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Thread: Literature Ramble

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    The Night Before Christmas is a story by Nikolai Gogol (I didn't make that clear in the post above) that I found under "Gogol" in the library. It's similar to (and perhaps based on) Russian folk tales: a devil steals the moon (making the night pitch black) and competes with the village blacksmith for the affections of the most beautiful girl in the village.

    The Little Man as Big as Your Thumb is a famous Russian folktale, in which a Prince rescues two Tsarinas (his sisters) from the evil clutches of the Little Man. I haven't read it in years, but when his father offers him soldiers, arms, and servants to accompany him on his quest of rescue, the Tsaravitch refuses all help, saying, "I shall go by myself, but I shall not leave my wits behind." It's a great story.

    I'd rather read a hard copy of "Dead Souls", because I have only my computer and phone (rather than m,ore portable reading devices).

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    The primary source of difference between a novelist like Fielding and one like Dickens is their own sense of the novel as genre and of their intended audiences. The notion of social realism wasn't yet conceived of, which is why you get clumsy attempts at didactic manuals attached to the end of Pamela or extensive apologies at the start of chapters in Tom Jones. Fielding is notable historically as a reformer when he was chief magistrate in London and as a strong opponent of government corruption at the time. It isn't that he had no sympathy for the poor but rather he conceived of the role of prose and of the novel quite apart from the social mission found in Dickens's work.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    The Night Before Christmas is a story by Nikolai Gogol (I didn't make that clear in the post above) that I found under "Gogol" in the library. It's similar to (and perhaps based on) Russian folk tales: a devil steals the moon (making the night pitch black) and competes with the village blacksmith for the affections of the most beautiful girl in the village.
    Thanks, ecurb. Here's a 1995 radio play (audio file) of the story retitled "Christmas Eve," apparently to keep it straight from the Clement Clarke Moore poem. I look forward to hearing it.

    https://archive.org/details/ChristmasEve1995

    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    I'd rather read a hard copy of "Dead Souls", because I have only my computer and phone (rather than m,ore portable reading devices).
    I had you figured for a hard copy man.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 11-30-2017 at 08:26 PM.
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    Hello, Pip! Nice to see you again. Still out East?

    Quote Originally Posted by OrphanPip View Post
    The primary source of difference between a novelist like Fielding and one like Dickens is their own sense of the novel as genre and of their intended audiences. The notion of social realism wasn't yet conceived of, which is why you get clumsy attempts at didactic manuals attached to the end of Pamela or extensive apologies at the start of chapters in Tom Jones.
    How did Fielding's intended audience differ from Dickens? I'm not challenging your statement, I'm just not sure what you mean. They both seem like Londoners to me. Was the difference that Dickens sold to a wider spectrum of the nation? Would that really have necessitated much of a difference? In any case, we were mostly comparing Gogol to Fielding and Dostoyevsky to Dickens (I think--we talk about a lot of things on this thread). I usually think of Dickens as heir to Fielding's genius but somewhat contaminated by Richardson's overbearing moralism. I prefer reading Fielding to Dickens, but that's just me.

    Quote Originally Posted by OrphanPip View Post
    Fielding is notable historically as a reformer when he was chief magistrate in London and as a strong opponent of government corruption at the time. It isn't that he had no sympathy for the poor but rather he conceived of the role of prose and of the novel quite apart from the social mission found in Dickens's work.
    Yes, he also organized an early version of the London police. And like Dickens he had a theater life. Interesting man. But certainly he didn't share Dickens' ideas about the role of prose in helping the poor.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 12-01-2017 at 08:28 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Hello, Pip! Nice to see you again. Still out East?
    I've been floating around Toronto since August doing a PhD. because I haven't got the good sense to get a real job


