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Thread: Literature Ramble

  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; 12-16-2017 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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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    ...But theologically, Myshkin represents the inherent alienation between God and humanity. I think.
    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    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.
    I fear we are at cross-purposes.

    You and JCamillo seem more focused on themes arising from the text whereas I dwell on the text itself so that my views change only as direct textual evidence undermines them. For me, evidence in a text has the same standing as, say, evidence in science.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    For the Christian, what matters is the way, not the achievement.
    This, I think, approaches the heart of the matter. While it is often the case that ends do not justify means, you raise the question of whether means (the way) can justify ends (achievement or an apparent lack of it). It seems to me that in Myshkin's case, any failure was not his but that of a world that did not understand or appreciate him. Taking Myshkin as an allegorical Christ, I think Dostoyevsky was asking whether Jesus had not in fact come to reconcile sinners to God--if that wasn't the whole point of his humanity. In my view, he is wondering here and in The Grand Inquisitor whether fallen humanity was even capable of receiving the purity of the Christ. Did the way in fact achieve anything at all? The implications of the novel's end, I repeat, are powerful and shocking.

    Except that you are right: "For the Christian, what matters is the way, not the achievement." For the Christian. But do not mistake me. I am not suggesting that Christians are magically exempted from a rule others have to play by. The difference for Christians is belief in the overthrow of the sin of the world with the coming Kingdom of God. From that perspective, way trumps achievement because temporal achievement (or lack of it) is ultimately illusory. Now we see as through a glass darkly, but then we will see clearly. And contrary to Dostoyevsky's fears, there were sinners who accepted the Christ and there still are. Sometimes the sin of the world can seem to have triumphedbut the truth is the truth and the way is the way. And that, for Christians, makes all the difference.

    Thank you for the link to the Kierkegaard website. It did not convince me that Dostoyevsky's point was that the gate is narrow, but it did set me thinking about Christian teleology, with some of the conclusions I've expressed above. Kierkegaard was obviously more concerned with the issue of Christian maturity and set that against a potential misinterpretation of the "suffer the children to come unto me" story from the synoptic Gospels. I agree in principle. The Internet in particular I find a haven for Christians who are immature through their anger and self-righteous and their failure to seek the beam in their own eye. The problem, of course, is that most of these Christians find me equally immature, usually for not towing one theological line or another. Many have cheerily (though in fact angrily) consigned me to perdition. Some have even stuck around to troll my posts. None of this is good for Christianity, neither for the way, which it perverts with sin, nor for the end, which presents Christians as small minded, petulant, and even hateful to Internet users around the world--sugar candy indeed to the legions of proselytizing Internet atheists. But I digress.

    Thank you also for recommending Ibsen's Brand. I used to like to read Ibsen in college and saw several of his plays (though never Brand) at a small theater-in-the-round near campus. I used to think of myself as quite an intellectual in those happy antediluvian days, but of course I was barely a pup. Apart from Shakespeare, I've read very little drama since then--and no Ibsen at all. So, though I'm sure you didn't intend it, your recommendation had a sweet nostalgic quality to it. I have downloaded the ebook from Gutenberg, but it is going to have to get into my 2018 book line. (I didn't watch the teleplay since I prefer to read literary works first). The good news is that the line is still fairly short, so it shouldn't be too long a wait. I'm looking forward to discussing it with you.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    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.
    Graves is closer to your position than you think. For him, European paganism trumps Biblical imagery in the ballad. He sees the forbidden fruit tree, for example, as "the traditional food of the oracular dead," and made no mention of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Eden (that was me). He talks about profanation of Christian symbols because he wants to argue for a long survival of a pagan thought by using confessions from 16th- and 17th-century witchcraft trials as evidence. According to Graves, certain of the accused had in fact joined the witch cult where they were initiated by ritually renouncing Christianity. But the so-called confessions were in fact compelled and the accused knew the song they were expected to sing. And the dates are all wrong in any case.

