevsky was principally an artist and a writer, even if the questions he agonized over included matters of philosophy and theology

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    He is the one making you question, that is it and when you question you pretty much did what is meant to do with his books. That was his intent.
    I probably agree with that. But whether he could provided his readers with answers is another matter.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    (So, perhaps, you are a Dostoievisky character )
    Well, I do own an ax. ;-)

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    When I say this about the literary man being first, I think for example about Myshkin and Rogozhin. We know the "duple" is a popular motif in literature. One he picked up from Gogol (and others) as Nabokov would rant about. Dostoievisky was quite able to show the "duality" inside the human without playing this trick, but the literary man couldnt resist the chance. Well, it works fine, tada, and all, but it also brings some limitations. Dostoievisky solved this in an artistic way in his best novel, which is Brother K. He does not fall for the trap making only two brothers K (it would be Ivan and Aliocha, of course) opposite to each other, but he create all those cyclical interations from several voices now, they are not clear cut doubles. How much more masterful, elegant, intriguing and rich is Brothers K. He finally found a complete Stage for him to how the world. The philosophical/theological themes may still the same, but there is no solution. Even Aliocha is not a solution.
    Alyosha is a choice--or a leap of faith since we all want to do Kierkegaard today. As a solution, I'm willing to call him close enough for jazz. I would love to know how his story ended, though. That one wasn't on purpose.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Dostoievisky is not trying to solve a christian problem, but the problem of faith and a problem of russian society (he has his nationalistic views after all).
    He was probably taking on both (or all three). Part of Dostoyevsky's "conservatism" is that he didn't much distinguish between Mother Church and Mother Russia. They were like the same side of the same coin to him. But I agree that Russian society was a major theme in his works. He just usually saw it in terms of Christian ethics.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    This also brings me to a few differences in the Great Inquisitor: since the great inquisitor has also a more clear target (catholic church, so in a way, it is also a bit of nationalism) we do have this time an example of a society that embraced the other side. The Great Inquisitor knows and acknowledge Jesus. Perhaps understands him, something Myshkin never got a break. Unlike the idiots in The Idiot, the Great Inquisitor has no problem to make his stand and gather power from it. In a way, in this society Jesus is accepted, but his place is in the bottom of our souls.
    Please note, though, that for all his supposed perfection, Prince Myshkin was none too tolerant of Catholicism, either. In fact, he embarrassed himself one night because he couldn't stop talking about his disdain for it and came off sounding like a bigot. As for Myshkin's lonliness, you are right (unless somehow Rogozhin counts as knowing him). On the other hand, the head of the Spanish Inquisition is probably not the greatest friend you could have. I mean, least Rogozhin enjoyed parties. Okay, I'm rambling.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  4. #64
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    It would be easy enough for me to cite the Scripture you mention below about the narrow way and the few who find it. But I do not think that was anything like Dostoyevsky's point. Rather, I suspect he was entering the "universe of doubt" you mention--the one that makes faith possible. Kierkegaard would have responded to the end of The Idiot with faith.
    The end of Kierkegaard's life was little better than Myshkin's and both, to my mind, end in faith. In The Idiot, the faith is that of Myskhin and, conceivably, Vera Lebedev, Lizabetha Prokofievna and Evgenie Pavlovitch. For the Christian, what matters is the way, not the achievement. For Kierkegaard, faith is inseparable from works of love.

    As to the narrow way, I have corrected the faulty link and repeat it here: https://withalliamgod.wordpress.com/...ish-orthodoxy/. If you wish to read a thorough and wonderfully entertaining examination of Kierkegaard's take on the narrow way, I commend Henrik Ibsen's play Brand: http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-en...rand-esb.shtml. YouTube has a tolerable - if over-hyped - version (1959) from BBC television: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_q70HFxQ78. This 1865 play about a Christian pastor was Ibsen's first commercial success.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    The ideas in The Grand Inquisitor drive Ivan to madness (delivered by the devil himself). He cannot save his brother from Siberia; he cannot even save himself. Again, I don't think the narrow gate was Dostoyevsky's point.
    If ever a way is narrow, it is the Grand Inquisitor's way the devil so well articulates, a way of idiocy to the wise, the way Myshkin followed.
    Last edited by Gladys; Today at 05:18 AM. Reason: minor changes
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Well, there are certainly some Biblical/Christian images being evoked and used in one way or another. The tree whose fruit you can't eat or you'll die is obviously one. Thomas also briefly mistakes the Queen of Elphame for the Virgin Mary:

    True Thomas he took off his hat,
    And bowed him low down till his knee:
    “All hail, thou mighty Queen of Heaven!
    For your peer on earth I never did see.”

