Dostoevsky

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  • 20 Oct 2015 at 1:43 pm #7775

    Mike
    Member

    Just now had time to take a look at the Lee Cobb-Yul Brenner movie poster for Bros K… I am willing to bet that that film is as laughably awful as the Yul Brenner Sound and the Fury… What were these Hollywood folks thinking…


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    18 Dec 2015 at 11:07 pm #7952

    cantona
    Member

    “Oh, Prince, your view of life is still so bright and innocent, and even, one might say, pastoral!”

    This is said by the not-so innocent Keller to Prince Myshkin in “The Idiot.” Reading this, I found myself thinking of John Grady Cole ( take the G out and we have JC) and his lovely, sad pastoral innocence. Like Myshkin, ( I should add the caveat “to a degree” here) his acceptance of people’s foibles is undiscriminating; like Myshkin, he seems to be attracted to ‘fallen’ women (a sympathy that is evident in Dostoyevsky’s and McCarthy’s other works); and, like Myshkin, his transcendent innocence is betrayed by, for want of a better word, nature. Also, is it mere coincidence that Magdalena (that JC thing again!) in COTP is an epileptic? Other correspondences: JGC is compared – in ATPH – to Don Quixote; while in “The Idiot” the identification is indirectly alluded to through Aglaya’s reading of Pushkin’s poem “The Poor Knight.” Other readers may have already picked up on the above correspondences; but, even if it’s just for this thread only, they all seem worth reiterating


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    • This reply was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by  cantona.
    18 Dec 2015 at 11:41 pm #7954

    cantona
    Member

    Re: my comments on ‘fallen’ women: this of course does not strictly apply to JGC’s love interest in ATPH’s; however, it is possible to argue that our hero, as a member of a lower class, does not have the requisite cultural or economic capital for him to be taken seriously as suitor for Alejandra. In this way she can be seen as a symbol of high-class exchange – prized and appraised, it seems, very much like the Stallion – and one that JGC would never be able to afford.


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    23 Dec 2015 at 8:39 am #7975

    cantona
    Member

    “Like Myshkin … his acceptance of people’s foibles is undiscriminating.” Apologies for the misuse of “undiscriminating.” What I meant to say was that, like Myshkin, JGC is open-minded, gentle and non-judgmental. A gathering point for the strange and interesting (or the strangely interesting). A bit like this forum, perhaps.


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    07 Jan 2016 at 6:18 am #7994

    cantona
    Member

    Following on from earlier comments made in this thread by myself and others about new character types in the fiction of Dickens and Dostoevsky, here is Joseph Frank explaining how Dostoevsky’s prison years greatly influenced the later, classic novels:

    “ … years in the house of the dead exposed him to an extraordinary range of personalities, among whom genuine saintliness rubbed elbows with the basest depravity. Nearly everyone had, at some critical instant, stepped outside the bounds of normal social life to commit a violent act that had decided his destiny once and for all. The effect of such exposure on Dostoevsky’s imagination was considerable, and his portrayal of character was later to take a qualitative leap in depth and scale that may be directly attributed to this cause.” (215)

    It is arguably here where we can locate a possible source for the cavalcade of diverse characters in the novels.

    In the next paragraph, Frank argues that Dostoevsky’s artistic breakthrough came after the realization that the oppressive crowdedness of prison life, the experience of living cheek by jowl with other desperate souls, directly contributed to the “deformation of character” of many prisoners. Or to put it another way, lack of freedom increases psychotic distortion. Here would be one of the main themes of his great novels. If we exchange the prison milieu for the slums of St. Petersburg and London, or, even, Knoxville, then we can see that the city often takes the form of a social prison in which the cultivation of absurd personality is one way of standing out from the crowd. Thus the crowd isn’t just the city at rush hour: it is also about the social hygiene problem of too many people crammed together, too many living in cramped tenements, too many large families coexisting in one room, and all separated by the thinnest of partitions. In this sense, the paranoia in Dostoevsky’s great works, the sense of people always listening in, or entering uninvited into another’s living space, becomes social fact.