    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    How did Fielding's intended audience differ from Dickens? I'm not challenging your statement, I'm just not sure what you mean. They both seem like Londoners to me. Was the difference that Dickens sold to a wider spectrum of the nation? Would that necessitated much of a difference? In any case, we were mostly comparing Gogol to Fielding and Dostoyevsky to Dickens (I think--we talk about a lot of things on this thread). I usually think of Dickens as heir to Fielding's genius but somewhat contaminated by Richardson's overbearing moralism. I prefer reading Fielding to Dickens, but that's just me.
    There's 100 years difference between their audiences though both are English. The nature of publishing at the time was still somewhat different though getting to a similar point as Dickens. However, Dickens could count on a readership of what we might consider today to be generally normal working people from an already fairly established middle class. Fielding's readership was still largely composed of gentlemen with grammar school educations, which is reflected in his own obsessions with conceiving of the novel in neoclassical terms of "comic epic in prose." I just mean to say that Fielding's work doesn't conceive of itself as a social project, but as an attempt at expressing the spirit of a nation. The most pressing social issue for Fielding was Jacobism, societal problems were conceived of largely as being about implementation rather than the systematics, which is a kind of thought process that doesn't start to gain traction in England until the late 18th century with the French and American revolutions. I would just take issue with characterizing Fielding as uncaring about the poor because of the way he writes, when he directed his energies upwards rather than downwards. Dickens writes about the plight of the poor because he understands poverty as a systematic problem related to the way society is organized. Fielding directs his criticism at figures like Walpole or hypocrisy because he conceives of social ills as the product of incompetent leadership but doesn't question the system.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    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.
    Considering Jesus is one of his models, I am fine to see him like a tragic hero (albeit Jesus also deviates from the norm too). I do not think the return to perfect innocence is something that works in Dostoievisky mind because I am not sure if he was up to believe there was ever a perfect innocence to be returned in first place from the momment men became the social animal and all and in the end, Myshkin is not exactly innocent (naive, etc), but perhaps he had a too accute perception of human character to be fit in society (it is also a bit of the theme of Great Inquisitor).

    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?
    I think Dostoievisky avoids the old theme of predestination. Nobody is destined to fail or succeed (we have been there, no? How hard is in the end to see anything different from that has to happen because it was the only way to happen and that has to happen because it was meant to be, after all in novels all has to happen), but Myshkin sittuation is such that he is just not fit. The human individual is constantly in clash with society (perhaps with humanity). Hence, why I think his characters are like individual ideas hitting the collective in very human shapes. They mean something, they provoke dialogue, dynamic, etc. Not unlike Jesus (who i think like you said before, was not achiving redemption of all humankind in Dostoievisky mind), so nobody is a failure. All the conflicts, internal conflicts like Ivan's are like this as well ,characters discovering their human limits/definitions despite their ideas. Kind like Dom Quixote discovers Alonso Quijano in the end, despite his ideal of chivaliry.


    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.
    Funny enough, the best mix of Dickens and Dostoievisky character was a real life one, the end of days Tolstoy.

    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.
    Well, been reading dostoievisky since a teenager, when I demanded new Agatha Christie books from my father and he told me to get one from the books already in the house, i asked for murder mistery and he gave me Crime and Punishment. Dickens was something way latter (despite knowing him from movies and cartoons).


    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.
    To me sounds like almost every new generation, as Tolstoy faced a similar fate. It was both aesthetical and political I believe, after all the initial waves of the revolution mainted an intellectual side and latter it went out of the railroad.

    Are you thinking of The Possessed? I haven't read it for a long time, but I remember it's 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.
    Posssed is perhaps his main work with this sense, but there is also his book about the years in siberia and excerpts from his diary. I think it was a process of maturity of Dostoievisky where he learned to use his critical approach to everything, even things that once were important to him.



    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!
    Well, jest aside, working those years with the reading habits improvement in Brazil I became quite weary of the ready-made explanations for the lack of reading habit. Dostoievisky may be just a classic.
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    Quote Originally Posted by OrphanPip View Post
    I've been floating around Toronto since August doing a PhD. because I haven't got the good sense to get a real job
    Sounds smart to me. I've been Occident prone myself lately. Congratulations on the degree, by the way. Guess I knew about that.

    Quote Originally Posted by OrphanPip View Post
    There's 100 years difference between their audiences though both are English. The nature of publishing at the time was still somewhat different though getting to a similar point as Dickens. However, Dickens could count on a readership of what we might consider today to be generally normal working people from an already fairly established middle class. Fielding's readership was still largely composed of gentlemen with grammar school educations, which is reflected in his own obsessions with conceiving of the novel in neoclassical terms of "comic epic in prose."
    Thanks for that explanation. I see what you mean now.