    Not that there isn't something going on with the interplay of Biblical and pagan images in the ballad--it just has nothing to do with a witch cult. In my opinion it is a device the bards were using to up the emotional impact of the narrative. To use a badly anachronistic analogy, it's like the shot sequence at the end of The Godfather when the director cuts between a Latin Mass and a series of brutal assassinations. The effect of the violence is rendered even more intense by its association the sacred. Compare this with the river of blood you mentioned, which on closer examination turns out to have been a sort of flood with some Biblical resonance:

    For forty days and forty nights
    He wade thro red blude to the knee,
    And he saw neither sun nor moon,
    But heard the roaring of the sea.

    Of course, the trick could also work in reverse with sacred Celtic symbols. But note that bards do not always use violence to pull this off. Profanation or not, there is still something racy about receiving Communion from a lady's lap! I take the other images--the fruit tree bearing the plagues of mankind and the mistaken apparition of the Virgin (whom Thomas soon kisses romantically) to have had some similar function.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    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.
    Graves is with you once again. He mentions the story's close association with "the Gaelic myth of Oisin and Niamh of the Golden Hair, of which the Arthurian variant is the romance of Ogier the Dane and Morgan Le Faye,"--then plunges into his folly about the 13th-century Thomas of Erceldoune's joining a witch cult based on 16th- and 17th century forced witchcraft confessions. This is what happens when poets try to do history!

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    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?)
    I'm sorry for my arrogance. I can't imagine what it must be like to live through a coup--to have to cope with uncertainty and fear what could come next. What Dostoyevsky said (at least what I think you are referring to) is:

    "Neither a person nor a nation can exist without some higher idea. And there is only one higher idea on earth, and it is the idea of the immortality of the human soul, for all other "higher" ideas of life from which humans might live derive from that idea alone."

    So again, Dostoyevsky's nationalism is bound to religion; and if he were being franker, I suspect, to Mother Church. Sublime ideas were secondary to that. Dostoyevsky was not especially idealistic about America, for example, although we had sublime ideas growing from the cherry trees in his day. But we lacked a long tradition of church and state, and I think for him that made us something less than a great people.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    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.
    I'll meet you half way. Myshkin is a sublime idea, but for Dostoyevsky that's pretty much the same as a sacred idea.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    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.
    Okay, fair enough. My book.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    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.
    Yes, I think Dostoyevsky has plenty of sympathy for Ivan and Dmitri. I am even tempted to say that each is in part an aspect of him--quite a claim for Ivan the way he treated the Europeanized Russians in The Possessed. Maybe another way to see it is that in addition to being commentaries on aspects of the Russian character (which is what the brothers primarily are), each contains a kind of apologia for aspects of Dostoyevsky himself. Dmitri's passion, he says, is as Russian as it gets; I lived that life in my youth, I would have ended as he did. But the modern Russian is also a son of the Enlightenment. I was an intellectual, too, but to have proceeded to atheism have destroyed me--as even now it eats at our nation like cancer. The solution to the crisis is Russian spirituality, courageous faith, and Christian ethics. Only this has the resiliency to take the Russian people forward. That is obviously a highly limited schema, but it accounts, I think, for the empathy Dostoyevsky shows to all the brothers.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    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.
    Okay, I have rethought my position. Rogozhin enjoyed parties while the Grand Inquisitor did better at barbecues.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    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.
    True, though of course nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. Seriously, it is an excellent point. Ivan is a more complicated character than the other two. He seems to represent Dostoyevsky's simultaneous attraction and repulsion at the Europeanized Russian intellectual. It's no wonder he is so rich in ambiguity. Dostoyevsky had a foot in the camp he despised.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    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.
    I agree that The Brothers Karamazov is Dostoyevsky's supreme accomplishment (and that, apparently, only because he died when he did). The Idiot is a close second, with the Brothers K inching it out for having such a complex but well executed plot. (I like the ambiguity of the Idiot's ending so it loses no points from me on that score). After that comes a middle tier made up of Crime and Punishment, The Possessed, and Notes From the Underground. These more or less tie (I read Underground about the first time I read The Possessed, so I'm planning to reread it next), but the lengthy epilogue to Crime and Punishment belongs in the first tier. I haven't read Dostoyevsky's less lauded, youngish novels. (A Raw Youth looks good, The Double looks bad, Poor Folk and The Gambler look okay). So for all that, I've produced nothing more than conventional wisdom. Sad life, sad life.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 12-18-2017 at 12:50 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    After that comes a middle tier made up of Crime and Punishment, The Possessed, and Notes From the Underground...I haven't read Dostoyevsky's less lauded, youngish novels. (A Raw Youth looks good, The Double looks bad, Poor Folk and The Gambler look okay).
    I particularly enjoyed Netochka Nezvanova, The Village of Stepanchikovo, The Gambler and The Eternal Husband.
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    A fascinating last post.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    In my view, he is wondering here and in The Grand Inquisitor whether fallen humanity was even capable of receiving the purity of the Christ. Did the way in fact achieve anything at all?
    That the way is idiotically narrow and can achieve nothing is precisely what the devil, in The Grand Inquisitor, would have us believe.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    From that perspective, way trumps achievement because temporal achievement (or lack of it) is ultimately illusory. Now we see as through a darkly, but then we will see clearly.
    I disagree, as would Kierkegaard. The way trumps achievement for those following St Paul's admonition: Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth (Colossians 3: 2). In other words, the idiot stores up for himself treasures in heaven as the world judges him a failure.

