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Spaces of Creativity: Essays on Russian Literature and the Arts
 9781618115416

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Spaces of Creativity Essays on Russian Literature and the Arts

Studies

in

R u ss i a n

and

S l a v i c L i t e r at u r e s , C u lt u r e s ,

Series Editor Lazar Fleishman (Stanford University)

and

History

Spaces of Creativity Essays on Russian Literature and the Arts

Ksana Blank

Boston 2016

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Blank, Ksana, author. Title: Spaces of creativity : essays on Russian literature and the arts / Ksana Blank. Other titles: Studies in Russian and Slavic literatures, cultures and history. Description: Boston : Academic Studies Press, 2017. | Series: Studies in Russian and Slavic literatures, cultures, and history Identifiers: LCCN 2016034189 (print) | LCCN 2016035508 (ebook) | ISBN 9781618115409 (hardcover) | ISBN 9781618115416 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Russian literature—19th century—History and criticism. | Russian literature—20th century—History and criticism. | Art and literature. | Music and literature. Classification: LCC PG2951 .B57 2017 (print) | LCC PG2951 (ebook) | DDC 891.709/003—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016034189

Copyright © 2017 Academic Studies Press All rights reserved.

ISBN 9781618115409 (hardcover) ISBN 9781618115416 (ebook)

On the cover: The Gypsy Woman, by Marina Azizyan Photo by John Blazejewski / Princeton University

Published by Academic Studies Press in 2016 28 Montfern Avenue Brighton, MA 02135, USA [email protected] www.academicstudiespress.com

Content s

Note on Translations and Transliteration Illustrations Acknowledgments

6 7 9

Preface

12

Sex, Crime, and Railroads in Dostoevsky’s Idiot and Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata

14

“Horror—Red, White, and Square”: Abstract Images in Tolstoy

34

Dobuzhinsky’s Farewell to Petersburg

54

Praising the Name: The Religious Theme in Daniil Kharms

78

Nabokov’s Nymphet and Pushkin’s Water-Nymph

106

Captain Lebyadkin’s Poetry in Shostakovich and Dostoevsky

130

Index

153

Note on Tra nslat ions a nd Tra nsliterat ion

Unless otherwise indicated, all translations from the Russian are mine. Russian names in the text are spelled in the form most familiar to English readers. For all other Russian words, I have followed the Library of Congress transliteration system.

Illust rat ions

Page 36 Fig. 1. Kazimir Malevich, Red Square—Painterly Realism of a Peasant Woman in Two Dimensions, 1915. Oil on canvas, 53 х 53 cm. © The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2015. Page 39 Fig. 2. Kazimir Malevich, Painterly Realism: Boy with Knapsack—Color Masses in the Fourth Dimension, 1915. Oil on canvas, 71.1 x 44.5 cm. 1935 acquisition confirmed in 1999 agreement with the Estate of Kazimir Malevich and made possible with funds from the Mrs. John Hay Whitney Bequest (by exchange). Museum of Modern Art, Digital image © The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY. Page 42 Fig. 3. Kazimir Malevich, Suprematist Painting: Rectangle and Circle, 1915. Oil on canvas, 43.2 x 30.7 cm. Unknown private collection. Reprinted from Andrei Nakov, Malevich: Painting the Absolute, Farnham: Lund Humphries, 2010. Photo by John Blazejewski / Princeton University. © Marquand Library of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University. In many publications this image is mistakenly placed upside down. See the correct position in Nakov, Malevich, 2:70, and Andréi Nakov, Kazimir Malewicz: Catalogue raisonné (Paris: A. Biro, 2002), 227–28. Page 58 Fig. 4. Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, The Vegetable Garden on the Obvodnyi Canal (Petersburg in 1921), 1922. Paper, lithography, I: 23 x 34; L: 32.4 x 446 cm. © The State Russian Museum, Petersburg, 2015. Page 61 Fig. 5. Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, The Kiss (from the series Urban Dreams), 1916. Lead pencil and red chalk on cardboard, 109 х 77.7 cm. © The State Russian Museum, Petersburg, 2015. Page 61 Fig. 6. Fragment from Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, The Kiss (from the series Urban Dreams), 1916. Lead pencil and red chalk on cardboard. © The State Russian Museum, Petersburg, 2015.

7

Illustrations Page 63 Fig. 7. Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, Flying (from the series Urban Dreams), 1909. Paper, ink, 44 x 27.8 cm. © Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania. Page 63 Fig. 8. Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, Sketch (from the series Urban Dreams), 1909. Paper, ink. © Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania. Page 64 Fig. 9. Palace Square, St. Petersburg. Photo by Aleksandr Petrosyan. Page 68 Fig. 10. Nathan Altman, sketch design of the Winter Palace on the first anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, 1957 (author’s replica of 1918). Paper, oil tempera, gouache, pencil, 270 х 970 mm. © the State Museum of History of St. Petersburg. Page 68 Fig. 11. Nathan Altman, sketch design of the General Staff building on the first anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, 1957 (author’s replica of 1918). Paper, oil tempera, gouache, pencil, 270 х 970 mm. © the State Museum of History of St. Petersburg. Page 69 Fig. 12. Nathan Altman, sketch design of the Palace Square on the first anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, 1957 (author’s replica of 1918). Paper, oil tempera, gouache, pencil, 267 х 1105 mm. © the State Museum of History of St. Petersburg. Page 71 Fig. 13. Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, 1920. Paper, ink, 10 x 16.5 cm. Private collection. Page 73 Fig. 14. The statue of the angel on top of the Alexander Column, St. Petersburg. My photo. Page 73 Fig. 15. The statue of the angel on top of the Peter and Paul Cathedral. Photo by Alexander Petrosyan. Page 74 Fig. 16. Reprinted from N. Punin, Monument to the Third International (St. Petersburg: Izdanie otdela izobrazitel'nykh iskusstv, 1920).

Ack nowledg ment s

I would like to thank my colleagues at Princeton University— Ellen Chances, Caryl Emerson, Olga Hasty, Kirill Ospovat, and Michael Wachtel—for reading parts of this book’s manuscript. Their comments and their support were greatly appreciated. At the university administration level, I am obliged to the Office of the Dean of the Faculty for subsidizing this book’s production costs with a generous grant. I would like to express my appreciation for the feedback from the art historians Alexei Lidov, Marian Burleigh-Motley, and Gerda Panofsky regarding the early version of the chapter on Tolstoy and Malevich. I also thank the music scholars Liudmila Kovnatskaya and Olga Manulkina (St. Petersburg State Conservatory) for their advice on the chapter on Shostakovich. I thank Robin MilnerGulland (University of Sussex) and Marianna Taymanova (Durham University) for their comments to the early versions of some essays. I am deeply grateful to the editorial staff at the Academic Studies Press—the director and publisher, Igor Nemirovsky, production editor Kira Nemirovsky, and the acquisitions editors Faith Wilson Stein, Meghan Vicks, and Sharona Vedol—for their professional expertise and their help with numerous practical matters. It was a particular joy to work with the editor of the series, Lazar Fleishman. I am grateful to him for his support of this project and his wise advice with respect to its publication. Two anonymous readers gave numerous precise recommendations for the improvement of the first version of the manuscript. I benefited 9

Acknowledg ments

greatly from their generously extensive and profound comments and their useful suggestions. I owe a very special debt to Dalia Geffen and Rebecca Rine for their meticulous proofreading of the entire manuscript. A word of gratitude goes to other publishers. Earlier versions of some essays were previously published in Russian or English. Thus, chapter 2 is a revised version of two articles: “V poiskakh ikonichnosti: Tolstoi i Malevich,” Russkaia literatura, no. 1 (2004): 33–42, and “Lev Tolstoy’s Suprematist Icon-Painting,” Elementa: Journal of Slavic Studies and Comparative Cultural Semiotics 2, no. 1 (1995): 67–68.1 Chapter 3 is a longer version of the essay forthcoming in Russian: “Petrograd Dobuzhinskogo,” in Utopiia i eskhatologiia v literature, iskusstve i filosofskoi mysli russkogo modernizma, ed. A. G. Gacheva (Moscow: IMLI, 2016). A shorter version of chapter 5 was published in Russian: “O ‘Lolite’ Nabokova,” in Nabokovskii vestnik: Peterburgskie Chteniia, ed. V. P. Stark (St. Petersburg: Sankt– Peterburgskii muzei V. V. Nabokova / “Dorn,” Vyp. 1, 1998), 101–9. Chapter 6 is a revised version of two essays published in Russian: “Stikhi kapitana Lebiadkina: Shostakovich i Dostoevskii,” Opera Musicologica: A Quarterlу Journal of the St. Petersburg State Conservatory, no. 3 (2012): 23–42, and “Shostakovich, Dostoevskii, Lebiadkin i OBERIU,” in Liber amicorum Liudmile Kovnatskoi, ed. Olga Manulkina, Lidiia Ader, and Nina Drozdetskaia (St. Petersburg: BiblioRossika, 2016), 345–48.2 I thank the editors and publishers for their permission to reprint revised material.

1

The idea was developed earlier in a paper, “Suprematicheskaia ikonopis' L'va Tolstogo,” presented at the international symposium “MiracleWorking Icon in Orthodox Culture,” Center of Eastern Orthodox Culture and State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia, June 1994.