    “O no, O no, True Thomas,” she says,
    “That name does not belong to me;
    I am but the queen of fair Elfland,
    And I’m come here for to visit thee.

    Graves thinks this represents a profanation of the Virgin and was part of the ritual of the (supposed) witch cult. There are other elements of the ballad that could be interpreted as a profanation of the Eucharist--something associated with the supposed black mass. In the next verse, the queen feeds Thomas bread and wine (from her lap, yet), then she lulls him into placing his head in the same bodily region. From there she shows him the three ways: the road to Heaven, the road to hell, and the road to her own realm. The profanation of the bread and wine speaks for itself. And to be discreet, the position of Thomas' head could also suggest a physical act associated by folklore with the black mass. 'Nuff said.

    Now the mystery for me is that I thought Graves had mentioned all this in his nutty book. But having checked after many years I could not find his references to the black mass. He claims that the ballad is about a witch cult and says the confusion with Mary is a profanation--but that's it. Maybe I read it in another book (though I can't think where), or maybe the version of The White Goddess I have now has been expurgated. It seems a bit too crazy to have come from anyone but Graves.
    Maybe you just read this from someone working from Graves perspective. I can see where is getting this from, but frankly, if everytime we see a pagan story mixed with christian elements and think it is a allegorical profanation of christian themes, and not the other way around, the pagan themes more familiar to christian symbolism being preserved with an attempt to fit to the new religion/culture, we are going to have a very funny but narrow understanding of celtic culture. Even more considering how easy is to see profantion in one religion while compared to another. I mean, you easily can make a case in Orpheus story that his trip to hades and his latter death was somehow a profanation reggarding Jesus death and ressurection if you are cleaver enough.

    It is not like the origem of those tales may have to do with some initiation, but the theme of faery abduction was quite commun and often view as something negative (even this Faery Queen seems rather harmless). I mean, imagine Ossian own "abduction" and Niamh, in the story that explain the end of Fiana's circle. Even if Lady Gregory places him playing games with Saint Patrick in old age, there is nothing profane in this story.



    Yes, The Possessed can be a little chaotic at times, but I wonder if that could be at least partly intentional. It's really not an issue until the nihilists arrive, so perhaps it's meant to express the anarchic feel they bring to provincial Russia (especially as it follows the witty and controlled narrative about the failures of the previous generation). Although The Possessed is considered by many to be one of Dostoyevsky's masterpieces, some modern (post-modern?) academic have decided that it is not. I suspect they are confusing Dostoyevsky's "conservatism"--his objection to atheism his and his skepticism about progress doing much to help problems created by human nature--with a more class-based, hierarchical conservatism. But The Possessed, in an odd way, ought to refute that view. The novel is (strangely) decided between two protagonists, one of whom, Stavrogin, is a maverick aristocrat, and the smug mugwumps of provincial Russia (whom Dostoyevsky also loathed) are skewered alongside the self-impoverished nihilists. Since one protagonist per book is the norm, it appears that Dostoyevsky was at odds to make this point.
    I think it is very reasonable to assume the chaos was proposital. I also think, proposital or not, it didnt work that well as a reading experience. Well, there is certainly a change of spirit on Dostoievisky in his latter years (also helped by his bad experience with that iron czar) and became a bit political conservative, but I think at the same time he became less political or at least tried to in his books. He also adopted what could see a more a "sell-out", as he adopted one "ism" and it was nationalism and this certainly was less worrying from the russian governament point of view, but that also gave him more room to deal with philosophical concerns and his works improved. However, as we talked in the topic about his fall from grace among the socialist governament, he was no shy to point his finger at a russian elite but his lack of commitment to a "cause" really hurt his legacy from a political/social point of view and this book is more strong take on this side. However, I do not think we can remove Possessed from his list of great books, as I will say afterwards, I think it is essential.