    Jeremiah 5: 21 Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes and see not; which have ears, and hear not.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Thank you for the link to the Kierkegaard website. It did not convince me that Dostoyevsky's point was that the gate is narrow, but it did set me thinking about Christian teleology...
    As to the narrow way, Chapter 6 of The Idiot approaches in importance the The Grand Inquisitor passage and speaks of treasures in heaven:

    "Next morning they came and told me that Marie was dead. The children could not be restrained now; they went and covered her coffin with flowers, and put a wreath of lovely blossoms on her head. The pastor did not throw any more shameful words at the poor dead woman; but there were very few people at the funeral. However, when it came to carrying the coffin, all the children rushed up, to carry it themselves. Of course they could not do it alone, but they insisted on helping, and walked alongside and behind, crying.

    "They have planted roses all round her grave, and every year they look after the flowers and make Marie's resting-place as beautiful as they can. I was in ill odour after all this with the parents of the children, and especially with the parson and schoolmaster. Schneider was obliged to promise that I should not meet them and talk to them; but we conversed from a distance by signs, and they used to write me sweet little notes. Afterwards I came closer than ever to those little souls, but even then it was very dear to me, to have them so fond of me.

    "Schneider said that I did the children great harm by my pernicious 'system'; what nonsense that was!

    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    (I didn't watch the teleplay since I prefer to read literary works first).
    Same here. I adore Ibsen and, in particular, Brand, Emperor and Galilean, Hedda Gabler, Ghosts, The Wild Duck, When We Dead Awaken, The Lady from the Sea, Rosmersholm, and The Master Builder.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Graves is closer to your position than you think. For him, European paganism trumps Biblical imagery in the ballad. He sees the forbidden fruit tree, for example, as "the traditional food of the oracular dead," and made no mention of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Eden (that was me). He talks about profanation of Christian symbols because he wants to argue for a long survival of a pagan thought by using confessions from 16th- and 17th-century witchcraft trials as evidence. According to Graves, certain of the accused had in fact joined the witch cult where they were initiated by ritually renouncing Christianity. But the so-called confessions were in fact compelled and the accused knew the song they were expected to sing. And the dates are all wrong in any case.
    I think may main problem is the meaning of profanity. I am not sure if that is how Graves use, but I understand like an inclusion of something to pervert an stabilish norm, which would imply the christian religion was the one stabilished and the pagan religion the intrusion, when it was the other way around. I recall a letter from the Pope to Bede even suggesting him to absorb cultural elements he found among non-christians to make easier the dialogue and the conversion. It is not an odd strategy. Also, like you, I think earlier medieval texts may have produced with the religious apropriation intent, but in the XIII century? It became more an artistic theme that, like you said, was used because their universal acceptance. I know the inquisition did had a massive concern with new christians because they didnt abandon the cultural influence of their religion and this ended in many expected trials, but this is also a different context I think from when the ballads where formed, from a momment of cultural trade and attempt to gather new christians to one to make the church more solid and show strength.