    Quote Originally Posted by OrphanPip View Post
    I just mean to say that Fielding's work doesn't conceive of itself as a social project, but as an attempt at expressing the spirit of a nation. The most pressing social issue for Fielding was Jacobism, societal problems were conceived of largely as being about implementation rather than the systematics, which is a kind of thought process that doesn't start to gain traction in England until the late 18th century with the French and American revolutions. I would just take issue with characterizing Fielding as uncaring about the poor because of the way he writes, when he directed his energies upwards rather than downwards. Dickens writes about the plight of the poor because he understands poverty as a systematic problem related to the way society is organized.
    No, Fielding is not uncaring about the poor, but he sure likes to laugh at them. And there is nothing of Dickens sentimentality about poverty in his writing. I think of the young Tom's backstreet girlfriend who turns out to be (SPOILER) boffing his tutor on the sly. Of course, Fielding laughs at the rich, too. One of his best jokes is that the aristocrats are mostly sh*ts to one another; and their servants, in their world, are exactly the same in exactly the same ways.

    Quote Originally Posted by OrphanPip View Post
    Fielding directs his criticism at figures like Walpole or hypocrisy because he conceives of social ills as the product of incompetent leadership but doesn't question the system.
    Yes, he rebelled at hypocrisy and sanctimoniousness (poor Richardson!). I do think he questioned the system but not in the same way Dickens did. Fielding probably looked at the economic strata he wrote about as just the way things were. But he was cleats up against the prejudice of the day, which was religious in nature, and particularly against the idea that repeat sinners were reprobate and should be condemned and shunned. That was the fate of Tom's reputed mother, Jenny Jones, and the dramatic tension throughout the novel revolves around whether Tom will suffer similarly through the powerful opinion of his benefactor, Squire Allworthy. But Fielding is was no radical (as demonstrated by the existence of a "Squire Alworthy" in the first place). He was part of the system but a squeaky wheel who wanted oil all around. But then Dickens wasn't a radical either.
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    I think there is a natural distance. I remember some researches showing that betweeen XVIII and XIX centuries there was a huge increase of readers in England (and france, etc), which implies lower classes reading, women, etc. and the authors had to deal with that. In a way, Fielding could talk about povertry, but his readers are not exactly part of it, Dickens was way closer to them. It will be always a bit different, maybe fielding laughted at the poor as you said, but dickens probally made the poor (of course, relative meaning this poor) laugh too.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    I think there is a natural distance. I remember some researches showing that betweeen XVIII and XIX centuries there was a huge increase of readers in England (and france, etc), which implies lower classes reading, women, etc. and the authors had to deal with that. In a way, Fielding could talk about povertry, but his readers are not exactly part of it, Dickens was way closer to them. It will be always a bit different, maybe fielding laughted at the poor as you said, but dickens probally made the poor (of course, relative meaning this poor) laugh too.
    Well, I doubt the flesh and blood equivalents to the denizens of the Bleak House brick yards could read very much, but certainly Dickens brought novels to the middle class, including the lower middle class (from which he came). Your point about laughter is clever.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Considering Jesus is one of his models, I am fine to see him like a tragic hero (albeit Jesus also deviates from the norm too).
    Yes, Jesus in the Canonical Gospels deviates from the tragic hero because the Crucifixion is brought on by the flaws of others and not by his own. But I wonder if Dostoyevsky is suggesting something different in the Idiot. The orthodox view is that, in Jesus, God became human to share in our nature and sufferings. But that's a problem because of the orthodox view that human nature is inherently flawed. How could a perfect God also be a flawed human? I want to suggest tentatively that Dostoyevsky is trying to synthesize the two poles with a paradox: Myshkin's flaw was his perfect goodness which alienated him from the deeply flawed world and rendered him incapable of doing good in it. As you say: "Myshkin sittuation is such that he is just not fit." But I don't think (as you do) that Myshkin is "the idea of human individual is constantly in clash with society (perhaps with humanity)." Or if he is, it is because his metaphor also works on a secular level (the only one many are interested in these days). But theologically, Myshkin represents the inherent alienation between God and humanity. I think.