2

Thеse essays are based on my paper “Korni poezii kapitana Lebiadkina” (“The Roots of Captain Lebyadkin’s Poetry”), presented at the Third Annual Ivy League Graduate Student Conference in Slavic and Soviet Studies, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in April 1988. The paper was not published, but the idea expressed in it was mentioned in two recent collections dedicated to Shostakovich. I thank Caryl Emerson, who quotes it in her essay “Shostakovich and the Russian Literary Tradition,” published in Shostakovich and His World, ed. Laurel Fey (Princeton: Princeton





10

Acknowledg ments

I would like to offer my special thanks to Kharms scholar Valery Sazhin for helping me obtain access to books housed in the uncatalogued part of Kharms’s archive in the Manuscript Division of the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg. I would also like to extend my thanks to the artist Marina Azizyan for giving permission to use the photo of her painting The Gypsy Woman on the cover of this book. Illustrations are courtesy of museums and professional photographers. I would like to express my gratitude to the St. Petersburg State Russian Museum, the State Museum of History of St. Petersburg, the Martynas Mažvydas Lithuanian National Library, the New York Museum of Modern Art, and Marquand Library at Princeton University for granting permission to publish reproductions of works by Kazimir Malevich, Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, and Nathan Altman. I thank Aleksandr Petrosyan for permission to publish his photos of St. Petersburg as well as John Blazejewski (Marquand Library of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University) for taking pictures of Malevich’s and Azizyan’s paintings. My very special thanks go to my family—my husband, Gregory, my daughter, Julia, and my mother, Lucy. Without their love, care, and confidence in my ideas, this project could not have been realized. My grandsons, Leopold and Kostas, are still too young to know how to read, but they already enjoy some bits and pieces of Russian literature and the arts. This makes me hope that one day they find their own spaces of creativity. To them I dedicate this book.

University Press, 2004), 213 and 226. It is also mentioned in Francis Maes, “Between Reality and Transcendence: Shostakovich’s Songs,” in The Cambridge Companion to Shostakovich, ed. Pauline Fairclough and David Fanning (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 257 and 371.

11

Preface

This book focuses on what is often viewed as peripheral. Thus, for example, the dominant themes in Fyodor Dostoevsky and Leo Tolstoy are their quests for the meaning of life, love, and truth, and their characters’ search for faith and rebellion against God. In chapter 1, “Sex, Crime, and Railroads in Dostoevsky’s Idiot and Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata,” I consider a secondary issue—the writers’ reflections on the emergence of railroads in mid-nineteenth-century Russia. I ask what we can learn from the fact that Dostoevsky’s novel and Tolstoy’s novella have identical expositions (a chance encounter on a train) and climaxes (the murder of a woman). Ultimately, I argue that in these works Dostoevsky and Tolstoy revisit an old literary tradition—the chronotope of the road. In chapter 2, “‘Horror—Red, White, and Square’: Abstract Images in Tolstoy,” I delve into a topic that has never been discussed. I demonstrate that Tolstoy’s characters see the world in shapes and colors very reminiscent of the images created in 1915 by the Russian avant-garde artist Kazimir Malevich. An examination of this paradoxical analogy gives evidence that Tolstoy transcends the boundaries of realism and anticipates modernist techniques. Chapter 3, “Dobuzhinsky’s Farewell to Petersburg,” deals with a member of the artistic movement World of Art, Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, who is generally remembered as a champion of the old Petersburg and the illustrator of Dostoevsky’s White Nights. I examine Dobuzhinsky’s portrayal of a changed city, renamed Petrograd from 1914 to 1924, at a time when the artist was compelled to take part in government projects of monumental propaganda in celebration of the October Revolution. 12

P reface

In chapter 4, “Praising the Name: The Religious Theme in Daniil Kharms,” the focus stays on the same city and the same time period. The religious aspect of Kharms’s work has recently attracted scholarly attention, yet it remains understudied, as it seems at odds with Kharms’s predominantly absurdist legacy. In examining some of Kharms’s poems of 1931, I ask why he was interested in the spiritual tradition of Imiaslavie (name worshiping) and explore the extent of his familiarity with it. In chapter 5—“Nabokov’s Nymphet and Pushkin’s WaterNymph”—I discuss a Russian intertext of the novel Lolita, which was written during the American period of Nabokov’s literary career and is considered the writer’s “least Russian” work. I argue that Lolita starts at the very point where Pushkin’s unfinished drama abruptly stops. I examine the role this intertext plays in the construction of the novel’s plot and its open ending. In the final chapter, “Captain Lebyadkin’s Poetry in Shostakovich and Dostoevsky,” I discuss Shostakovich’s rarely studied late vocal cycle Four Verses of Captain Lebyadkin (opus 146), set to the poems of a minor character in Dostoevsky’s novel Demons. What could possibly have attracted Shostakovich to the poetry of a scribbler and drunkard by the name of Captain Lebyadkin? How can we explain the cycle’s temporal proximity to Shostakovich’s serious and profound works—the Fifteenth Quartet (opus 144), the Suite on Verses by Michelangelo (opus 145), and his very last work, Sonata for Viola and Piano (opus 147)? All these topics—railroads in The Idiot and The Kreutzer Sonata, suprematist images in Tolstoy, Dobuzhinsky’s revolutionary Petrograd, religious theme in Kharms, the Russian intertext in Nabokov’s Lolita, and Shostakovich’s odd vocal cycle—are intriguing precisely because they appear peripheral. Yet the investigation of these “marginal” areas gives us insights into an artist’s complexity and breadth.

S e x , C rime , and R ailroads in Dostoevsky’s Idiot and Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata

W

hen Mikhail Bakhtin applied the term chronotope to literary studies and suggested that the fusion of temporal and spatial relations defines “a literary work’s artistic unity in relationship to an actual reality,” he singled out the chronotope of the road and the neighboring chronotope of the encounter: On the road (“the high road”), the spatial and temporal paths of the most varied people—representatives of all social classes, estates, religions, nationalities, ages—intersect at one spatial and temporal point. People who are normally kept separate by social and spatial distance can accidentally meet; any contrast may crop up, the most various fates may collide and interweave with one another. On the road the spatial and temporal series defining human fates and lives combine with one another in distinctive ways, even as they become more complex and more concrete by the collapse of social distances. The chronotope of the road is both a point of new departures and a place for events to find their denouement. Time, as it were, fuses together with space and flows in it (forming the road); this is the source of the rich metaphorical expansion on the image of the road as a course: “the course of a life,” “to set out on a new course,” “the course of history” and so on; varied and multi-leveled are the ways in which road is turned into a metaphor, but its fundamental pivot is the flow of time.1

1



Mikhail Bakhtin, “Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel,” in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M. M. Bakhtin, ed. Michael Holquist,

14

Sex, Crime, and Railroads in Dostoevsky’s Idiot and Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata

Bakhtin’s essay covers three major fields: ancient Greek and Roman novels, with their adventures’ time-space; chivalric romance, in which “the hero moves from country to country, comes into contact with various masters, crosses various seas”;2 and Rabelais’s novel, where the action “unfolds under the open sky, in movement around the earth, in military campaigns and journeys, taking in various countries.”3 Bakhtin also delves into the idyllic road chronotope in Rousseau, where “the real organic time of idyllic life is opposed to the frivolous, fragmented time of city life or even to historical time”4 and “the destruction of idyll” in the first half of the nineteenth century: in Goethe, Goldsmith, and Jean Paul; and in a different way in bildungsromans: Stendhal, Balzac, Flaubert, and, in Russia, Goncharov.5 In this chapter I delve into the road chronotope in Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, to whose works Bakhtin dedicates only two paragraphs—one stressing the importance of the threshold chronotope in Dostoevsky and the other “biographical time, which flows smoothly in the spaces—the interior spaces—of townhouses and estates of the nobility” in Tolstoy.6 Specifically, I discuss the railroad chronotope in Dostoevsky’s Idiot (1868–69) and Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata (1889). These works, very dissimilar in terms of major themes and ideological perspectives, have the same starting point: several characters meet on a train and enter into a conversation. The theme of railroads in Tolstoy has received much attention in literary studies in relation to Anna Karenina (1877) and the “ominous and mystical” role (in Boris Eikhenbaum’s words) railroads

trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), 243–44. Italics are original. 2

Ibid., 153.

3

Ibid., 167.

4

Ibid., 228.

5

Ibid., 233–34.

6

Ibid., 248–49.



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Spaces of Creativity    Essays on Russian Literature and the Arts

have in this novel.7 David Bethea analyzed the image of the train in The Idiot, viewing it as "metaphor for mechanical force, 'iron logic,' and unregenerate chronos" in Dostoevsky's conceptualization of the role of apocalypse in history8 I approach this topic from a different perspective: by juxtaposing The Idiot and The Kreutzer Sonata (two works that, to my knowledge, have not been considered together),9 I demonstrate that Dostoevsky and Tolstoy revisit the ancient chronotope of the road. The railroad chronotope in The Idiot (1868–69) and The Kreutzer Sonata (1889) has the same range of metaphors as the road chronotope described by Bakhtin: it is a place of chance encounters for people separated by social hierarchies, a setting for their intertwining fates. Dostoevsky says it unequivocally about Myshkin and Rogozhin: “the chance that had so strangely seated them facing each other in

7

Boris Eikhenbaum, Lev Tolstoi: Semidesiatye gody (Leningrad: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1974), 188. Also see Gary R. Jahn, “The Image of the Railroad in Anna Karenina,” Slavic and East European Journal 25, no. 2 (1981): 1–10.

8

See David M. Bethea, “The Idiot: Historicism Arrives at the Station,” in The Shape of Apocalypse in Modern Russian Fiction (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), 64.