    Not that there isn't something going on with the interplay of Biblical and pagan images in the ballad--it just has nothing to do with a witch cult. In my opinion it is a device the bards were using to up the emotional impact of the narrative. To use a badly anachronistic analogy, it's like the shot sequence at the end of The Godfather when the director cuts between a Latin Mass and a series of brutal assassinations. The effect of the violence is rendered even more intense by its association the sacred. Compare this with the river of blood you mentioned, which on closer examination turns out to have been a sort of flood with some Biblical resonance:

    For forty days and forty nights
    He wade thro red blude to the knee,
    And he saw neither sun nor moon,
    But heard the roaring of the sea.

    Of course, the trick could also work in reverse with sacred Celtic symbols. But note that bards do not always use violence to pull this off. Profanation or not, there is still something racy about receiving Communion from a lady's lap! I take the other images--the fruit tree bearing the plagues of mankind and the mistaken apparition of the Virgin (whom Thomas soon kisses romantically) to have had some similar function.
    Yes, of course there is an interplay and the suggestion of a "alternative" modus, but yeah, the word prophanity suggests something else.



    Graves is with you once again. He mentions the story's close association with "the Gaelic myth of Oisin and Niamh of the Golden Hair, of which the Arthurian variant is the romance of Ogier the Dane and Morgan Le Faye,"--then plunges into his folly about the 13th-century Thomas of Erceldoune's joining a witch cult based on 16th- and 17th century forced witchcraft confessions. This is what happens when poets try to do history!
    Yeah, I see. But I think he is seeing too much witches in this world. I find more subtle and reliable that some themes were moving because the authors find them reliable to compose their poems and narratives than everything is derivated from an prophane cult. Peter Pan uses the device too, was Barrie growing up a cult to abduct kids? This theme has to me much more the appeal of something lost but being revived in present time than anything else. (No wonder, most of those stories end with someone aging in the end). Yeats and his twilight celtic was probally more close to the appeal of this motif than Graves.



    I'm sorry for my arrogance. I can't imagine what it must be like to live through a coup--to have to cope with uncertainty and fear what could come next. What Dostoyevsky said (at least what I think you are referring to) is:

    "Neither a person nor a nation can exist without some higher idea. And there is only one higher idea on earth, and it is the idea of the immortality of the human soul, for all other "higher" ideas of life from which humans might live derive from that idea alone."

    So again, Dostoyevsky's nationalism is bound to religion; and if he were being franker, I suspect, to Mother Church. Sublime ideas were secondary to that. Dostoyevsky was not especially idealistic about America, for example, although sublime ideas growing from the cherry trees. But we lacked a long tradition of church and state, and I think for him that made us something less than a great people.
    Hey, there is no arrogance. I know the news from Brazil werent easy to be followed outside (and considering the coup is perfomed with the back up of the biggest media corporations here, they werent even that reliable). Could have used other recent examples, such as the Occupy movements that created a sittuation that helped Trump to be or the offset of Arabian Spring.

    Yeah, Dostoievisky idea of Russia is the mother russia/mother church mix. In this, we are talking about the Dostoievisky guy, not as a writer, it is his ideal and he tries to talk about it in his book a lot.

    I'll meet you half way. Myshkin is a sublime idea, but for Dostoyevsky that's pretty much the same as a sacred idea.
    In this case, I do not think we need to make a difference, it is just a matter of translation: sublime/higher/sacred all mean more or less a great ideal to live for. I do not even think they are far off, as sublime, in the old meaning in aesthetic was close as something can get to be sacred. Like i suggested a few pages ago, Dostoievisky characters are more than individuals, but walking ideas. Myshkin represents this man able to provide the sublime idea (or Aliocha) and all.