    I note that Gladys has has declined my invitation to come and call me a thick again. I hope she's okay.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    I think Dostoievisky avoids the old theme of predestination. Nobody is destined to fail or succeed (we have been there, no? How hard is in the end to see anything different from that has to happen because it was the only way to happen and that has to happen because it was meant to be, after all in novels all has to happen)
    Well, it looks like theology day on the Literature Ramble. I'll try to keep it brief this time. I understand how you are using predestination in the context above. But for clarification, theological predestination has a somewhat different meaning, and I was not employing it in Myshkin's case. That kind of predestination comes from postulating an omniscient Creator who is also eternal (and always was). Such a God, the interpretation goes, must always have known the course of all lives (and everything else), and those things therefore must be predetermined. This creates obvious theological problems that we don't need to get into here. I just want to assert that it wasn't my point about Myshkin. I was suggesting that Dostoyevsky may have seen him as paradoxically flawed (in the tragic hero sense) by his own impossible goodness--which alienated him from a humanly flawed world.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Well, been reading dostoievisky since a teenager, when I demanded new Agatha Christie books from my father and he told me to get one from the books already in the house, i asked for murder mistery and he gave me Crime and Punishment. Dickens was something way latter (despite knowing him from movies and cartoons).
    Arthur Conan Doyle was my gateway drug. I bought a copy of The Lost World as a pre-teen, mostly because I liked the cover picture of British explorers shooting at a dinosaur. After I finished it, my father gave me his two volume copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes. I still have it upstairs, now read to shreds. A year or so later, I bought myself a copy of Dracula, and when I felt comfortable enough with Victorian English (and in fact loved it), I started in on Dickens. My father is still alive, though he is very old now. We still talk books for hours at a time.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    To me sounds like almost every new generation, as Tolstoy faced a similar fate. It was both aesthetical and political I believe, after all the initial waves of the revolution mainted an intellectual side and latter it went out of the railroad.
    Well, if you say so, JC. Soviet aesthetics sounds like an oxymoron to me--like military intelligence or journalistic ethics. But you fight your revolution and I'll fight mine. VIVA DOSTOYEVSKY!
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 12-01-2017 at 02:34 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Yes, Jesus in the Canonical Gospels deviates from the tragic hero because the Crucifixion is brought on by the flaws of others and not by his own. But I wonder if Dostoyevsky is suggesting something different in the Idiot. The orthodox view is that, in Jesus, God became human to share in our nature and sufferings. But that's a problem because of the orthodox view that human nature is inherently flawed. How could a perfect God also be a flawed human? I want to suggest tentatively that Dostoyevsky is trying to synthesize the two poles with a paradox: Myshkin's flaw was his perfect goodness which alienated him from the deeply flawed world and rendered him incapable of doing good in it. As you say: "Myshkin sittuation is such that he is just not fit." But I don't think (as you do) that Myshkin is "the idea of human individual is constantly in clash with society (perhaps with humanity)." Or if he is, it is because his metaphor also works on a secular level (the only one many are interested in these days). But theologically, Myshkin represents the inherent alienation between God and humanity. I think.
    I didnt meant Mishkin represented himself the idea of individual vs. society, but that is a strong theme on Dostoievisky. In this sense I agree with you, because alienation between god and society is about individual vs.society. The thing he and many other characters in Dostoievisky seems to be troubled not by something clear, like a nemesis (even Myshkin, his double is more him than against him, if you understand what I mean) but by something more vague, colective. To Dostoievisky is very important those unique individuals and he seemed to feel there is something oppressive about all around him.

    Well, it looks like theology day on the Literature Ramble. I'll try to keep it brief this time. I understand how you are using predestination in the context above. But for clarification, theological predestination has a somewhat different meaning, and I was not employing it in Myshkin's case. That kind of predestination comes from postulating an omniscient Creator who is also eternal (and always was). Such a God, the interpretation goes, must always have known the course of all lives (and everything else), and those things therefore must be predetermined. This creates obvious theological problems that we don't need to get into here. I just want to assert that it wasn't my point about Myshkin. I was suggesting that Dostoyevsky may have seen him as paradoxically flawed (in the tragic hero sense) by his own impossible goodness--which alienated him from a humanly flawed world.
    In this case yes, I think Dostoievisky is clear about who Myshkin (or aliocha, ivan, etc) are, that they have no option but be themselves even if this leads to some disgrace bigger than they control (or a rare happiness here and there). It is is impossible to be the other way.


    Well, if you say so, JC. Soviet aesthetics sounds like an oxymoron to me--like military intelligence or journalistic ethics. But you fight your revolution and I'll fight mine. VIVA DOSTOYEVSKY!
    Well, what I mean is that even before the actual revolution in 1917, the russian intelectuals (shouldnt have used soviet, as it is something really different in the end. After all, we can say the greatest soviet poet was Neruda) kind worked moving away from the likes of Tolstoy and Dostoievisky. Gorki hanged with Chekov and Tolstoy , but moved away, he is more radical, with bigger poltiical engagement and less adept to psychological realism like Dostoievisky. You already have poets like Maykowiski that are also more political, more interessed in workers and such. There was already a gap of generation being build before Lenin or Stalin.
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    My word, I think we are nearing agreement. Hopefully OrphanPip will come back and upset the cart a little. Or maybe I'lł finish Dead Souls and we can go back to comparing Gogol to Fielding (although some of his characterizations are so grotesque that he's starting to remind me more of Dickens).