    So, as I say, one way of escaping from this is through the cultivation of oddness. But Dostoevsky suggests that this aberration of self is not confined to the lower classes. For it seems the eccentric rich along with the educated poor in the novels are also characters reacting to the attenuation of space. This, however, would have been experienced more in cultural or political terms; for, aside from the halcyon period just after the Emancipation of the Serfs, Dostoyevsky’s Russia was often a place of almost total censorship. For a progressively minded nobleman, impoverished intellectual and enlightened businessman, then, it would have been almost impossible to be politically open about anything – hence all the secret societies. In a crowded city such as St Petersburg, where freedom of political expression was frequently proscribed, oddness of character would be one way of asserting oneself. It’s little wonder that Nihilism flourished (if that’s not a contradiction in terms) under these conditions.
    Frank goes on to suggest that Dostoevsky had a kind of attraction/repulsion relationship with the crowd. This, I suppose, is a way ( my way, really) of understanding the famous Bachtinian Carnivalesque element in Dos: to go on the street, or even to have an open house (as Myshkin does in ‘The Idiot’) suggests that one would never be quite sure which type of person is knocking on your door: will it be the macabrely depraved? or the absurdly holy? The great example of this, in my opinion, is the chapter in ‘The Idiot’ where the home of Gavrila Ardalionovich is invaded ( ‘overwhelmed’ might be a better way of saying this) by every character type imaginable, high-born and low, sinner and saint, progressive, conservative, and nihilist – all are invited (or invite themselves) to the circus. Highly entertaining: but the sources for such black comedy are clearly Dostoevesky’s prison years, his own lifelong financial problems, and, not least, the chaos that was mid-century St. Petersburg.
    Though one should be careful with making tenuous connections, I can’t help feeling that there is something comparable going on in ‘Suttree’: The prison scenes, those self-preoccupied journeys into the city, all those larger-than-life characters met along the way, and the need, especially after a drink/people binge, for the solitude of the river and houseboat.

    Just a few thoughts.


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    • This reply was modified 1 year, 9 months ago by  cantona.
    08 Jan 2016 at 12:37 am #7996

    cantona
    Member

    Oh, and one more thing …

    In his biography of Dostoevsky, Frank quotes the writer’s damascene moment by the banks of the River Neva:

    “It seemed as if all that world, with all its inhabitants, strong and weak, with all their habitations, the refuges of the poor, or the gilded palaces for the comfort of the powerful of this world, was at that twilight hour like a fantastic vision of fairyland, like a dream which in its turn would vanish and pass away like vapor in the dark blue sky ….I seemed to have understood something in that minute which had till then been only stirring in me, but was still uninterpreted …. I suppose that my existence began from just that minute….. ( quoted by Frank, 298)

    Here we have the beginning, or formulation, of Dostoevsky’s “Aesthetics of Transcendence” (Frank), a view of the world that brings together, according to Frank, the “fantastic and prosaic.” After reading this, I immediately thought of the opening pages of ‘Suttree’. And then the three preceding Appalachian novels; and then – well, everything. In fact, we could say that throughout McCarthy’s career there has been this synthesis of the ordinary and extraordinary, the phantasmagorical and material. Yep, I realize that the source of this in Southern writing would be Poe (in fact Dostoevsky had some very interesting things to say about this writer) and that McCarthy is only channeling Poe in a similar fashion to, say, Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor, but, nevertheless, it is still worth considering Dostoevsky’s influence, conscious or otherwise, especially if we acknowledge that McCarthy’s use of the “fantastic” is generally buttressed by precise descriptions of the social relations, the social-historical conditions of the communities so powerfully rendered in his novels.


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    08 Jan 2016 at 8:13 am #7997

    Candy Minx
    Member

    Fantastic posts by everyone really inspiring to catch up on these recent posts!

    Regarding the downtrodden…the fallen in McCarthy or Nelsen Algren…. see them as existing somewhere else. Not downtrodden, or lower or different. I see them as enlightened already. They are not different than anyone else as human. The idea that everyone is already enlightened but just doesn’t remember they are enlightened or know they are enlightened…so people perceive the world through class, gender, labels, education. Those things don’t really exist…in Nelsen Algrens world the people don’t need saving they are saved.

    The idea of progress or saving is different to me than restoration. The people don’t need restoration the land/country/monarchy need restoration. However the downtrodden understand there is no such thing as progress, its an illusion…their ethics, customs, compassion are fully realized since they are already enlightened and aware they are human and alive.

    sorry for perhaps not being very clear….just wanted to quickly respond to there wonderful posts and topic….on my way to work…


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    08 Jan 2016 at 12:13 pm #7998

    cantona
    Member

    “Regarding the downtrodden…the fallen in McCarthy or Nelsen Algren…. see them as existing somewhere else. Not downtrodden, or lower or different. I see them as enlightened already. They are not different than anyone else as human. The idea that everyone is already enlightened but just doesn’t remember they are enlightened or know they are enlightened…so people perceive the world through class, gender, labels, education. Those things don’t really exist…in Nelsen Algrens world the people don’t need saving they are saved.”