    Yes, I think Dostoyevsky has plenty of sympathy for Ivan and Dmitri. I am even tempted to say that each is in part an aspect of him--quite a claim for Ivan the way he treated the Europeanized Russians in The Possessed. Maybe another way to see it is that in addition to being commentaries on aspects of the Russian character (which is what the brothers primarily are), each contains a kind of apologia for aspects of Dostoyevsky himself. Dmitri's passion, he says, is as Russian as it gets; I lived that life in my youth, I would have ended as he did. But the modern Russian is also a son of the Enlightenment. I was an intellectual, too, but to have proceeded to atheism have destroyed me--as even now it eats at our nation like cancer. The solution to the crisis is Russian spirituality, courageous faith, and Christian ethics. Only this has the resiliency to take the Russian people forward. That is obviously a highly limited schema, but it accounts, I think, for the empathy Dostoyevsky shows to all the brothers.
    Yes, there must be always bits that Dostoeivisky learnt to endure himself (albeit I do not think he was ever the kind of intelectual Ivan was, but he certainly knew about such torments in the mind Ivan had).

    True, though of course nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. Seriously, it is an excellent point. Ivan is a more complicated character than the other two. He seems to represent Dostoyevsky's simultaneous attraction and repulsion at the Europeanized Russian intellectual. It's no wonder he is so rich in ambiguity. Dostoyevsky had a foot in the camp he despised.
    Well, that is the part of being a literary man caught him up. He would probally love to profess only admiration to Gogol and Pushkin, but that was hard. Now, taking the risk of doing a Mallarmé and exagerating the meta, perhaps his next step wouldnt be with the Brothers K (albeit a sequel for the theme) and he would make up a story with Tolstoy, him and Chekhov as character.



    I agree that The Brothers Karamazov is Dostoyevsky's supreme accomplishment (and that, apparently, only because he died when he did). The Idiot is a close second, with the Brothers K inching it out for having such a complex but well executed plot. (I like the ambiguity of the Idiot's ending so it loses no points from me on that score). After that comes a middle tier made up of Crime and Punishment, The Possessed, and Notes From the Underground. These more or less tie (I read Underground about the first time I read The Possessed, so I'm planning to reread it next), but the lengthy epilogue to Crime and Punishment belongs in the first tier. I haven't read Dostoyevsky's less lauded, youngish novels. (A Raw Youth looks good, The Double looks bad, Poor Folk and The Gambler look okay). So for all that, I've produced nothing more than conventional wisdom. Sad life, sad life.
    Yeah, some of those small works are good, but they lack a sublime idea

    I find something funny about The Gambler (beside the fact the sublime idea was getting married), it made me think of Kafka. It looks like a fragment of a bigger work, the main character seems to be unable to move foward in great steps... As if he was one of the K's of Kafka.

    As Eternal Husband, I didnt dislike, but when i finished I thought : "here and ideal book for someone who wants to claim to have read dostoievisky but do not have the endurance for the main works". (not suggesting Gladys is one of those, of course not).
    #foratemer

  12. #72
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    A fascinating last post.
    Now you're confusing me, Gladys. Do you mean my last post to you, my last post to JCamilo, or your last post to me? Not that it matters. The Lit Ramblers are a fascinating lot. I just wish there were more of us. JCamilo thinks we scare people off.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    That the way is idiotically narrow and can achieve nothing is precisely what the devil, in The Grand Inquisitor, would have us believe.
    Right. And Ivan's madness demonstrates Dostoyevsky's inability to respond intellectually (hence Alyosha's choice).

    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    I disagree, as would Kierkegaard. The way trumps achievement for those following St Paul's admonition: Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth (Colossians 3: 2). In other words, the idiot stores up for himself treasures in heaven as the world judges him a failure.
    I don't see how that's different from what I'm saying.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    As to the narrow way, Chapter 6 of The Idiot approaches in importance the The Grand Inquisitor passage and speaks of treasures in heaven:

    "Next morning they came and told me that Marie was dead. The children could not be restrained now; they went and covered her coffin with flowers, and put a wreath of lovely blossoms on her head. The pastor did not throw any more shameful words at the poor dead woman; but there were very few people at the funeral. However, when it came to carrying the coffin, all the children rushed up, to carry it themselves. Of course they could not do it alone, but they insisted on helping, and walked alongside and behind, crying.

