Dostoevsky

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  • 16 Oct 2015 at 12:17 pm #7736

    Candy Minx
    Member

    Time, season, place, community…

    “It was a warm, bright day the end of August. The interview with the elder had been fixed for half-past eleven, immediately after late mass. Our visitors did not take part in the service, but arrived just as it was over. First an elegant open carriage, drawn by two valuable horses, drove up with Miusov and a distant relative of his, a young man of twenty, called Pyotr Fomitch Kalganov. This young man was preparing to enter the university. Miusov with whom he was staying for the time, was trying to persuade him to go abroad to the university of Zurich or Jena. The young man was still undecided. He was thoughtful and absent-minded. He was nice-looking, strongly built, and rather tall. There was a strange fixity in his gaze at times. Like all very absent-minded people he would sometimes stare at a person without seeing him. He was silent and rather awkward, but sometimes, when he was alone with anyone, he became talkative and effusive, and would laugh at anything or nothing. But his animation vanished as quickly as it appeared. He was always well and even elaborately dressed; he had already some independent fortune and expectations of much more. He was a friend of Alyosha’s.”


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    16 Oct 2015 at 12:28 pm #7738

    Candy Minx
    Member

    Already…I feel a feeling of SUTTREE where attention is given to minor characters. More than one would expect. Sidelining me…pulling me along….

    ‘”When you go to Rome you must do as the Romans do. Here in this hermitage there are twenty-five saints being saved. They look at one another, and eat cabbages. And not one woman goes in at this gate. That’s what is remarkable. And that really is so. But I did hear that the elder receives ladies,” he remarked suddenly to the monk.

    “Women of the people are here too now, lying in the portico there waiting. But for ladies of higher rank two rooms have been built adjoining the portico, but outside the precincts you can see the windows — and the elder goes out to them by an inner passage when he is well enough. They are always outside the precincts. There is a Harkov lady, Madame Hohlakov, waiting there now with her sick daughter. Probably he has promised to come out to her, though of late he has been so weak that he has hardly shown himself even to the people.”‘


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    16 Oct 2015 at 12:37 pm #7740

    Candy Minx
    Member

    I kind of jumped ahead there….but going to the beginning…here I forget how much humour there is…

    ‘What gave the marriage piquancy was that it was preceded by an elopement, and this greatly captivated Adelaida Ivanovna’s fancy. Fyodor Pavlovitch’s position at the time made him specially eager for any such enterprise, for he was passionately anxious to make a career in one way or another. To attach himself to a good family and obtain a dowry was an alluring prospect. As for mutual love it did not exist apparently, either in the bride or in him, in spite of Adelaida Ivanovna’s beauty. This was, perhaps, a unique case of the kind in the life of Fyodor Pavlovitch, who was always of a voluptuous temper, and ready to run after any petticoat on the slightest encouragement. She seems to have been the only woman who made no particular appeal to his senses.’


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    17 Oct 2015 at 9:50 am #7747

    Richard L.
    Member

    Well, I could never love CRIME AND PUNISHMENT the way I love SUTTREE, but this edition has the wonderfully insightful preface which speaks of “a twilight vision” of Dostoevsky (which appeared in print in 1861), which has a few earmarks of the prologue to SUTTREE. Then in the midst of this vision appears a demiurge, who fidgets with the strings on these little dolls or puppets and the demiurge laughs and laughs.

    The ambiguous laughter of this demiurge or demon can be heard in all of Dostoevsky’s later works. . .His response was the world as viewed by the man from underground, whose ruminations are circumscribed the same ideas, but who has recognized that his life cannot be accounted for by any laws or with any logical consistency.

    Nor can it be narrated as a meaningful sequence of events, harmonious and dignified prose. It is all discontinuous and undignified, terrible and at the same time comical. From this basis he generalizes his attack on the world view of enlightened Europe. No one before Dostoevsky had ever written such a book. . .”

    Well, we don’t know if Dostoevsky read Herman Melville’s books or not. There was also considerable darkness, if a more subtle darkness, in the works of Poe and Hawthorne:

    “In an assembly of illustrious authors and thinkers, Hawthorne floated, reserved and silent, around the margin in the twilight of the room, and at last vanished into the outer darkness…”

    “Hawthorne rides well his horse of the night.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Into an outer darkness, if a more subtle outer darkness.