    Well, in any case, I can only say that the prose itself is giving me pleasure, as I clearly remember it having done more than 30 years ago--long before I became a (moderate) conservative myself. The failed idealists reminded me of the older liberals I grew up among, and the nihilists were right out of my college days. Similarities were so precise that I concluded (and still believe) that although Dostoyevsky was writing a topical novel, his characters touched on some universal human truths. The scary thing is that I really knew a couple of those people.
    Well, and you ask me were is the nasty cynic. Go and read the story of brazil from 2013 to today and the cup that took place in 2015. It started with angry mobs of revolutionary, fueled by some nohilists (those wannabe annonymous, black-bocks, etc) and manipulated by mass media and international interests (Dostoievisky was of course far from knowing anything about mass media and propaganda power). It is an universal tale indeed. I even think he is a bit bitter seeing the youth alternative to the stale and weak russian elite was so mislead. Or, lacking a sublime idea. (wasnt his quote the one about a nation needing a sublime idea to exists?)



    Yes, it's an interesting comparison. Dostoyevsky, of course, is more graphic in his violence (the murder scene in C&P is still shocking--especially when *SPOILER* poor Lizaveta gets it); but I am not one of those readers who looks down on A Tale of Two Cities. One of the best and "bloodiest" scenes in Dickens' book had no blood in it at all). Near the beginning, a cask of red wine falls from a cart and breaks open, spilling red liquid into the streets of Paris. It runs through the cobbles and into city byways (very much like the fog rolling everywhere at the start of Bleak House). The urban poor--the very men and women who will soon be operating the guillotine--declare a holiday from work so they can scoop up the wine and make themselves drunk on it. It's one of the best images in the novel.
    Yeah, Dostoievisky is a more "violent" man, his experience in prision is quite more traumatic than young's Dickens experience after all. Both are teaching XX century with their realism how to address the topic. How many movies you will see similar ideas to imply blood showing wine split or some red liquid being washed? But we should be careful, Graves may see that as a form of profanity


    Yes, the Canonical Gospels provide answers to the root questions of Christology: who is Jesus and why is he important? They contain other material including sayings and teachings of the historical Jesus. Some of those ask questions or may even have been originally intended as riddles. But the Canonical Gospels were written to give answers to a generation that would soon have no memory of Jesus.
    Yes, different objectives, even sometimes we see similar literary technicques, characters, the influence that is why I think you cannot find everything in the Gospels (i know, everything is hiperbolic) reflected in Dostoievisky works. Maybe something to be expected in Dante, but I do not think in any of the XIX century novels. Or even XX century, even in Ulysses we do not find (and it is not thaaaat important) the entire Odyssey.


    Well, he had different goals than the Gospel writers in that he wasn't trying to preserve a memory before it was lost. But please note that Robert Frost never told the lady the poem didn't have a discernible meaning, just that he wasn't going to do the discerning for her. But I think Dostoyevsky's "asking the question" is not quite as neutral as you say--it's not just leaving things hanging. Frost presumably could have answered the lady's question. Dostoyevsky, I believe, wasn't sure--at least where The Idiot is concerned. So for him there was more personal investment in the question--more angst. But I agree that Dostoyevsky was principally an artist and a writer, even if the questions he agonized over included matters of philosophy and theology
    Well, he was a reader of Kierkegaard, of course there should be angst

    Yeah, ok, Dostoievisky do say something that are clear. I think his contempt for russian elite is spelled out in more than one work. But sometimes the ambiguity is the answer. It is telling us something. I still think Myshkin never failed nor had a sucess, I also think Jesus is a model as character goes, but Myshikin is not Jesus so not everything that happen to him or happened to Jesus will be there. I think - you hinted at it when you said Dostoievisky considered the russian society from a christian point of view - that they point of Myshkin being rejected is a pararel with the rejection of faith, but in this case Myshkin is a possibility of a sublime idea, and this idea is a bit less spiritual.

    Plus, I dont think he can provide you answers for the questions he allowed you to raise. He provoked you, but he cannot answer you because this is, well, your book.


    I probably agree with that. But whether he could provided his readers with answers is another matter.
    Yeah, perhaps the best is to think which answers he provided and which he didnt.