9

Robin Feuer Miller uncovers the influence of Tolstoy’s works on The Idiot by pointing to similarities between Dostoevsky’s Prince Myshkin and Pierre Bezukhov from Tolstoy’s War and Peace. See Robin Feuer Miller, Dostoevsky and “The Idiot”: Author, Narrator, and Reader (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981), 59–60. Donna Orwin compares Myshkin’s way of educating children to Tolstoy’s teaching methods at the Yasnaya Polyana school. She also examines Rousseau’s motif of a return to nature in The Idiot and in several of Tolstoy’s works—Childhood, “Lucerne,” and War and Peace (which appeared in installments while Dostoevsky was beginning his novel)—arguing that, in The Idiot, Dostoevsky elaborates on the connection between nature and morality. Donna Orwin, “The Return to Nature: Tolstoyan Echoes in The Idiot,” Russian Review 58, no. 1 (January 1999), 87– 102. The Kreutzer Sonata has been juxtaposed with Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground. See Robert Louis Jackson, “Tolstoj’s Kreutzer Sonata and Dostoevskij’s Notes from the Underground,” American Contributions to the Eighth International Congress of Slavists,” vol. 2, ed. Victor Terras (Columbus, OH: Slavica Publishers, 1978), 280–91.







16

Sex, Crime, and Railroads in Dostoevsky’s Idiot and Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata

the third-class carriage of the Petersburg–Warsaw train.”10 Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata begins with an analogous scene: several characters belonging to different social strata meet in a train compartment and enter into conversation. But, unlike in ancient Greek or Roman novels, where the road provides time-space for adventures, or in chivalric romance, where the road gives the characters an opportunity to perform heroic deeds, the chronotope of the railroad, emerging in the second half of the nineteenth century, carries a strong negative charge. The aggression and violence associated with railroads creates a link with the works’ dramatic climaxes—an oblique one with Nastasya Filippovna’s murder in The Idiot and a direct one with the murder of Pozdnyshev’s wife in The Kreuzer Sonata. For today’s readers, traveling by railroad seems ordinary, even old-fashioned. The authors, characters, and first readers of The Idiot and The Kreutzer Sonata, however, perceived the railroads in a quite different way. When Dostoevsky and Tolstoy were young, people traveled in the same way as in ancient Rome: by horsedrawn carriage. Between the 1860s and the 1880s, when The Idiot and The Kreutzer Sonata were written, traveling by railroad was still considered in Russia a new experience. A nxiety and Fear Triggered by the Advent of Railroads The advent of railroads in the mid-nineteenth century and their subsequent rapid development had a tremendous impact on the economy, as well as on people’s social and private lives. In the introduction to Blood, Iron, and Gold: How the Railroads Transformed the World, Christian Wolmar writes, It is easier to list what the railways did not change than to set out their achievements. Quite simply, between the first quarter and the last quarter of the nineteenth century,

10



Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (New York: Vintage Classics, 2003), 5. All quotations from the novel are from this edition. Page numbers are given in the text in parentheses.

17

Spaces of Creativity    Essays on Russian Literature and the Arts

the railways transformed the world from one where most people barely traveled beyond their village or nearest market town to one where it became possible to cross continents in days rather than months. Their development created a vast manufacturing industry that ensured that the Industrial Revolution would affect the lives of virtually everyone on the planet. Everything from holidays to suburban sprawl and from fresh milk to mail order was made possible by the coming of the railways.11

In many ways the new mode of transportation radically changed people’s way of living and their perception of the world for the better. Distances shrank; time and space began to seem relative. These changes were viewed as positive stimuli for the growing economy and industrialization. The emergence of railroad construction was a sort of new religion with its core belief in technological progress.12 Michael Freeman observes that the quasi-religious aura of the new mode of transportation was reinforced by the choice of saints’ names for train stations and by their neo-Gothic architecture: “Station train-sheds, with their vast arched canopies and vaulted columns, could not fail to inspire comparison with cathedral naves. A commentary in Building News in 1875 claimed that railway termini and their hotels were to the nineteenth century what monasteries and cathedrals were to the thirteenth.”13 Although travel to other countries and summer resorts broadened people’s horizons and improved their quality of life, “railway velocity,” the constant pressure to be on time and the new, hurried pace of living were not always perceived as beneficial: “Victorians increasingly felt they were living without leisure and without pause, a life of haste, a life so filled that no time was left to

11



Christian Wolmar, Blood, Iron, and Gold: How the Railroads Transformed the World (New York: Public Affairs, 2010), xiv.

12



See chapter 1 in Michael Freeman, Railways and the Victorian Imagination (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), 116.

13



Ibid., 73.

18

Sex, Crime, and Railroads in Dostoevsky’s Idiot and Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata

reflect upon where they had been and what they were becoming— and certainly no time to know the value or the purpose of what they had done or seen.”14 The appearance of “iron monsters” spread anxiety and fear. Between 1851 and 1870 there were concerns that this rapid pace would wear down the nervous system and contribute to the increase in deaths from heart failure.15 Rumors spread that train travel induced “suicidal delirium.”16 Although these rumors were not supported by scientific data, they persisted and created a fear that railroads represented a threat to humankind. Medical journals examined the impact of railway travel on health, specifically the allegedly degenerative effects of jolts and vibrations on the nervous system.17 People felt that the proliferation of railroads was destroying the natural order. Both unsophisticated country people and intellectuals shared a concern about the death of nature. Peasants and farmers complained that they were disturbed by the noise and stench of the steam engine and worried that these would affect farm livestock. The stability of time and space was also shaken; the possibilities that the railway introduced were associated with the relativism of space. The coined term “the annihilation of space by time” (later taken up by Marx) expressed new expectations for the future but also signaled the death of the old order.18 Freeman observes that the railroad’s “space-time relationship,” more abstract than the one that had existed since earliest times, prompted the birth of a “new space-time consciousness.”19 Presented by British and French mid-nineteenth-century poets and writers, this “new chronotopal 14



Ibid., 82.

15



Ibid.

16



Ibid., 52.

17



Ralph Harrington, “The Railway Journey and the Neuroses of Modernity,” in Pathologies of Travel, ed. Richard Wrigley and George Revill (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000), 248–49.

18



Ibid., 21.

19



Ibid., 78.

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Spaces of Creativity    Essays on Russian Literature and the Arts

consciousness” incorporated conflicting drives: joys and sorrows, hopes and fears. C ont r ove r si a l V ie w s on R a i l r o a d s i n L it e r a t u r e Nineteenth-century literature presented diametrically opposed views on the transformations that rail journeys wrought in public and private life. Alfred Tennyson, deeply sensitive to nature and to the charm of the English landscape, glorified the new velocity. The dramatic monologue of the traveling protagonist in his philosophical elegy “Locksley Hall” (1842) contains the following lines: “Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward, forward let us range, / Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.”20 Some dithyrambs contained sexual connotations. In J.-K. Huysmans’s À rebours (1884), the protagonist sees man’s creation of the locomotive as an achievement superior to nature’s creation of woman. Huysmans compares one railroad engine to “an adorable blonde, shrill-voiced, slender-waisted, with her glittering corset of polished brass, her supple catlike grace,” and another to “a massively built, dark-browed brunette, of harsh, hoarse-toned utterance, with thick-set loins.”21 The fact that machines were often compared to women suggests that the mid-nineteenth century was the middle ground between the medieval cult of the Lady Fair and the Modernist cult of the machine.22 The train compartment became a common setting in literature. The editors of The Railway and Modernity comment, “In this culture of

20



Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Locksley Hall,” in The Early Poems of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, ed. John Churton Collins (London: Methuen, 1901), 207.

21



Joris-Karl Huysmans, Against the Grain (New York: Dover, 1969), 22–23.

22



Commenting on the sexual connotations of the panegyric to railroads in Huysmans’s novel, Andreas Huyssen observes that the image of the woman as machine has a double reference: a bourgeois desire for control over nature through technological invention and a male libidinal fantasy of creating and hence controlling women. Andreas Huyssen, After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, and Postmodernism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), 70–72.

20

Sex, Crime, and Railroads in Dostoevsky’s Idiot and Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata

fear, creative literature, from the ‘penny dreadful’ through the crime thriller, was quick to see the railway compartment as a fantastic locus for their tradecraft.”23 Although railroad stations looked like new cathedrals, they too often became sites of crime and foul play and thus served as settings in crime novels and short stories. Attitudes toward the construction of railroads in Russian literary circles were as ambivalent as they were in Britain and Europe. Some Russian writers considered it a positive turn of events. Others were suspicious of the benefits of rapid industrialization. In A Writer’s Diary, Dostoevsky recalls an episode that must have taken place in the late 1840s, when he met the critic Vissarion Belinsky near the construction site of the new Nikolaevskaya railroad. Belinsky admitted with delight that he often visited the site because watching it comforted his heart.24 After the abolition of serfdom in Russia in 1861, the construction of railroads significantly accelerated, so that in the 1860s Russia was in second place, after the United States, in introducing new lines, filling many Russians with the hope of eradicating the country’s backwardness.25 The rapid development of railroads led to debates and incited controversies in Russian society. In 1862 the writer Nikolai Leskov, commenting on these debates, wrote, “Some ten years ago the question was still possible here whether railways are useful for Russia. . . . Now it is easy for all and everyone to understand, and it is even a sin not to understand how useful and necessary the

23



Matthew Beaumont and Michael Freeman, eds. The Railway and Modernity: Time, Space, and the Machine Ensemble (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2007), 38.