    The murder in CRIME AND PUNISHMENT still reminds me of the killing of the albatross in Coleridge’s RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER. THE UNDERGROUND MAN seems like the greater book. The greatest thing about CRIME AND PUNISHMENT is its recalcitrance, its mystery which can be interpreted in many different ways.

    I did like the picture of St. Petersburg.

    (edit, addendum)

    Looking into Dianne C. Luce’s masterful book, READING THE WORLD, I discover many, many, references to existentialism in McCarthy, as well as a few referents to CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. Among many other valuable things, she says:

    “…Suttree’s movements roughly chart the Knoxville of those decades as those of Raskolnikov map St. Petersburg. . .and those of Bloom map Dublin…”

    Nice.


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    19 Oct 2015 at 4:01 pm #7760

    Mike
    Member

    Great to find this thread. Very interesting to find the mention by Luce of geographic locations. Plato’s Athens, Dos’s Petersburgh, and McCarthy’s areas play a crucial role in the works of each, but what I find to be the most interesting is the cognitive faculties of the heroes in all three locations and how they are able to transcend the decadence and complete breakdown of cultural norms: Socrates, bros K, Raskolnikov, Lester, John Wesley, John Grady, The Father, The Judge… The Transcendence of McCarthy’s character, not mattering how unpalatable they may be, find a way to exist in the middle of death.


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    19 Oct 2015 at 10:06 pm #7762

    cantona
    Member

    I prefer the word ‘divagations’ (to ‘digress,’ to ‘stray’) to ‘wanderings’ as it suggests a more formless journeying akin to the unconscious. You get a sense that Raskolnikov, like Leopold Bloom, like Cornelius Suttree, is often so deep in thought that he really doesn’t know where he is going or where he will end up.

    The other thing that Raskolnikov shares with Suttree is his social solitariness: for someone who wants to be alone, he spends a lot of a time encountering others.

    One last point: there is a chapter on Dickens in Terry Eagleton’s ‘The English Novel’ that rang some bells on the use of character in Crime and Punishment ( and for that matter, Suttree). Eagleton argues that the modern industrial city forces its inhabitants to present what they perceive as personality – in the hope, perhaps, that you will be singled out as a ‘real character’. Such impostures are accompanied by the residual feeling that a true self has been left behind – perhaps expressed in the common apology, ‘I’m sorry, I wasn’t myself today.’ The nagging sense that you are not attending to your ‘true self’ is an important element in alienation. Thus we no longer have selves, but personalities: “For the cult of the personality, by contrast, the truth of the self is disclosed in instantaneous impressions. In the sensorily intense world of the city, immediacy becomes an index of truth. There are no hidden depths of to the self any longer – which is not to that the self is a superficial affair, since you can only speak of surfaces if you have depths to contrast them with. But now men and women seem to sport their identities like necklaces or cravats so that what you see is what you get. The visual signifier becomes what it signifies. You can always tell a Dickensian villain by his louche demeanour, just as you can tell a virtuous woman by her modestly downcast eyes and remarkably trim figure. A bewitchingly handsome Fagin or a spotty, over-weight Little Dorritt would be inconceivable. In Dickens, you cannot be virtuous and have greasy skin.” (147-148)

    Though there are obvious differences between Dickens and Dostoevsky ( the latter is less dualistic), it seems to me that both share a similar compulsion to demarcate personality in this way: visual signifiers that denote/connote good or bad character. The crucial thing, however, is that both presentations are impostures necessitated by living in the city.

    Suttree is a modernist work, and so belongs to a different literary paradigm. This means that the line between beauty and ugliness is blurred. Some of the greasiest individuals in the novel are shown to have virtue.


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    • This reply was modified 1 year, 7 months ago by  cantona.
    19 Oct 2015 at 10:39 pm #7765

    cantona
    Member

    To clarify and qualify my comments above – Both Dickens and Dostoevsky suggest that virtue can be recovered – Sonya in C&P is a case in point. But I think that their truly virtuous breathe a much purer air; for example, Dunya in C&P and the aforementioned Little Dorritt.