    Couldn’t agree more, Candy Minx. But Dostoevsky’s characters are like those stricken souls – mentioned in Blood Meridian – stranded on the Planet Anareta. But in this case: poor sublunary beings, utterly weighed down by class and economic stratification. My use of the term “enlightened” to describe the Russian Intelligentsia is again historically specific; referring as it does to the ‘Cult of Enlightenment’ in Dostoevsky’s Russia. I, however, in my own world, couldn’t give two hoots about such labelling.


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    23 Feb 2017 at 10:26 pm #8885

    cantona
    Member

    “The Brothers Karamazov is a joyous book.” This somewhat surprising sentence is the first line in translator Richard Pevear’s introduction to the novel. Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky have been justly acclaimed for bringing out much of the earthy “humor and distinctive voicing” lost, or suppressed, in earlier translations. Pevear’s reading of Dostoevsky reminds me of David Foster Wallace’s essay – mentioned by Richard L on another thread – ‘Some Remarks on Kafka’s Funniness from Which Probably Not Enough Has Been Removed.’ Pevear: “The manner of The Brothers Karamazov, as opposed to its matter, is essentially comic, and its humor erupts at the most unexpected moments.” A “Comedy of Style,” then. I think some, if not all, McCarthy’s novels could be read in this way. Let me toss one up in the air: How about ‘No Country for Old Men?’
    For a brilliant discussion on the joys and difficulties involved in translating Dostoevsky and Tolstoy: https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6385/richard-pevear-and-larissa-volokhonsky-the-art-of-translation-no-4-richard-pevear-and-larissa-volokhonsky


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    • This reply was modified 7 months, 3 weeks ago by  cantona.
    28 May 2017 at 4:40 am #9474

    Richard L.
    Member

    Re: “Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky have been justly acclaimed for bringing out much of the earthy “humor and distinctive voicing” lost, or suppressed, in earlier translations. Pevear’s reading of Dostoevsky reminds me of David Foster Wallace’s essay – mentioned by Richard L on another thread – ‘Some Remarks on Kafka’s Funniness from Which Probably Not Enough Has Been Removed.’ Pevear: “The manner of The Brothers Karamazov, as opposed to its matter, is essentially comic, and its humor erupts at the most unexpected moments.” A “Comedy of Style,” then. I think some, if not all, McCarthy’s novels could be read in this way. Let me toss one up in the air: How about ‘No Country for Old Men?’
    For a brilliant discussion on the joys and difficulties involved in translating Dostoevsky and Tolstoy: https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6385/richard-pevear-and-larissa-volokhonsky-the-art-of-translation-no-4-richard-pevear-and-larissa-volokhonsky

    Yes. I thought of your post just tonight when reading A. S. Byatt’s introduction to my Kindle edition of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain. Byatt says:

    “…my own early readings of The Magic Mountain, impeded by scholarly earnestness, trying to get my bearings in an ocean of unfamiliar words, and baffled by an inadequate translation, quite failed to see how funny, as well as ironic and subtle, much of the argumentation and debate is.

    The nature of our relation to the comedy changes as Castorp educates himself out of the extraordinary unreflecting innocence in which he begins. He begins to be amused, and we readers begin to share his amusement, rather than laughing at him, or observing him from outside his world.”

    Up to just recently, there was no Kindle download of this novel available at Amazon. I read it in the magnificent Franklin Press edition back when McCarthy’s upcoming The Passenger was mentioned by noted psychics as a tandem read. Now we can get it in the first edition as translated by John E. Woods, who won the Wolff Prize for it back in 1996.

    I expect McCarthy’s The Passenger to be funny in the same way as The Magic Mountain, or indeed, as Cantona says, as funny as Kafka, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy. That doesn’t mean it isn’t sincerely written, or that it consists entirely of nihilistic irony.

    When Oprah asked McCarthy what he wanted people to get from his book, he said that he wanted for people to be grateful, even if they didn’t know Whom to be grateful to.

    “I believe that the best definition of man is the ungrateful biped.” –Dostoevsky, THE UNDERGROUND MAN

    That’s both sincere and funny.


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