24



Fyodor Dostoevsky, A Writer’s Diary, 2 vols., trans. and annot. Kenneth Lantz, intro. Gary Saul Morson (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1993), 2:130.

25



During the second half of the nineteenth century, Russia made great strides in economic development. Thanks to the construction of railways, the country’s trade tripled between 1860 and 1890. The realization that building railways was of prime importance surfaced after the Crimean War (1853– 56), which was lost partly because of the lack of reliable transportation. One of the peaks of railway building in Russia coincided with the general economic recovery of the 1860s. The intensive development of railroads lasted until the beginning of the Russo-Turkish War, in 1877.

21

Spaces of Creativity    Essays on Russian Literature and the Arts

improved means of communication are for Russia, and especially railroads. Yes, now it seems even strange, how people, and what’s more, smart people, could ever doubt the usefulness of railways for Russia! . . . Yes, we need railways: without them we will move behind Europe rapidly.”26 Nevertheless, some Russian writers had doubts about the beneficial effects of the fast construction of railroads. In the opening of his novella The Pearl Necklace (1885), Leskov quotes the writer Aleksey Pisemsky saying that Russia’s literary impoverishment was primarily due to the increase in the number of railways; they were useful for trade but harmful to fiction. Pisemsky regretted that Russian literature had deteriorated because while riding trains, writers had neither the time nor the chance to observe life. Another writer who viewed the construction of railroads as detrimental, although for different reasons, was the poet Nikolai Nekrasov. Reflecting liberal concerns, his poem “The Railroad” (“Zheleznaia doroga,” 1864) demonstrates that technological progress was achieved by exploiting peasant labor. Dostoevsky’s attitude toward railroads was more complex. The conception of and his subsequent work on The Idiot coincided with his extensive travel around Europe. In the early 1860s, shortly before Dostoevsky began working on the novel, he traveled to Europe as many as four times, taking more than sixty trips between various cities in Germany, Switzerland, France, England, and Italy. The Idiot was written during Dostoevsky’s last sojourn abroad. From the moment he left Russia in April 1867 until the moment the novel was completed in 1869, he again visited a dozen European cities. Railroad travel enabled Dostoevsky to see many cultural sites, but it also stirred negative emotions in his heart. In his travelogue Winter Notes on Summer Impressions (1863), he describes his first trip to Europe as a frustrating experience: Oh, how boring it is to sit idly on a train, just as it is boring for us in Russia to live without a pursuit of our own! Although

26



Nikolai Leskov, “O neobkhodimosti zheleznykh dorog v Rossii,” in Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 30 vols. (Moscow: Terra, 1996–2007), 2:711–12.

22

Sex, Crime, and Railroads in Dostoevsky’s Idiot and Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata

they indulge you, take care of you, and sometimes pacify you until it seems you can stand it no longer, the anguish (тоска)—yes, anguish—is still there precisely because you do nothing for yourself, because you are coddled too much; you just sit and wait until they get you to where you are going. Truly, if there were any more of it you would jump off the train and run alongside the locomotive on your own two legs. Even if the worst should happen, even if I should grow tired or get lost from want of activity, never mind! At least I move on my own two legs, at least I have found my own way and am doing it myself, at least if the cars collide and go flying into the air, I won’t be locked in sitting idly and answering with my hide for someone else’s mistake.27

This passage elucidates what exactly caused Dostoevsky’s frustration on the railroad: a lack of control, inertia, boredom, and a dreary anticipation of arrival. For him, riding on a train was associated with the curtailment of personal freedom and personal choice—the central issues in Dostoevsky’s novels, which he dealt with on various levels: psychological, philosophical, and religious. Unlike writers who viewed the new mode of transportation with optimism, Dostoevsky blamed railways for their dehumanizing effect. In January 1876 he wrote in A Writer’s Diary, Over the whole of Russia there now stretch nearly twenty thousand versts of railways, and throughout this system even the most minor official stands as one who spreads these ideas; he appears to have total power over you and your fate, over your family, and over your honor should you happen to fall into his clutches on the railway. Not long ago one stationmaster, on his own authority and by his own hand, dragged a lady out of the railway carriage in which she was traveling and delivered her to some gentleman who had complained to this stationmaster that she was his wife and that she was running away from him—and this without any judicial process and without any doubt that he had the right to do it.28

27



Fyodor Dostoevsky, Winter Notes on Summer Impressions, trans. David Patterson (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1988), 10.

28



Dostoevsky, A Writer’s Diary, 1:330–31.

23

Spaces of Creativity    Essays on Russian Literature and the Arts

Dostoevsky was concerned not with technological progress as such but rather with the psychological, emotional, and ethical issues that came into focus with the appearance of railroads. Tolstoy’s antipathy to railroads had an even more emphatic moral dimension. At the age of twenty-nine, he associated them with brothels. In an unsent letter to Ivan Turgenev from Geneva dated March 28/April 9, 1857, Tolstoy wrote, At 8 o’clock yesterday evening when, after a vile railway journey, I transferred to the open seat of a stagecoach and could see the road and the moonlit night, all the sounds and smells of the journey and all my sickness and melancholy vanished as if by magic, or rather were transformed into that calm but moving feeling of joy which you know. I did very well to get away from that Sodom. For goodness sake get away somewhere yourself too, only not by railway. The railway is to travelling what the brothel is to love—just as convenient, but just as inhumanely mechanical and deadly monotonous.29

However bizarre Tolstoy’s comparison of the railroads to brothels may seem, two decades later he again associated railroads with illicit relations in his Anna Karenina—the story of an extramarital relationship that begins and ends on a railroad.30 And another two decades later Tolstoy again connected the themes of sex, railroads, and violence in his Kreutzer Sonata. Tolstoy himself tried to avoid riding on trains. Three times— in 1886, 1888, and 1889—instead of taking the train from Moscow to his estate, Yasnaya Polyana, he covered the distance of 125 miles by foot. Ironically, since 2001 the Yasnaya Polyana train station (which reverted to its original name, Kozlova Zaseka) has featured an exhibit titled Tolstoy’s Railroad. Among other objects, it contains

29



Leo Tolstoy, Tolstoy’s Letters, ed. and trans. R. F. Christian, 2 vols. (London: Athlone Press, 1978), 1:97.

30



At the moment of Anna and Vronsky’s first encounter on a train, a watchman is crushed by the train moving backward. This incident foreshadows Anna’s suicide on a railway track.

24

Sex, Crime, and Railroads in Dostoevsky’s Idiot and Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata

the writer’s suitcase and two books from his home library: Why It Is Dangerous to Ride Russian Railroads (Почему опасно ездить по русским железным дорогам), written by the former station master I. F. Lebedinsky, and Russian Railroads and Their Weak Points (Русские железные дороги и их слабые стороны, 1886), by the engineer N. P. Dobrynin. Tolstoy’s antipathy to railroads was so strong that it seems oddly prophetic that his life would end at the railroad station Astapovo. R a i l r o a d s a nd V iole nc e i n T h e Id i ot a nd T h e K r e u t z e r S o n a t a In The Idiot most of the action takes place in Petersburg and suburban Pavlovsk; the characters also travel to Moscow. The three railways that figure in the text were built not long before Dostoevsky started to work on the novel, in 1868. The Varshavskaya line, by which Myshkin and Rogozhin travel in the opening pages of the novel, was constructed between 1852 and 1862. The Nikolaevskaya line, which the characters take from Petersburg to Moscow, began to operate in 1851. The Tsarskosel'skaya line, connecting Petersburg and Pavlovsk, was opened in 1837. Many dramatic events in The Idiot revolve around train stations and are associated with violence. When Myshkin returns to Petersburg from Moscow after a six-month absence, he considers going on the same day to Pavlovsk, where General Epanchin’s family and Nastasya Filippovna are spending the summer. However, his plan does not come to fruition because from the moment of his arrival in Petersburg he is followed by his rival, Rogozhin. At the Nikolaevskaya train station, Myshkin notices “the gaze of two strange, burning eyes in the crowd surrounding the arriving people” (190). Later, on his way to Pavlovsk, he sees the burning eyes twice more at another station (Tsarskosel'skaya): first, in a cutler shop, and later, when he is boarding the train. Without having an idea of who is following him and why, Myshkin flings his train ticket to the floor and leaves the station. Only in the evening does he realize whose eyes he saw flashing in the crowd, when he sees Rogozhin’s eyes twice more. Their last encounter on that day turns out to be 25

Spaces of Creativity    Essays on Russian Literature and the Arts

almost fateful: Rogozhin, holding a knife, raises his hand; Myshkin cries out, “Parfyon, I don’t believe it!” and loses consciousness in an epileptic fit (234). The train station in Pavlovsk becomes a setting for a scandal. While Myshkin and Aglaya, as well as many other visitors, are waiting for a concert to begin outside the station, Nastasya Filippovna appears, accompanied by Rogozhin and his retinue. She is acting provocatively, as if trying to stir the public’s indignation, and she succeeds, raising a storm of emotions: Myshkin’s compassion, Aglaya’s jealousy, Evgeny Pavlovich’s outrage, and Countess Epanchin’s anxiety. Unlike the scandals occurring in Petersburg’s living rooms, this scene takes place in the open air, and thus becomes especially shameful.31 Later that night, after the concert, when the noisy company gathers in Myshkin’s dacha, the conversation revolves around railroads. The drunkard philosopher Lebedev proclaims that the railway network spread across Europe is nothing but the “star Wormwood” in the book of Revelation and that railroads will contaminate the earth. His interpretation of the apocalypse triggers a heated dispute. Ganya, an ambitious functionary, asks Lebedev to specify: “It turns out, in your opinion, that the railways are cursed, that they’re the bane of mankind, a plague that has fallen upon the earth to muddy the ‘wellsprings of life’?” Lebedev explains, “By themselves the railways won’t muddy the wellsprings of life, but the thing as a whole is cursed, sir, all this mood of our last few centuries, as a general whole, scientific and practical, is maybe indeed cursed, sir” (373). Although fanciful and anachronistic, Lebedev’s interpretation of the Apocalypse serves as a temporal background for the novel’s dramatic events. Robert Hollander observes that the new railways

31



In Dostoevsky’s time, the Pavlovsk train station was located inside Pavlovsk Park (not outside it, as it is now), and thus the site created an impression of nature conquered by technology. It looked as if the railroad intruded into the picturesque green area, in which twelve alleyways, bearing whimsical names—Alley of Green Woman, Alley of Red Sun, and others—formed (and still form) a so-called Great Star.