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    I didnt meant Mishkin represented himself the idea of individual vs. society, but that is a strong theme on Dostoievisky. In this sense I agree with you, because alienation between god and society is about individual vs.society. The thing he and many other characters in Dostoievisky seems to be troubled not by something clear, like a nemesis (even Myshkin, his double is more him than against him, if you understand what I mean) but by something more vague, colective. To Dostoievisky is very important those unique individuals and he seemed to feel there is something oppressive about all around him.
    The more I consider it the more I think you are right about Dostoyevsky's idea of the individual in conflict with society/humanity. In Myshkin's case there is a secular implication and a sacred one--probably Dostoyevsky didn't distinguish them. And yes, I understand what you mean about Rogozhin being opposed to more than Myshkin on an interpersonal basis. On the other hand, Myshkin represents more than himself (if YOU know what I mean) and he and Rogozhin are opposites in that larger sense, too. It's a bit like the Yin-Yang or perhaps Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell. There is also something, vague or otherwise, that Dostoyevsky's individuals find oppressive (I think of Raskolnikov, the Underground Man, Ivan Karamazov, etc.) But I think Myshkin and Rogozhin are a little different.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    In this case yes, I think Dostoievisky is clear about who Myshkin (or aliocha, ivan, etc) are, that they have no option but be themselves even if this leads to some disgrace bigger than they control (or a rare happiness here and there). It is is impossible to be the other way.
    This is an important point. Perhaps there is some anticipation of Sartre or Camus here? But I am not sure there is always a choice in the case of Dostoyevsky's characters. Sometimes they choose and sometimes they don't (or at least it's not clear whether they are choosing). Ivan K. goes mad because his mind cannot bear where his reason has taken him. That's probably not the kind of existential choice the Underground Man is making. Dmitri seems too governed by passion to be making an honest choice (but perhaps he is). To my mind, Alyosha is making the real choice, knowing what he does by the end of the novel, to go on as a Christian because that is who he is. And Smerdyakov? It's a little disturbing, but I think Camus would have understood him perfectly.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Well, what I mean is that even before the actual revolution in 1917, the russian intelectuals (shouldnt have used soviet, as it is something really different in the end. After all, we can say the greatest soviet poet was Neruda) kind worked moving away from the likes of Tolstoy and Dostoievisky. Gorki hanged with Chekov and Tolstoy , but moved away, he is more radical, with bigger poltiical engagement and less adept to psychological realism like Dostoievisky. You already have poets like Maykowiski that are also more political, more interessed in workers and such.
    Well, I was really kidding you. I've read little Soviet-era poetry and was mostly referring to the notoriously colorless prose of the times.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    There was already a gap of generation being build before Lenin or Stalin.
    I'm not sure about that. Stalin was a revolutionary player (as well as a bank robber and a thug) from near the beginning, and he was General Secretary of the Communist Party by 1922 (Lenin died in 1924 and had been incapacitated by a stroke before that). But these are historical matters and better for another thread.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    My word, I think we are nearing agreement. Hopefully OrphanPip will come back and upset the cart a little. Or maybe I'lł finish Dead Souls and we can go back to comparing Gogol to Fielding (although some of his characterizations are so grotesque that he's starting to remind me more of Dickens).
    No, i am pretty sure we scared everyone.