    "They have planted roses all round her grave, and every year they look after the flowers and make Marie's resting-place as beautiful as they can. I was in ill odour after all this with the parents of the children, and especially with the parson and schoolmaster. Schneider was obliged to promise that I should not meet them and talk to them; but we conversed from a distance by signs, and they used to write me sweet little notes. Afterwards I came closer than ever to those little souls, but even then it was very dear to me, to have them so fond of me.

    "Schneider said that I did the children great harm by my pernicious 'system'; what nonsense that was!
    I don't understand your point. Can you show me that Nastasya's death at the end of The Idiot was Dostoyevsky's assertion that many are damned and few blessed (which is how I understand the admonition "strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it)? It would help me if you would simply state your position, and if you post a quote by Dostoyevsky, if you would explain how it supports your argument.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    Same here. I adore Ibsen and, in particular, Brand, Emperor and Galilean, Hedda Gabler, Ghosts, The Wild Duck, When We Dead Awaken, The Lady from the Sea, Rosmersholm, and The Master Builder.
    I remember seeing Hedda Gabler and Ghosts performed and reading them for a class. There were others, too, but it was so long ago. I regret not having read more drama in my life.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 12-18-2017 at 09:46 PM.
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  13. #73
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    I think may main problem is the meaning of profanity. I am not sure if that is how Graves use, but I understand like an inclusion of something to pervert an stabilish norm, which would imply the christian religion was the one stabilished and the pagan religion the intrusion, when it was the other way around.
    No, he means ritual profanation--like spitting on a Crucifix or something--as a way of renouncing one's Christianity. The reason mistaking the Fairy Queen for the Virgin counts is that Graves thought the ballad was connected in some way to the initiation ritual of a witch cult. He was not implying that the cult of Mary did not have some connections to (for example) the worship of Diana, who was also sometimes just known as the Virgin. Graves would have been the first to draw such connections; in fact the thesis of The White Goddess is that all these ladies were just manifestations of the same moon goddess.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    I recall a letter from the Pope to Bede even suggesting him to absorb cultural elements he found among non-christians to make easier the dialogue and the conversion. It is not an odd strategy. Also, like you, I think earlier medieval texts may have produced with the religious apropriation intent, but in the XIII century? It became more an artistic theme that, like you said, was used because their universal acceptance.
    It's even crazier than that. The Venerable Beade, as you know, lived in the 7th and 8th centuries, and the historical Thomas of Erceldoune lived in the 13th. But the Medieval romance is not documented until the 15th century, the witchcraft "confessions" were made between the very late 16th century (1597) and the 17th century, and the first evidence for the Thomas the Rhymer ballad does not appear until--get this--the early to mid-18th century. Even given a period of oral transmission, it's plum loco to think that the ballad documents Thomas of Erceldoune's initiation into a 13th-century witch cult. Graves' historical novels are fun (I'm a big I, Claudius fan) and his Greek Myths is great (if you ignore the notes), but he was primarily a poet and neither an historian nor an anthropologist. The White Goddess is not so much the poor man's Golden Bough as the crazy man's. But for all that, it's an enjoyable read if you find yourself in a crazy mood.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    I know the inquisition did had a massive concern with new christians because they didnt abandon the cultural influence of their religion and this ended in many expected trials, but this is also a different context I think from when the ballads where formed, from a momment of cultural trade and attempt to gather new christians to one to make the church more solid and show strength.