26

Sex, Crime, and Railroads in Dostoevsky’s Idiot and Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata

“serve Dostoevsky as an apocalyptic symptom of the times . . . associated with mercantilism and the general spirit of political corruption . . . helping to create a sense of doom.”32 The theme of apocalypses also brings forth the idea of timelessness. In The Idiot, one of the railroad journeys to the city ends with a murder. Nastasya Filippovna and Myshkin’s wedding is scheduled for eight o’clock in the evening, in a local church in Pavlovsk. A few minutes before the marriage ceremony, to everyone’s surprise, Nastasya Filippovna rushes to Rogozhin, asking him to save her, to take her away wherever he likes. Rogozhin leads her to the carriage; they gallop to the train station to catch a train to Petersburg. When they are about to board it, Rogozhin realizes that Nastasya Filippovna’s magnificent wedding dress would look out of place in the train. He stops a passing girl and pays her fifty rubles for her dark mantilla and a foulard kerchief that will cover his companion’s head and shoulders. In Petersburg, Rogozhin takes Nastasya Filippovna to his house on Gorokhovaya Street, a few blocks from the train station. Later that night, he stabs her in his bed. Rogozhin’s motives for murdering Nastasya Filippovna are not clarified, so the reader is left to hypothesize whether the crime is motivated by Rogozhin’s jealousy or Nastasya Filippovna’s mistreatment of her admirer.33 One can also take into account the circumstances that immediately precede the murder—the journey from Pavlovsk to Petersburg, especially because this trip creates a parallel with the setting in the first pages of the novel. To be sure, traveling itself is not a direct cause of the murder, but it does exacerbate an explosive situation, for the elopement of a bride from

32



Robert Hollander, “The Apocapyptic Framework of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot,” Mosaic 6 (1974): 131.

33



Rogozhin shares with Myshkin that when he and Nastasya Filippovna were in Moscow planning to get married, she mistreated him, constantly making him feel jealous, laughing at him, and looking at him as if he was “the worst scum.” When he heard her saying “I might not even take you as my lackey now, much less be your wife,” he could not stand it any longer; he “fell on her and beat her black and blue.” Dostoevsky, The Idiot, 209–10.

27

Spaces of Creativity    Essays on Russian Literature and the Arts

her wedding ceremony, although per her request, appears as an act of violence rather than salvation. When in the morning Myshkin arrives by the same route and comes to Rogozhin’s house, Rogozhin takes him by hand and sits him down onto a chair, without telling him yet about the murder: “He sat down facing him and moved the chair so that his knees almost touched the prince’s. Between them, a little to the side, was a small, round table. ‘Sit down, let’s sit a while!’ he said, as if persuading him to sit down. They were silent for a minute” (605). This scene with Myshkin and Rogozhin sitting opposite each other next to Nastasya Filippovna’s corpse echoes the opening of the novel, where these two men are sitting opposite each other in the train wagon; this parallelism strengthens the connection between the novel’s exposition and the climax. Incidently, despite numerous changes Dostoevsky constantly made in the novel during fifteen and a half months that he worked on it, the “train carriage” setting first recorded in the drafts at the very early stage (two weeks after he began working on it) remained unchanged.34 As in The Idiot, in The Kreutzer Sonata railroad travel is associated with extreme violence; Pozdnyshev’s return to the city by the night train also leads to the murder of a woman. The description of his journey—first by horse and later by train—deserves a close examination because of the contrasts between the two. Initially, the journey seems pleasant: “I had a journey of about twenty-five miles in the carriage, and then eight hours in the train. The carriage part of the journey was wonderful. It was autumn, with frost and bright sunshine. You know what it’s like at that time of year—when horses’ hooves are faintly imprinted on the even surface of the road. The roads were smooth, there was bright sunshine and the air was invigorating. It felt good travelling along in that carriage. Once it had got light and I was on my way I was able to relax.”35 Then the

34



35



Fedor Dostoevskii, Idiot: Rukopisnye redaktsii, in Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v 30 tomakh, vol. 9 (Moscow: Nauka, 1974), 177. Leo Tolstoy, The Kreutzer Sonata and Other Stories, trans. Roger Cockrell (Richmond: Alma Classics, 2015), 89. All quotations from the novella are from this edition. Page numbers are given in the text in parentheses.

28

Sex, Crime, and Railroads in Dostoevsky’s Idiot and Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata

situation changes. About halfway into the trip, the carriage breaks down, which affects future events. Pozdnyshev misses the express and takes a local train. Instead of arriving home at five o’clock in the evening, as scheduled, he gets there at one o’clock in the morning. The following passage, in which Tolstoy describes the train ride’s effects on Pozdnyshev, deserves to be quoted in full: But this calm frame of mind, the opportunity to keep my emotions under control, ended when the carriage part of the journey was over. As soon as I got on the train, I started to feel completely different. I found that eight-hour train journey so horrible I shall remember it for the rest of my life. Whether it was because, once I’d settled down in my seat, I was able to picture myself in graphic terms as already having arrived, or whether it was because railway journeys always have such a disconcerting effect (возбуждающе действует) on people—either way, as soon as I had sat down, I found I could no longer control my imagination, which began to paint for me the most lurid scenes possible one after the other without a break, scenes inflaming my jealousy, with each one more cynical than the one before. They were all depicting the same thing: what was happening back home, in my absence, and her being unfaithful to me. As I imagined these scenes, I was consumed by rage and anger, and by a weird feeling of exhilaration at the thought of my own humiliation, and I was unable to get rid of them; I couldn’t stop myself looking at them or conjuring them up. . . As if against my will, there was some little devil sitting inside me, prompting me and egging me on to think up the most appalling notions. (90)

The rendering of the expression “возбуждающий эффект” in this passage as “disconcerting effect” is rather unfortunate, for the Russian word “возбуждение,” which has connotations of “sexual arousal,” becomes lost in translation, but it stands out in the original, relating to the core theme of The Kreutzer Sonata. Pozdnyshev’s remark about a lack of control over feelings and imagination still explains his anxiety and panic. He compares himself to a “wild beast in a cage,” jumping, rushing to the window, walking back and forth through the aisle, trying to make the train go faster. Eventually he reaches a state of frenzy: “I was in such torment I can remember 29

Spaces of Creativity    Essays on Russian Literature and the Arts

thinking what a wonderful idea it would be to go outside onto the track, lie down on the rails under the carriage and finish it all” (92). When Pozdnyshev arrives home in a state of great anxiety, he finds what he expected to find—his wife in the company of the violinist Trukhachevsky. At that point he yields to his feeling of rage and kills his wife. Pozdnyshev’s crime has a spectrum of motivations— ideological, physical, emotional, and psychological—all having to do with some invisible but irresistible force. He commits his crime out of sexual instincts. He also commits it because these instincts are intensified by his train travel—an experience that torments him and makes him feel as if he has lost control over his actions. In a more general sense, his crime is motivated by yet another uncontrollable force: music. Pozdnyshev verbalizes Tolstoy’s idea that music is a “fearsome medium for anyone who wants to make use of it” (84). Akin to railroad travel, music has the power to affect people in the most horrible way by weakening their sense of control. Tolstoy compares a work of music to a magic vehicle when he uses the verb “переносить” three times in Pozdnyshev’s famous monologue: Music compels me to forget myself, my true position, and transforms (переносит) me into something quite different, an alien being; it seems that under the influence of music I feel things which, in reality, I don’t feel, that I understand things I don’t really understand, and that I am able to do things I’m in fact unable to do. . . . As soon as I start listening to a piece of music I am immediately and directly carried (переносит меня) into the composer’s state of mind as he was writing it. My soul merges with his and, like him, I am transported (переношусь) from one state into another. But why this happens, I’ve no idea. What about the man who wrote the Kreutzer Sonata, for example—Beethoven? Surely he knew why he was in that state of mind, didn’t he? (83)

Characteristically, in the translation, the verb “переносить” is rendered in three different ways, as “to transform,” “to carry,” and “to transport,” and this is because the Russian word connotes all sorts of transitions—in time, space, or emotional state. 30

Sex, Crime, and Railroads in Dostoevsky’s Idiot and Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata

The idea that a work of art serves as a vehicle for transmitting emotions, both positive and negative, was fully developed by Tolstoy in his philosophical treatise What Is Art? (1889). In it, Tolstoy uses this verb again: “The perceiver experiences the greater pleasure the more particular the state of mind into which he is transferred (“переносится”), and therefore the more willingly and strongly does he merge with it.”36 The Kreutzer Sonata clothes Tolstoy’s theoretical views in an artistic form: here, music appears as a brutal force, as an engine of violence, and most of all, of sexual violence. Characteristically, the decision to murder his wife enters Pozdnyshev’s head while he is still on the train: “At the last station before my final destination, after the conductor had been round to collect the tickets, I gathered up my stuff and went out onto the brake platform. I knew that the time for making a decision was now very close, and this was making me increasingly anxious” (94). When he exits the train station, the decision has already been made: “I walked mechanically out of the station with everyone else, called a cab, got in and set off. I travelled along, looking out at the few passers-by and the caretakers, and at the shadows cast by the streetlamps and the cab, now in front and now behind. My mind was blank” (94). To be sure, Pozdnyshev’s radical understanding of marriage and sex and his perception of music induce him to commit a crime, but what also affects him in the worst possible way, exacerbating his crisis, is his railroad trip. His physical and psychological condition is a perfect illustration of what nineteenth-century scientists claimed about the psychological discomfort of the new technology: From at least the mid-nineteenth century, physiologists and psychologists were thus fascinated by the corrosive effects of routinized train travel on the minds and bodies of middleclass travelers, as well as by exceptional experiences such as accidents. Commuting, it might be said with only some

36



Tolstoy, What Is Art?, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (London: Penguin Classics, 1996), 121.