    The more I consider it the more I think you are right about Dostoyevsky's idea of the individual in conflict with society/humanity. In Myshkin's case there is a secular implication and a sacred one--probably Dostoyevsky didn't distinguish them. And yes, I understand what you mean about Rogozhin being opposed to more than Myshkin on an interpersonal basis. On the other hand, Myshkin represents more than himself (if YOU know what I mean) and he and Rogozhin are opposites in that larger sense, too. It's a bit like the Yin-Yang or perhaps Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell. There is also something, vague or otherwise, that Dostoyevsky's individuals find oppressive (I think of Raskolnikov, the Underground Man, Ivan Karamazov, etc.) But I think Myshkin and Rogozhin are a little different.
    There is more to consider. Who are the two "models" for Myshkin? Jesus and Quixote. And if you look at them (leaving apart the religious part of Jesus), they are both individuals of strong will that antagonise the society/reality. You do not have for Jesus a clear anti-jesus in the gospels. His main "adversaries" like Caifas, Herodes, Pilates are actually representatives of the groups Jesus attacked or had to deal with it. Quixote does not have a clear cutt Anti-Quixote, he made up many enemies for sure, but there was never a Morgana for his sword. In fact, all the time Cervantes use him to face a map of spain's society of the time. And this goes to Rogozhin. Is he Myzhkin satan? Yes, pretty much. But who is Satan for Jesus in the gospel? A rival or more an oposite model? It is almost Dostoievisky feels that to be Jesus there need to be Satan, to be Myzhkin, there must be Rogozhin. It is almost a sense of pleasure for the duality. Then you can have the secular implication (there must be temptation for the good really succeed?) and the balance of energy you sense in the Blake/Yin Yang analogy. Of course, Rogozhin is a destructive force in Myshkin tale too, but if we consider that Myshkin end is not the measure of his qualities as a human being, then Rogozhin is, like Myshkin, in that predestinated to be.



    This is an important point. Perhaps there is some anticipation of Sartre or Camus here? But I am not sure there is always a choice in the case of Dostoyevsky's characters. Sometimes they choose and sometimes they don't (or at least it's not clear whether they are choosing). Ivan K. goes mad because his mind cannot bear where his reason has taken him. That's probably not the kind of existential choice the Underground Man is making. Dmitri seems too governed by passion to be making an honest choice (but perhaps he is). To my mind, Alyosha is making the real choice, knowing what he does by the end of the novel, to go on as a Christian because that is who he is. And Smerdyakov? It's a little disturbing, but I think Camus would have understood him perfectly.
    Camus was a huge follower of Dostoievisky. Something like calling his books a "revelation" and often using analyses of Dostoievisky books to build argument for some of his texts. Sartre also mentions Dostoievisky a lot. Underground man is a model for both of them discuss freedom, for example. Of course, there is a big distance (a matter of faith in faith that the french duo had quite a little and Dostoievisky quite a bit) between both, but I do not think you can be existential without passing by Dostoievisky.



    Well, I was really kidding you. I've read little Soviet-era poetry and was mostly referring to the notoriously colorless prose of the times.
    There is good prose, Babel short stories are quite good, but they are raw, very realistic. One passage that strikes me about this passing of generations is in Chekhov Diaries (i think, i may be mistaking with his letters) and Gorki is complimenting one of Chekhov short stories for the quality of the prose. Without reading russian, I had this effect with Chekhov too: his use of language was impressive, a painter more than a storyteller (so, i guess the translators were good). Then Gorki says: if you keep this way, you will kill all realism. Of course, Chekhov is far away from surrealism and all the strange path literature moved when realism found guys so obssessed with language like Joyce that indeed killed all realism. But I think, even if not intentional and friendly, that shows a bit of the gap between the Tolstoy/Dostoievisky/Tchekhov generation and Gogol's following generation. Gorki just cann't tolerate a literature that is not "down to earth". More a Zola than Flaubert. I do not think this is much different from what the trio did to "eliminate" the romantic traces from Russian literature.


    I'm not sure about that. Stalin was a revolutionary player (as well as a bank robber and a thug) from near the beginning, and he was General Secretary of the Communist Party by 1922 (Lenin died in 1924 and had been incapacitated by a stroke before that). But these are historical matters and better for another thread.
    Well, I meant from the point of view of the artists and such. It was before the first world war. I think Stalin influence (for worst) in Russian's letters was a bit after and in the end affected almost everyone. I think he was not friendly in general with literature, because it is less potential to comunicate (for watever means) with the masses than for example, movies.
    #foratemer

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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    No, i am pretty sure we scared everyone.
    Well, OrphanPip knows his stuff, so I hope not. And I've been getting personal messages from LitNetters who found Dead Souls meaningful. I finished it over the weekend (great book), so perhaps they will want to come talk about it here.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    There is more to consider. Who are the two "models" for Myshkin? Jesus and Quixote. And if you look at them (leaving apart the religious part of Jesus), they are both individuals of strong will that antagonise the society/reality. You do not have for Jesus a clear anti-jesus in the gospels. His main "adversaries" like Caifas, Herodes, Pilates are actually representatives of the groups Jesus attacked or had to deal with it. Quixote does not have a clear cutt Anti-Quixote, he made up many enemies for sure, but there was never a Morgana for his sword. In fact, all the time Cervantes use him to face a map of spain's society of the time.
    As far as Don Quixote goes, okay fine. But you're missing a couple of things with the Jesus model. First of all, the devil does appear as an opponent to Christ's mission in the synoptic Gospels (in the temptation in the wilderness story--"All this will I give you if you fall down and worship me," etc.). The Evangelists emphasize the thematic importance of this confrontation by placing it at the very start of Jesus' ministry (and its counterpoint is when the devil is said to enter Judas Iscariot, which marks the start of the Passion narrative). The devil is referred to in the original Greek as diabolos--a slanderer or liar (his lies being placed in diametric opposition to Christ's truth). So in fact there is "a clear anti-jesus in the gospels."