    Alyosha is a choice--or a leap of faith since we all want to do Kierkegaard today. As a solution, I'm willing to call him close enough for jazz. I would love to know how his story ended, though. That one wasn't on purpose.
    You know why I think Alyosha still carries too much ambiguity to be "the answer"? Well, because of Ivan and Dimitri. Their fates seems to be as open as Alyosha. Yeah, Alyosha is almost everything Dostoievisky imagined as ideal in the youth, for the future russia, but I still think he has a lot of sympathy for all the brothers. Sure, he is critical about Dimitri romantism, Ivan atheism, but at same time he does make them admirable in many ways. When he want us to hate someone, to feel that their fate is deserved, to be bitter about someone, he is quite good at it and I never felt displeased by any of the brothers. Quite oposite I think. Ivan's musings (perhaps the more complex inner developmed attemped by Dostoeivisky) are admirable. Dimitri sometimes is genuinely a good dude you want him to escape to a Dumas novel to have success. I am not talking the charm of anti-heroes, like Lucifer, either. I dont think Alyocha can do (or couldnt) without them, it is almost as if Dostoievisky wanted to show that Russia needed the ethical/mystic path of Alyocha, but needed the intellectual side and even some of the great past too. He didnt want that destroyed, but challened thru something he saw positive.


    He was probably taking on both (or all three). Part of Dostoyevsky's "conservatism" is that he didn't much distinguish between Mother Church and Mother Russia. They were like the same side of the same coin to him. But I agree that Russian society was a major theme in his works. He just usually saw it in terms of Christian ethics.
    Yes, his exestential concern is the exestential christian concern. But I should have made clearn, when I meant christian problem, I mean a theological problem, but something more "Pratical" like ethics indeed.



    Please note, though, that for all his supposed perfection, Prince Myshkin was none too tolerant of Catholicism, either. In fact, he embarrassed himself one night because he couldn't stop talking about his disdain for it and came off sounding like a bigot. As for Myshkin's lonliness, you are right (unless somehow Rogozhin counts as knowing him). On the other hand, the head of the Spanish Inquisition is probably not the greatest friend you could have. I mean, least Rogozhin enjoyed parties. Okay, I'm rambling.
    Yeah, but that made Myshkin perfect as a russian

    Anyways, this is a point that occured to me. Myshkin is not Jesus because Dostoievisky wrote his Jesus. Jesus is Jesus in the Great Inquisitor and in a reversal of the gospel where the kiss leads to death, Jesus kiss leads to life. He saves himself and probally leaves a mark on the Great Inquisitor (he may be bad at parties, but the target was really the pope, this one can throw parties) and then Alyocha assumes a Jesus role kissing Ivan (Ivan was the great inquisitor now? He seems to be bad at parties... Alyocha is saving Ivan from imagining a Russia without soul and this makes Ivan even more crazy?). I think he leaves all ambiguity in Myshkin behind with this Jesus.

    Also, one more thing about how I think Dostoievisky kind liked Ivan. Like I said, I think the "duplo" literary theme is ok, but in Myshkin case limited, leading to some questions that probally werent meant to be there. In Ivan Dostoievisky do something better from the literary point of view. His ambiguity is inside him, in his "musings". Satan, the Great Inquisitor, Jesus are all from Ivan. It is Ivan and not Alyocha that carries a Jesus (and it is not a mockery, his Jesus is "Jesus Jesus" and that was even less expected than the Spanish Inquisition). Had Alyocha a dream with the great Inquisitor story all possible ambiguity would be solved. Jesus waks away, Alyocha must walk away too. Ivan, where he goes? What he do with the Jesus that is part of him? Ivan does not turn his back to Jesus either. He keeps that inside him, consuming him. A small great detail that Dostoievisky made here.

    To end, I think Possessed, Crime and Punishment and The Idiot plus Tales from the Underground are flawed (or limited) as good as they are (perhaps Tales is just limited because it is not as ambitious as the other 3) , but they are fundamental for Brothers k. It is like Dostoievisky put they all together, polished the best stuff and wrote Brothers K. The problems he experiement with his literary attemps (like the chaos or the double) he found ways to solve or represent in more subtle ways in Brothers K. Not saying we cannot enjoy and be emotional to the others, we can, specially because some of the characters are amazing, but that Brothers K is something more whole, so removing Possessed from the list is a bit like removing a good slice of the Karamazov cake.
    #foratemer

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