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exaggeration, starts to seem traumatic in the 1860s. It also comes to seem narcotic. The phrase “railway consciousness,” unfocused though it is, might therefore signal the state of mind characteristically induced by train travel—one in which thought itself, lacking definite direction, nonetheless seems to run along tracks mechanically laid down in the mind.37

Matthew Beaumont writes that during the rapid development of railroads in the mid-nineteenth century, many reports on pathological conditions supposedly generated by railway travel appeared, such as “The Influence of Railway Travelling on Public Health” (1862) or the report of the Hungarian physician Max Nordau, who claimed that the constant vibration of railway travelling affected the nervous system. Beaumont concludes that Pozdnyshev’s case in Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata is a perfect example of the “railway mania.”38 

Dostoevsky and Tolstoy had different artistic and ideological goals in writing The Idiot and The Kreutzer Sonata, which they formulated outside these texts. In a letter to his niece, Dostoevsky wrote that his goal was to portray a “positively beautiful man.” The task, he stated, was impossible. Tolstoy formulated the main ideas of The Kreutzer Sonata in the afterword to the novella: one must not indulge in debauchery; one must not place the sexual act above all else. Notwithstanding the discrepancy in authorial intent, written two decades apart, The Idiot and The Kreutzer Sonata mirror the same historical reality with its new notions of time and space. The problems associated with the emergence and fast development of railroads in the second half of the nineteenth century throw light on the parallels in these works’ expositions: for Dostoevsky’s and Tolstoy’s contemporaries, the characters’ encounter on the train set

37



Beaumont and Freeman, eds., The Railway and Modernity, 40.

38



Matthew Beaumont, “Railway Mania: The Train Compartment as the Scene of a Crime,” in ibid., 134–35.

32

Sex, Crime, and Railroads in Dostoevsky’s Idiot and Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata

expectations for future dramatic events. The association of railroads with violence and interference in the natural course of events, characteristic of the time, foreshadows these works’ climaxes, even if on an unconscious level. The chronotope of the railroad reflects the fears and anxieties of that historical time. In contrast to the one-dimensional time and space in ancient and medieval novels, in Dostoevsky’s and Tolstoy’s works, the railroad chronotope is marked by complexity and ambivalence. It encompasses the open space of the road, traversed at high speed, and also an enclosed space on the train where travelers are removed from the general flow of life. In contrast with previous literary traditions, Dostoevsky’s and Tolstoy’s treatment of travel in time and space acquires an utmost ethical importance and has deep psychological connotations.

“Horror–Red, White, and Square”: Abstract Images in Tolstoy

It

has been often said that Tolstoy’s representation of nature, people, and objects is so vivid that his prose creates an impression of real life rather than art. Tolstoy was still alive when Kornei Chukovsky wrote in one of his early essays, “In order to portray people, Tolstoy portrays the world in which people live . . . , and this world is made so real and true to life that the reader cannot help looking at it through the eyes of the character from whose point of view it is depicted.”1 In this chapter I discuss instances when Tolstoy transcends the boundaries of realism and creates abstract images in his prose. The reader sees these patterns through the eyes of Tolstoy’s characters, whose perceptual abstraction—the ability to see people and objects in geometric forms and primary colors—resembles the way twentieth century modernist artists see and depict the world.

Tol s toy ’ s A b s t r ac t I m ag e s “R e d S qu a r e ”: Me moi r s of a M a d m a n In a letter to his wife dated September 4, 1869, Tolstoy describes an episode that happened to him on his way to the Penza District: “It was two o’clock in the morning, I was terribly tired, ready to sleep, and nothing bothered me, when suddenly I was seized by

1



K. I. Chukovskii, Tolstoi kak khudozhestvennyi genii, quoted by E. N. Kupreianova in Estetika L. N. Tolstogo (Moscow: Nauka, 1966), 181.

34

“H o r r o r ­— R e d , W h i t e , a n d S q u a r e”: A b s t r a c t I m a g e s i n To l s t o y

a depression (тоска), fear and horror such as I had never before experienced.”2 This episode laid the foundation for Tolstoy’s unfinished short story “Memoirs of a Madman” (1884–1903), in which the protagonist, Fyodor, sets off for the province of Penza to buy a new estate. On his way there, traveling by a horse-drawn carriage, he falls asleep but suddenly wakes up with a feeling of intense anxiety and decides to make a stopover in Arzamas. The night he spends in a house in Arzamas signals the beginning of a deep spiritual crisis precipitated by his fear of death. Fyodor’s fear in “Memoirs of a Madman” has no apparent source. His torments seem to be exacerbated by the very appearance of the room: “It was a small square room, with whitewashed walls. I remember that it tormented me that it should be square. It had one window with a red curtain.”3 When Fyodor tries to fall asleep, his depression not only persists but also transforms into mortal anguish: “Life and death somehow merged into one another. Something was tearing my soul apart and could not complete the severance. Again I went to look at the sleepers, and again I tried to go to sleep. Always the same horror: red, white, and square” (ужас—красный, белый, квадратный).4 We see that the “Arzamas horror” is depicted by means of a specific visual image and, moreover, a nonobjective one (беспредметный).5 Fyodor is unable to sleep not because he

2

Leo Tolstoy’s letter no. 220 to S. A. Tolstaya dated September 4, 1869, in Lev Tolstoi, Sobranie sochinenii, 20 vols. (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1984), 17/18:683.

3

Leo Tolstoy, Collected Shorter Fictions, 2 vols., trans. Louise and Aylmer Mauder and Nigel J. Cooper, with an introduction by John Bayley (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001), 1:785.

4

Ibid., 787.

5

Although there is a whole range of abstract schools, in a widely accepted sense “abstraction” implies freedom from representational qualities in art. In the present discussion, the expression “abstract art” is used roughly synonymously with “nonobjective art,” “nonfigurative art,” and “nonrepresentational art” (“беспредметное искусство” in Russian).







35

Spaces of Creativity    Essays on Russian Literature and the Arts

observes concrete objects—the window with a red curtain on the white wall––but because he is tortured by a visual image of horror, “red, white, and square,” internalized in his mind. He begins to recite “Lord, Have Mercy,” “Our Father,” and “Holy Virgin,” as well as his own prayers. Glancing around, and afraid of being seen, he kneels and makes the sign of the cross. In prayer, he does not address an icon; apparently there are no icons in the room. Instead, his mind is absorbed by a “pseudo-icon”—the red square on the white wall. The story provides no explanation of why the “horror” should be “red, white, and square,” but this image is elucidated when juxtaposed with Kazimir Malevich’s painting Red Square (1915).

Fig. 1. Kazimir Malevich, Red Square—Painterly Realism of a Peasant Woman in Two Dimensions, 1915.

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“H o r r o r ­— R e d , W h i t e , a n d S q u a r e”: A b s t r a c t I m a g e s i n To l s t o y

As Malevich explains in the manifesto of Suprematism, “The square = feeling, the white field = the void beyond this feeling.”6 The very term “suprematism” came from the idea of the supremacy of feelings. Similarly, in Tolstoy’s story, red and white squares are associated with an “intense feeling” (the fear of death) and the “void beyond this feeling” (the emptiness that death brings). In this scene the red square on a white background serves as a heraldic sign of these acute emotions.7 The subtitle of Malevich’s Red Square—Painterly Realism of a Peasant Woman in Two Dimensions (Живописный реализм крестьянки в двух измерениях)—parallels the peasant theme in Tolstoy’s story. As a result of his crisis, Fyodor comes to realize “the chief truth, that the peasants, like ourselves, want to live, that they are human beings, our brothers, and sons of the Father as the Gospels say.”8 This shared theme owes to Tolstoy’s and Malevich’s admiration for the aesthetics of folk culture and the peasant way of life, which one can see in Tolstoy’s short stories about peasants and in Malevich’s two peasant cycles, one created between 1908 and 1912 and the other between 1928 and 1932.9

6

Kazimir Malevich, “Suprematism,” in The Non-Objective World, trans. Howard Dearstyne (Chicago: P. Theobald, 1959), 76.

