Thursday, October 26, 2017

Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground (3)

Actually, this is Trotsky vs Dostoevsky, part 2, but it's all part of the larger trajectory. So this time, here are the other references to Trotsky I have found in his works, with relevant quotes, as well as an important article by Philip Rahv of Partisan Review and New York Intellectuals fame.

Trotsky’s 1908 tribute to Leo Tolstoy by Leon Trotsky (originally in Die Neue Zeit on September 18, 1908)
Tolstoy’s style is identical with all of his genius: calm, unhurried, frugal, without being miserly or ascetic; it is muscular, on occasion awkward, and rough. It is so simple and always incomparable in its results. (He is just as far removed from Turgenev, who is lyrical, flirtatious, scintillating and aware of the beauty of his language, as he is from Dostoyevsky’s tongue, so sharp, so choked-up and pock-marked.)

In one of his novels Dostoyevsky―the city dweller without rank or title, and the genius with an incurably pincered soul―this voluptuous poet of cruelty and commiseration, counterposes himself profoundly and pointedly, as the artist of the new and “accidental Russian families,” to Count Tolstoy, the singer of the perfected forms of the landlord past.

“If I were a Russian novelist and a talented one,” says Dostoyevsky, speaking through the lips of one of his characters, “I would unfailingly take my heroes from the well-born Russian nobility, because it is only in this type of cultured Russian people that it is possible to catch a glimpse of beautiful order and beautiful impressions ... Saying this, I am not at all joking, although I am not at all a noble myself, which besides, you yourself know ... Believe me, it is here that we have everything truly beautiful among us up till now. At any rate, here is everything among us that is in the least perfected. I do not say it because I unreservedly agree with either the correctness or the truth of this beauty; but here, for example, we have already perfected forms of honor and duty which, apart from the nobility, are not to be found not only perfected anywhere in Russia, but even started ... The position of our novelist,” continues Dostoyevsky without naming Tolstoy but unquestionably having him in mind, “in such a case would be quite definitive. He would not be able to write in any other way except historically, for the beautiful type no longer exists in our own day, and if there are remnants that do exist, then according to the prevailing consensus of opinion, they have not retained any of their beauty.”
Literature and Revolution (1924) by Leon Trotsky:
Chapter 2: The Literary “Fellow-Travellers” of the Revolution"
There is falseness even in Dostoievsky’s pious and submissive figures, for one feels that they are strangers to the author. Be created them in large degree as an antithesis to himself, because Dostoievsky was passionate and bad-tempered in everything, even in his perfidious Christianity.
Literature and Revolution (1924) by Leon Trotsky:
Chapter 7: Communist Policy Toward Art
It is childish to think that bourgeois belles lettres can make a breach in class solidarity. What the worker will take from Shakespeare, Goethe, Pushkin, or Dostoyevsky will be a more complex idea of human personality, of its passions and feelings, a deeper and profounder understanding of its psychic forces and of the role of the subconscious, etc.
A Special Supplement: The Other Dostoevsky by Philip Rahv, The New York Review of Books, April 20, 1972

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