    Yes, a different context and more of a local concern. Isabella was nation building in her own only haltingly unified country. For her, that meant Jews who had not already been intimidated into converting had to get out fast, convert, or go up in smoke. But since (as John Locke later observed) you can't truly convert someone by force, and the persecution only produced a society that was deeply paranoid of a new enemy within: those who were only pretending to be Christians--New Christians or otherwise. This is the reason the Spanish Inquisition more bloodthirsty than the other inquisitions. It was a little like the Red Scare in 1950s America--except instead of blacklisting you they set you on fire.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Yeah, I see. But I think he is seeing too much witches in this world.
    Yes, too many witches for the broomsticks. We had a minor but famous outbreak of witch hysteria here in Massachusetts at the end of the 17th century. They wouldn't hang you if you confessed, and many an imaginative Puritan confessed to all sorts of lurid antics while those with more integrity swung. My 11th great uncle, who was one of the accused, took the via media: he busted out of prison and hid in New York until the nuttiness back home died down; then he returned, stood trial and was acquitted. Anyway, witchcraft confessions aren't worth the parchment they're X-ed on.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Yes, there must be always bits that Dostoeivisky learnt to endure himself (albeit I do not think he was ever the kind of intelectual Ivan was, but he certainly knew about such torments in the mind Ivan had).
    Yes, I think one of the reasons Ivan is such a powerful character is that Dostoyevsky does ambiguity so well. Even as a gambler, he had never been a Dmitri, but he understood that path and was glad he hadn't pursued it. I think Ivan is even more of a contradiction for him. He did not want to be a European intellectual, but in some ways he was one. He did not want to be like Ivan--or more to the point, he did not want anything to do with atheism--something he truly despised. Ivan is such an intense character, I think, because Dostoyevsky saw that atheism could have been his own fate, too, if he had pursued Ivan's life. At least there is something about Ivan's character that really gets under Dostoyevsky's skin. I have a feeling that's it.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Well, that is the part of being a literary man caught him up. He would probally love to profess only admiration to Gogol and Pushkin, but that was hard. Now, taking the risk of doing a Mallarmé and exagerating the meta, perhaps his next step wouldnt be with the Brothers K (albeit a sequel for the theme) and he would make up a story with Tolstoy, him and Chekhov as character.
    No, that sounds like your book. You should write it.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 12-18-2017 at 04:40 PM.
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  14. #74
    rat in a strange garret Whifflingpin's Avatar
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    "The Lit Ramblers are a fascinating lot. I just wish there were more of us. JCamilo thinks we scare people off."
    Quite the best conversation on Litnet for a long time. It's a pleasure just to sit, nodding, in the corner, listening and agreeing with all you guys. All too clever for me to join in, but it is most enjoyable.