7

Kathleen Parthé argues that the image of the “square” in Tolstoy’s “Memoirs of a Madman” symbolizes the fear of death and is related to a series of Tolstoyan linguistic devices. She maintains that to describe death, Tolstoy borrows an image from mathematics, which later appears in the prose works of Andrei Bely and Evgenii Zamiatin. Kathleen Parthé, “Tolstoy and the Geometry of Fear,” Modern Language Studies 15, no. 4 (Autumn 1985): 80–94.

8

Tolstoy, Collected Shorter Fiction, 1:793.

9

In his autobiography, Malevich wrote, “I liked the peasant clothes also because they were colored and patterned, because peasants sewed clothes for themselves as they wanted. They wove them themselves; they embroidered and dyed the fabric.” K. S. Malevich, “Glavy iz avtobiografii khudozhnika,” in Malevich o sebe: Sovremenniki o Maleviche. Pis'ma, dokumenty, vospominaniia, kritika, vol. 2, ed. I. A. Vakar and T. N. Mikhienko (Moscow: Izdatel'stvo “Ra,” 2004), 18.





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In some way Malevich’s peasant women, dressed in colorful clothes and devoid of facial features, resemble Stepanida in Tolstoy’s story “The Devil” (1889). Her appearance is characterized by only two colorful elements, a red head kerchief and a red skirt: “And again as ill-luck would have it, either by unfortunate chance or intentionally, as soon as he stepped from the porch a red skirt and red kerchief appeared from round the corner, and she went past him swinging her arms and swaying her body.”10 Stepanida’s bright red clothes, mentioned as many as eight times in the story, are metonymic of her vital physicality. Malevich did not aim to illustrate Tolstoy’s story, however. In his first peasant cycle he got inspiration from elsewhere: for him, folk art was linked to Old Russian icon painting. He claimed that through peasants’ faces he was able to understand icons.11 The descriptiveness of Red Square’s subtitle Peasant Woman in Two Dimensions makes it referential but allows multiple interpretations: the image may be seen not as a pure abstraction but as an “abstracted image”—a peasant head kerchief or an iconic veil (плат) with no holy face on it. It is not clear whether Tolstoy, when he was in Arsamas in 1869, actually visualized “horror—red, white, and square.” This colorful image might have been born in his imagination fifteen years later, in 1884, when he began working on “Memoirs of a Madman” or when he returned to this unfinished story in 1887, 1888, 1896, and 1903. In his 1869 letter to his wife, Tolstoy does not mention the red square. “B oy w it h a S a t c he l ”: Pe t y a R o s t ov on t he Eve of B a t t le Like the protagonist in “Memoirs of a Madman,” some characters in War and Peace are also able to see objects and people in geometric shapes and colors. On the eve of battle, Petya, the youngest Rostov,

10



Tolstoy, Collected Shorter Fiction, 2:367.

11



Malevich, “Glavy iz avtobiografii khudozhnika,” 28–29.

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“H o r r o r ­— R e d , W h i t e , a n d S q u a r e”: A b s t r a c t I m a g e s i n To l s t o y

Fig. 2. Kazimir Malevich, Painterly Realism: Boy with Knapsack—Color Masses in the Fourth Dimension, 1915.

lost in reverie, is mesmerized by a vision of two spots—red and black: Petya had every reason to know that he was in a forest, in Denisov’s band, a verst from the road, sitting on a wagon captured from the French near which horses were tethered; that the big dark patch (черное пятно) to the right was the watchman’s hut, the red spot (красное пятно) below to the left the dying campfire; yet he neither knew nor wanted to know anything of all this. He was in an enchanted kingdom

39

Spaces of Creativity    Essays on Russian Literature and the Arts

where nothing resembled reality. The big dark patch might be a hut, it is true, but then it might be a cavern leading to the very depths of the earth. The red spot might be a fire, or it might be the eye of some prodigious monster. Perhaps he really was sitting on a wagon, but it might very well be that he was not sitting on a wagon at all, but on a marvelously high tower from which, if he fell, he would go on flying for a whole day, a whole month, before he reached the earth––or he might fly forever and never reach it.12

The red spot of the campfire that Petya is gazing at turns out to be fateful—a few hours later, near this campfire, he will drop dead, struck by a bullet: “His horse, having run onto the ashes of a campfire that was smoldering in the morning light, stopped short, and Petya fell heavily onto the wet ground. A bullet had pierced his skull” (1263). The vision of the black and red spots that absorbs Petya’s attention a few hours before his death may be illustrated by Malevich’s 1915 painting entitled Painterly Realism: Boy with a Satchel––Color Masses in the Fourth Dimension (Живописный реализм мальчика с ранцем—красочные массы в четвертом измерении), showing a black square on top and a red, smaller square at the bottom. The Russian title, Мальчик с ранцем, can be understood in one of two ways, as “Boy with a School Satchel” or as “Boy with a Soldier’s Satchel.” Considering that Malevich created this painting in the heat of World War I, it is more likely that he meant the latter. The image of a boy soldier is more intense, for war is not a place for boys. Besides, as bearers of energy colors have universal connotations, so the sharp contrast of black and red may be associated with war: red as the color of fire and blood, black as the color of horror and death. We have no proof that Malevich meant to illustrate War and Peace with this or any other painting, so it must be a mere coincidence that Petya in War and Peace is also a “Boy with a Satchel”; he carries

12



Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace, trans. Ann Dunningan (1968; reprint, London: Signet Classics, 1980), 1259. All quotations from War and Peace are from this edition, with the page indicated in parantheses in the text.

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a soldier’s bag, in which he keeps raisins. When Denisov kneels down near the dead Petya, the boy’s words rise up in his memory: “I always like something sweet. Wonderful raisins. . . . Take all of them” (1264). But this coincidence is not accidental. Malevich depicts the same reality as Tolstoy does—the reality of war—and he portrays it with the same colors, red and black. “R e c t a n g le a nd C i r c le ”: Pie r r e B e z u k hov a nd Pl a t on K a r a t a e v Just like her younger brother Petya, Natasha Rostov has abstract vision: she sees people in geometric shapes and colors. Explaining to her mother that Boris Drubetskoy is not exactly her type, Natasha says, “And he’s very sweet, really very sweet. Only not quite to my taste––he’s narrow, like the dining-room clock. . . . Do you understand? Narrow, you know, gray––pale gray.” The countess does not understand what her daughter is trying to convey. She says, “What nonsense you’re talking!” to which Natasha replies, “Don’t you understand? . . . Nikolai would understand. Bezukhov, now is blue––dark blue and red, and foursquare” (синий—темносиний с красным, и он четвероугольный). And she repeats: “Dark blue and red––How can I explain it to you?” (546). Like Petya’s, Natasha’s vision turns out to be prophetic. The image she describes—foursquare and colored dark blue and red— serves as an emblem of her future marriage to Pierre Bezukhov. This becomes obvious in the episode of a Yuletide fortune-telling, when, following a Russian folk custom, Natasha places two mirrors in front of each other in order to see her future husband in the “last square” (в последнем квадрате) of the corridor of mirrors. She hopes to see her fiancé Andrei Bolkonsky in it, but sees nothing. When Sonya sits down to look for her, in the “last square” of the mirror, something “dark-blue and red” appears (643). This “dark blue and red” square is semantically charged, for it is Pierre, not Andrei, who will eventually become Natasha’s husband. Bezukhov’s encounter with Platon Karataev suggests that Pierre, too, is capable of seeing people’s essence in geometric forms: “Platon’s whole figure in his French military coat belted with a piece 41

Spaces of Creativity    Essays on Russian Literature and the Arts

of rope, his cap, and bast shoes, was round; his head was perfectly round; his back, chest, shoulders, and even his arms, which he always held as if about to embrace something, were round; and his friendly smile and large, tender brown eyes were round” (1161). In his description of Platon’s rotundity, Tolstoy does not mention color, but the name Karataev (from the Turkic kara) suggests the color black. Malevich’s Suprematist Painting: Rectangle and Circle (Супрематизм: Прямоугольник и круг, 1915), featuring a dark blue rectangle (with distinct touches of red) and a black circle, illustrates well Pierre’s encounter with Platon.13

Fig. 3. Kazimir Malevich, Suprematist Painting: Rectangle and Circle, 1915.

Tolstoy’s creation of the abstract images in his prose leads to a question: what do they tell us about his artistic technique and his characters?

13



See the note in the description of the painting—“Les craquelures sous le cercle permettent d’apercevoir de la couleur rouge”—in Andréi Nakov, Kazimir Malewicz: Catalogue raisonné (Paris: A. Biro, 2002), 227.