    In Suttree, however, everything/everyone seems tainted by modernity. No one can seem to rise above the squalor and ooze that is Knoxville. Unless, of course, you find a way out.


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    20 Oct 2015 at 11:28 am #7770

    Richard L.
    Member

    Re “The visual signifier becomes what it signifies. You can always tell a Dickensian villain by his louche demeanour, just as you can tell a virtuous woman by her modestly downcast eyes and remarkably trim figure. A bewitchingly handsome Fagin or a spotty, over-weight Little Dorritt would be inconceivable. In Dickens, you cannot be virtuous and have greasy skin.”

    Yes, and one reason I think that Cormac McCarthy, as Nelson Algren before him, cast his novels with the downtrodden is that he wanted to get at the human universals. The lowest common denominator is still common to us all.

    Dostoevsky wrote for the Marxist downtrodden but then, after he got out of prison, he had that twilight vision after which he saw the human condition, of whatever class, as beset by the same basic afflictions. He then saw the “self” as contradictory, absurdist, valid only when temporarily compartmentalized and then only for the moment.

    CRIME AND PUNISHMENT is a book which depends on its reader to find the string in the maze, a mirror in which the reader can see his own human self, or one of his own transfigured selves of the many each of us have. If existentially we draw meaning from our own experience, we are always debating within ourselves which meaning among the many available meanings to apply to the moment or the decision at hand.

    Just as Sam Spade does in THE MALTESE FALCON.

    THE MALTESE FALCON, by the way, does appear among the many lists in THE TOP TEN: WRITERS PICK THEIR FAVORITE BOOKS, a book edited by J. Peder Zane, published in 2007. The Top Top Ten List did not include any novels by Dostoevsky, but he ranked high on many lists. For example, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT was the top pick of author Joyce Carol Oates, who placed it above ULYSSES, THE SOUND AND THE FURY, Emily Dickinson’s COMPLETE POEMS, Franz Kafka’s STORIES, Stendhal’s THE RED AND THE BLACK, D. H. Lawrence’s THE RAINBOW and WOMEN IN LOVE, MOBY-DICK, and HUCKLEBERRY FINN.

    Novelist Robert B. Parker’s list had Faulkner’s THE BEAR at the top, followed by THE GREAT GATSBY, HAMLET, HUCKLEBERRY FINN, THE MALTESE FALCON, THE LOVE SONG OF J. ALFRED PRUFROCK, DUBLINERS, THE BIG SLEEP, John Dos Passos’ U.S.A. Trilogy, and Henry James’ THE AMBASSADORS.

    BLOOD MERIDIAN appeared on several of the writers’ top ten lists, but it was then the only Cormac McCarthy novel represented. Since Shakespeare’s plays were not off limits, you wonder why the bard was not more universally represented.

    When celebrities were asked to name their one favorite book, Jim Carrey named Dostoevsky’s CRIME AND PUNISHMENT.


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    20 Oct 2015 at 11:46 am #7771

    Candy Minx
    Member

    Oh yes, how lovely to see these inspiring and lively posts!

    Do you think that there is a link to the restlessness because of the squalor…that the highway motif in McCarthy is a response to feeling closed-in?


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    20 Oct 2015 at 12:27 pm #7772

    Mike
    Member

    Very interesting, Plato and Dostoevsky lived and wrote at pivotal ages in their homelands, witnessing the death of patriarchy, the loss of tribal values, and seeing the dawn of radicalism. Of course, both Plato and Dos faced their own death, Plato serving and almost being sold into slavery and Dos being put in front of a firing squad and then being sent to Siberia after the mock execution.

    How does this relate to McCarthy?

    McCarthy saw the arrival of TVA and then wrote about the West and the arrival of the Nuclear age. However, most interesting, the rumors of McCarthy’s asceticism do have merit: the loss of self to a higher metaphysical power. Yes, I think all of this does connect in the art of the three writers.

    I have been reading a few critical passages of The Adolescent before diving in all the way, and there are many similarities and matching passages with Suttree. One translation of The Raw Youth uses the term “ooze” to describe the material of Petersburg, much like Suttree’s narrator describes Knoxville.


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