    The second thing you are missing is that, regardless of how we argue the Gospel text, the Russian Orthodoxy of Dostoyevsky's time had no doubt that the devastating effects of selfish passions were the work of the devil--or rather of those who succumbed to diabolical temptation. So the question for us is where Rogozhin fits in. On a superficial level he may be taken as a mere sinner, but on a symbolic level I think we are agreed that he is the anti-Myshkin--and by implication the anti-Jesus.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    And this goes to Rogozhin. Is he Myzhkin satan? Yes, pretty much. But who is Satan for Jesus in the gospel? A rival or more an oposite model?.
    As I have shown above, in the synoptic Gospels he is an opponent. And clearly he is to be rejected as Christ rejects him. Dostoyevsky introduces this model by placing the initial meeting beteeen Rogozhin and Myshkin in the opening pages of The Idiot--like the appearance of the devil at the beginning of Christ's ministry.

    However...

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    It is almost Dostoievisky feels that to be Jesus there need to be Satan, to be Myzhkin, there must be Rogozhin. It is almost a sense of pleasure for the duality.
    Right. Dostoyevsky brings something new and shocking (in Christian terms) to the analysis. But I am not convinced he finds pleasure in acknowledging the duality. Rather, the image (I mean--SPOILER--the image of Rogozhin and Myshkin in bed together) is probably quite troubling to him--but there it is. It's not unlike Ivan Karamazov's experience of the devil as a "poor relation"--no one wants to acknowledge him, but there he is again! The alternative, I think, is to see the scene in The Idiot as an example of Dostoyevsky's deeply cynical humor. Perhaps there is a little of both.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Then you can have the secular implication (there must be temptation for the good really succeed?) and the balance of energy you sense in the Blake/Yin Yang analogy. Of course, Rogozhin is a destructive force in Myshkin tale too, but if we consider that Myshkin end is not the measure of his qualities as a human being, then Rogozhin is, like Myshkin, in that predestinated to be.
    Well, people are free to draw their own inferences. Blake was exultant about Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Despite his keen eye for dualism, I don't imagine Dostoyevsky shared his enthusiasm. I don't really know enough about Taoism to comment intelligently on the Yin-Yang (my wife reads the Yi Ching in Chinese, so I only know what she tells me). Personally I find strength in Paul Tillich's observation that faith per se would be impossible without doubt (something theists and atheists of my acquaintance seem to have an equally hard time grasping). But I think in The Idiot, Dostoyevsky is saying, Look, this is the way it is--now decide what you want to do about it.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    There is good prose
    I'll take your word for it. Actually, I read Sholokhov years ago (I'm sure the Cold War was still on) and wasn't bowled over by it. But as you say, much depends on the translator.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Well, I meant from the point of view of the artists and such. It was before the first world war. I think Stalin influence (for worst) in Russian's letters was a bit after and in the end affected almost everyone. I think he was not friendly in general with literature, because it is less potential to comunicate (for watever means) with the masses than for example, movies.
    Yes, Stalin loved movies. And not just the propaganda movies--Hollywood movies, too. Churchill was the same way. After working hours, both would gather their cronies, open a bottle or three, and watch them until near dawn. That happened most nights. Seriously. It's a wonder the Allies ever beat Hitler.

    As far as novels go, Stalin's favorites are supposed to have been The Last of the Mohicans and The Forsyte Saga. I mean, I can understand The Forsyte Sage; the capitalists (at least in the first book) are pretty nasty. But Last of the Mohicans? Go figure!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    As far as Don Quixote goes, okay fine. But you're missing a couple of things with the Jesus model. First of all, the devil does appear as an opponent to Christ's mission in the synoptic Gospels (in the temptation in the wilderness story--"All this will I give you if you fall down and worship me," etc.). The Evangelists emphasize the thematic importance of this confrontation by placing it at the very start of Jesus' ministry (and its counterpoint is when the devil is said to enter Judas Iscariot, which marks the start of the Passion narrative). The devil is referred to in the original Greek as diabolis--a slanderer or liar (his lies being placed in diametric opposition to Christ's truth). So in fact there is "a clear anti-jesus in the gospels."