    Given your twin subjects of Thomas the Rhymer and Russian authors, I will just throw in the snippet that of course you know that Thomas was an ancestor of Lermontov. The "Gorge in Daghestan" poem seems to show that the Elf Queen's gift of prophetic vision still lingered in the blood of the Learmonts. Now, get back to your serious stuff.
    Voices mysterious far and near,
    Sound of the wind and sound of the sea,
    Are calling and whispering in my ear,
    Whifflingpin! Why stayest thou here?

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    And there goes my impression that Afasanyev was the most interesting writer linked to folk tales in old russia

    No, he means ritual profanation--like spitting on a Crucifix or something--as a way of renouncing one's Christianity. The reason mistaking the Fairy Queen for the Virgin counts is that Graves thought the ballad was connected in some way to the initiation ritual of a witch cult. He was not implying that the cult of Mary did not have some connections to (for example) the worship of Diana, who was also sometimes just known as the Virgin. Graves would have been the first to draw such connections; in fact the thesis of The White Goddess is that all these ladies were just manifestations of the same moon goddess.
    At least level of vulgarity, that sounds even more ridiculous. However, if this can make you feel happy, it made me imagine Spencer spitting on Elizabeth I lap when I read that line up there.

    It's even crazier than that. The Venerable Beade, as you know, lived in the 7th and 8th centuries, and the historical Thomas of Erceldoune lived in the 13th. But the Medieval romance is not documented until the 15th century, the witchcraft "confessions" were made between the very late 16th century (1597) and the 17th century, and the first evidence for the Thomas the Rhymer ballad does not appear until--get this--the early to mid-18th century. Even given a period of oral transmission, it's plum loco to think that the ballad documents Thomas of Erceldoune's initiation into a 13th-century witch cult. Graves' historical novels are fun (I'm a big I, Claudius fan) and his Greek Myths is great (if you ignore the notes), but he was primarily a poet and neither an historian nor an anthropologist. The White Goddess is not so much the poor man's Golden Bough as the crazy man's. But for all that, it's an enjoyable read if you find yourself in a crazy mood.
    Yeah, one of my younger sisters is a Historian and in her master degree work she had to analyse a lot of documents from trials and such and she was pretty adamant of how the Inquisition fame was exagerated (something like there was never a trial in Brazil, there is one court in Portugal, almost not capital punishement, the most usual punishements would be Monty Python style - like walking in the city carrying some ridiculous symbol of scorn). But of course you are a big I, Claudius fan. I bet you have loved the chapter where Claudius was caught in the mid of two historians discussing what is history. I bet you loved poor Titus defead

    Yes, too many witches for the broomsticks. We had a minor but famous outbreak of witch hysteria here in Massachusetts at the end of the 17th century. They wouldn't hang you if you confessed, and many an imaginative Puritan confessed to all sorts of lurid antics while those with more integrity swung. My 11th great uncle, who was one of the accused, took the via media: he busted out of prison and hid in New York until the nuttiness back home died down; then he returned, stood trial and was acquitted. Anyway, witchcraft confessions aren't worth the parchment they're X-ed on.
    I suppose the only use the witch histeria in america had was to create the circunstance for Hawthorne puritanism.

    Yes, I think one of the reasons Ivan is such a powerful character is that Dostoyevsky does ambiguity so well. Even as a gambler, he had never been a Dmitri, but he understood that path and was glad he hadn't pursued it. I think Ivan is even more of a contradiction for him. He did not want to be a European intellectual, but in some ways he was one. He did not want to be like Ivan--or more to the point, he did not want anything to do with atheism--something he truly despised. Ivan is such an intense character, I think, because Dostoyevsky saw that atheism could have been his own fate, too, if he had pursued Ivan's life. At least there is something about Ivan's character that really gets under Dostoyevsky's skin. I have a feeling that's it.
    I was joking about the proposal of the book, but in many ways, I think we can see some of Dostoievisky literary influences and tendencies in the brothers (of course, he is not XX century enough to go so meta, but since he is making a critic to cultural aspects too). There is much about his own evolution as a writer there, moving from an early syrup-romantic writer, to a typical realism and then to a reflective/psycholocal writer like Dmitri-Ivan-Aliocha coudl be.

    Anyways, people compare Dostoievisky with Shakespeare a bit too (sometimes with good motives, sometimes not), but if I would give him some shakespearean nod is with Ivan. He is one of the most hameletian characters we can find around, and not exactly because he has a problem with his father.

    Now, the 1001 nights was gone, but I will bring something similar, as I recalled your passion for History. I just finished a book (a translation from a XII century work from Iraq), which name in english would be translated as Book of the lion and the diver (Kitab al-asad wa al-ghawwas). The book says this translation to portuguese was the first done to any other language and that even in arabic culture it is not well know (it is about fables and the scrolls with the original were lost until one find in India helped to fill the gaps).

    Well, the motive is because the book is inspired in Kalila and Dimna (which is inspired in Pachatranta). In this book (modeled like Mirror of Princes literature), a Lion (the king) receives advices from a wise Jackal (the diver in the title), so everytime a character has to illustrate an advice, he tells a fable. The translator compares Kalila and Dimna (where a lion also receives advices from a Jackal, just the Jackal is ambitious) and this Lion and the diver and the differences he see in both books (Kalila is considered the first arabic organized register of fables) set apart in 4 centuries is more less the good old History. He see in Kalila that historigraphy was not developed yet in arabic culture (being mostly about the life of Muhammad, therefore religious), so the book has actual fables with animals. But in lion and the diver, the Jackal actually tell "fables" from real kings, which, according to the translator, showed the clear advance of Historiography in arabic culture.
    #foratemer

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