    The second thing you are missing is that, regardless of how we argue the Gospel text, the Russian Orthodoxy of Dostoyevsky's time had no doubt that the devastating effects of selfish passions were the work of the devil--or rather of those who succumbed to diabolical temptation. So the question for us is where Rogozhin fits in. On a superficial level he may be taken as a mere sinner, but on a symbolic level I think we are agreed that he is the anti-Myshkin--and by implication the anti-Jesus.
    Like I said, you have to remove the religious interpretation there. Of course, at any point Jesus preaches against what the Devil causes, but if you see the characteres who are adressed by Jesus (the Devil is often absent as a character, Jesus has to find others to dialogue - not to mention Jesus is very good to talk by himself, about his virtues, which are the virtues of humankind to bring the best out of people. He is a bad politician in a way to humanize Satan as his enemy.), his "antagonists" in his main momments are others. He found more tangible targets after the mystical time in the desert. Even for example the great momments in the Getsami prior to his prision, who he talks with? Himself and God. Only that bad movie of Mel Gibson felt the need to place satan near him that momment. In a way, Jesus can be ambiguous and the gospels are hardly prone to manicheism. Jesus is quite good to find good in bad. In fact, he loves it. If I am being confusing, I would think the difference of the characters in Revelation, when the enemy is pretty clear, it was a different time and purpose also.

    But perhaps, the combine with the following discussing about, the correct it that there are internal antagonists, like the devil, and external like Herodes or Caifas.


    Right. Dostoyevsky brings something new and shocking (in Christian terms) to the analysis. But I am not convinced he finds pleasure in acknowledging the duality. Rather, the image (I mean--SPOILER--the image of Rogozhin and Myshkin in bed together) is probably quite troubling to him--but there it is. It's not unlike Ivan Karamazov's experience of the devil as a "poor relation"--no one wants to acknowledge him, but there he is again! The alternative, I think, is to see the scene in The Idiot as an example of Dostoyevsky's deeply cynical humor. Perhaps there is a little of both.
    You are taking my use of pleasure in a very literal way I would suggest that as much the idea trobled him in personal terms, even at aesthetical level he enjoyed the idea and adopted it a lot of times for his purposes.



    Well, people are free to draw their own inferences. Blake was exultant about Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Despite his keen eye for dualism, I don't imagine Dostoyevsky shared his enthusiasm. I don't really know enough about Taoism to comment intelligently on the Yin-Yang (my wife reads the Yi Ching in Chinese, so I only know what she tells me). Personally I find strength in Paul Tillich's observation that faith per se would be impossible without doubt (something theists and atheists of my acquaintance seem to have an equally hard time grasping). But I think in The Idiot, Dostoyevsky is saying, Look, this is the way it is--now decide what you want to do about it.
    Oh, I do not think Dostoievisky shared any love for Blake or Yan Ying (Enough orientalism with Tolstoy), I was just repeating your own analogy. Your following idea (or Paul Tilich) is what I think Dostoievisky worked with. Duality is not always a form to put things to clash, but to enhance the strength of the oposite. (Narrative wise).



    Yes, Stalin loved movies. And not just the propaganda movies--Hollywood movies, too. Churchill was the same way. After working hours, both would gather their cronies, open a bottle or three, and watch them until near dawn. That happened most nights. Seriously. It's a wonder the Allies ever beat Hitler.
    Isnt easy to guess? It is a typical mass artform. Perhaps the only one (all others just adapted to the mass production). So, all movie aesthetic was developed considering all the viewers, since day one. It reaches more people (both as market and as medium to be "understood"). Literature is something that we want or not, carries a background that is unreachable for many.

    As far as novels go, Stalon's favorites are supposed to have been The Last of the Mohicans and The Forsyte Saga. I mean, I can understand The Forsyte Sage; the capitalists (at least in the first book) are pretty nasty. But Last of the Mohicans? Go figure!
    Well, I haven't read Fenimore Cooper. I do not feel like it. But I guess Stalin liking a popular novel about a strong individual bringing civilization to a bunch of wildlings in a midst of a conflict? Sounds that strange?
    #foratemer

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