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I n ne r V i sion a nd I n ne r S p e e c h What unites all of the above episodes is the presence of a double perspective in them: of an outer viewpoint that highlights the external forms of objects and people on the one hand and an inner viewpoint that captures internal forms and colors on the other. Thus, from the narrator’s outer perspective, Pierre is portrayed as “a stout, heavily built young man with close-cropped hair and spectacles, wearing the light-colored breeches fashionable at the time, a brown dress coat, and a high jabot” (35); he is “awkward; above average height, broad and stout, with huge red hands” (49–50). Pierre’s corporeal features are emphasized by the mention of his excessive eating and drinking, his awkward coordination at a duel, his nearsightedness, and even his last name, Bezukhov, which derives from the word безухий (earless). From Natasha’s inner point of view, however, Pierre’s true physical essence is expressed in shapes and colors: Pierre is “dark blue and red, and foursquare.” This is the image of the feeling that Pierre evokes in Natasha’s perception and imagination. In a similar way, we are told that Platon is a man over fifty, with “brilliantly white, strong teeth, which emerged in two semicircles whenever he laughed,” with no gray hair in his beard or on his head. Tolstoy dwells on his corporeal features: Platon’s body “gave an impression of suppleness and of remarkable firmness and endurance,” and he spoke “with a pleasant singing intonation” characterized by spontaneity and appositeness (1161). In Pierre Bezukhov’s inner perception, however, all of these characteristics are condensed into a single one: Platon is round. Their first meeting takes place in the dark when they cannot see each other well, so Pierre feels and even “smells” Platon’s roundness—symbolizing absolute correctness and righteousness, the “everlasting personification of the spirit of simplicity and truth” (1163). The discussed episodes share yet another special feature: the sharpening of the characters’ “inner vision” occurs during their transitions from wakefulness to sleep and when each person is emotionally exhausted or excited. Thus, in “Memoirs of a Madman,” Fyodor is trying to sleep but wakes up tortured by the fear of death. 43

Spaces of Creativity    Essays on Russian Literature and the Arts

Petya Rostov’s preoccupation with the red and black spots originates from his anxiety on the eve of battle and perhaps his presentiment of imminent death. As the boy watches two mysterious spots, his eyes begin to close. On the verge of falling asleep while looking at a black and a red patch, he hears music: The music swelled, the melody developing and passing from one instrument to another. What was playing was a fugue— though Petya had not the slightest idea what a fugue was. Each instrument—now one resembling the violin, now one like a horn, but finer, more brilliant than either violin or horn—played its own part, and before it had finished the motif, merged with another instrument that began almost the same air, then with a third, and a fourth; and they all blended into one, and again separated, and again blended, now into solemn church music, now into some resplendent and triumphal air. “Oh, but I must have been dreaming,” Petya said to himself as he lurched forward. “It’s only in my ears. Perhaps it’s music of my own making. Well, go on, my music. Now! . . .” He closed his eyes. And on all sides as from a distance, the notes vibrated, swelling into harmonies, dispersing and mingling again in that same sweet solemn hymn. “Ah, this is delightful! As much as I like, and just as I like!” said Petya to himself. He tried to conduct that tremendous orchestra. (1260)

Listening to the magical sounds and miraculous images of his own making, Petya falls asleep and does not wake up until the next morning: “How long this lasted Petya could not tell; he delighted in it, wondering all the while at his delight and regretting that there was no one to share it. He was awakened by Likhachev” (1261). Natasha’s remark about Pierre being “dark blue and red, and foursquare” is made when she and her mother are chatting on the mother’s bed. Natasha’s emotional state is affected by her excitement about the new possibility of love, but she too is falling asleep: “She hummed her favorite passage from a Cherubini opera and flung herself into bed, laughing with delight at the thought that she would instantly fall asleep. She called Dunyasha to put out the 44

“H o r r o r ­— R e d , W h i t e , a n d S q u a r e”: A b s t r a c t I m a g e s i n To l s t o y

candle, and before the maid was out of the room had passed into that other, still happier world of dreams, where everything was as smooth and lovely as in reality, and even more so, because it was different” (547). When Pierre Bezukhov meets Platon Karataev, he is exhausted emotionally and physically. Their meeting takes place in captivity, immediately after the execution of the Russian soldiers. The violence of the execution affects Pierre in a most powerful way, so that when he meets Karataev in the dark room, reminiscences of the execution keep invading his thoughts. Platon is preparing to go to bed and soon falls asleep, but “Pierre did not sleep for a long time, but lay with wide-open eyes listening to the rhythmic snoring of Platon, who lay beside him in the darkness, and he felt that the world that had been shattered was beginning to rise again in his soul, but a new beauty, and on new, unshakable foundations” (1160). All these scenes suggest that Tolstoy’s characters’ “inner vision” intensifies at moments when they are prone to dreams or hallucinations. To this chain of scenes, one more example may be added: the ending of War and Peace, where the image of a person is completely devoid of physicality and is characterized by a total absence of form and color. In the final scene of the first part of the epilogue, Nikolenka Bolkonsky is dreaming of his father, Prince Andrei, who “had neither shape nor form, but he existed, and when Nikolenka perceived him he grew faint with love: he felt himself powerless, without bones or substance. His father caressed him and pitied him” (1410). Tolstoy’s further remark in parentheses stresses the absence of physicality: “‘My father!’ he thought. (Though there were two portraits of him in the house, Nikolenka had never visualized Prince Andrei in human form.) ‘My father has been with me and caressed me’” (ibid.). Nikolenka’s dreaming of the invisible (nonobjective) image of his father is perhaps the most abstract portrait Tolstoy ever created. In 1930 Viktor Vinogradov analyzed a phenomenon related to Tolstoy’s characters’ dreams, but pertaining to a verbal rather than a visual sphere. Delving into several scenes from War and Peace, in which characters experience “transitional” emotional states— dreams, delirium, and drowsiness—Vinogradov demonstrates that 45

Spaces of Creativity    Essays on Russian Literature and the Arts

in these episodes the characters’ inner monologues are marked by incoherence, elliptical syntax, and brokenness.14 This inner speech, he comments, serves to create the whole chain of internal experiences, perceptions, and recollections. Vinogradov provides several examples, one of which is Natasha’s dreamlike state when, immersed in reminiscences about Prince Andrei, and thinking that during their separation “she is being wasted,” Natasha repeats the word “Madagascar . . . Ma-da-gascar,” articulating every syllable (627). This meaningless utterance, Vinogradov maintains, expresses Natasha’s state of anguish and her inner longing for a marriage that has been posponed.15 Another scene is the episode that takes place during the night on the skirmish line in front of Bagration’s detachment, when Nikolai Rostov is trying to overcome his drowsiness and murmurs, “It must be snow . . . that spot . . . a spot . . . une tache . . . Natasha, my sister, her black eyes . . . Na-tasha. . . . Won’t she be surprised when I tell her I’ve seen the Tsar! Natasha . . . take my sabretache” (327). Vinogradov notes that in nineteenth-century literary conventions, ellipses and broken syntax were perceived as an unexpected deviation from literary norms. Moreover, he notes that the elliptical syntax in Nikolai’s inner speech creates an illusion of the modernist “stream of consciousness.”16 Vinogradov’s view of Tolstoy as the forerunner of the “stream of consciousness” technique is intriguing. Perhaps this was one of the reasons that Joyce, when asked whom he thought was the great novelist, consistently answered “Tolstoy.” Extending far beyond the literary conventions of his time, Tolstoy’s experiments were not fully appreciated until the modernist era. Tolstoy’s contemporary, the philosopher Konstantin Leont'ev, tells a story of how he read War and Peace aloud to a young peasant couple. Leont'ev confesses that despite his admiration for

14



Viktor Vinogradov, “O iazyke Tolstogo (50e–60e gody),” in Literaturnoe nasledstvo (Moscow: Izd. AN SSSR, 1939), 35/36:179–89.

15



Ibid., 35/36:182.

16



Ibid., 35/36:181.

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“H o r r o r ­— R e d , W h i t e , a n d S q u a r e”: A b s t r a c t I m a g e s i n To l s t o y

the writer, he felt extremely embarrassed when he had to read the scene in which the fatally wounded and delirious Prince Andrei is hearing a soft, whispering voice: “‘Piti-piti-piti’ and then ‘ti-ti’ and again ‘piti-piti-pitii,’ and ‘ti-ti.’” As Leont'ev phrases it, “This strange, aesthetically tactless piti-piti-piti, unrelated to anything previously and subsequently stated . . . is simply awful.”17 His discomfort was so intense that he decided to skip this episode as well as other “similar scenes” because he was “embarrassed and ashamed” of Tolstoy in front of the young peasants. Leont'ev’s embarrassment is understandable; the scene with the delirious Prince Andrei is full of “nonsense.” Besides the “pitipiti” sound of a cricket, Prince Andrei hears “the rustle of cockroaches and the buzzing of the fly that plopped against his pillow and his face.” He has a strange vision-sensation that an “ethereal structure of delicate needles or splinters was being erected” above him, and he feels that he must carefully maintain his balance so that the edifice will not collapse. He is hypnothized by the red halo of the candlelight and, and most importantly, by “something white by the door—the statue of a sphinx—which also weighed on him.” The white sphinx is in fact Natasha standing in the doorway (1101–2). These visual and aural hallucinations create a stylistic contrast with the lofty ideas concurrently entering Prince Andrei’s mind: “I saw my enemy yet loved him. I experienced that feeling of love which is the very essence of the soul and which requires no object. Now again I feel that bliss. To love one’s neighbor, to love one’s enemy. To love everything—to love God and all his manifestations” (1102). We see that the instances of Tolstoy’s characters’ inner vision and inner speech occur during the moments of their meditations, dreams, and hallucinations, when they assume a lying position. Tolstoy’s experiments seem to suggest the existence of a correlation between the state of the spirit and that of the body.

17



K. N. Leont'ev, Analiz, stil’ i veianie: O romanakh Gr. L. N. Tolstogo (Providence, RI: Brown University Slavic Reprint III, 1968), 41–42.

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Spaces of Creativity    Essays on Russian Literature and the Arts

A b s t r a c t i n g Me a n i n g It has been often noted that Tolstoy’s characters’ spiritual metamorphoses take place when they contemplate the sky. This pattern first appears in Tolstoy’s early short novel The Cossacks (1852). After hunting for pheasants, Dmitry Olenin finds traces of a deer in the forest that he had seen the day before. He falls to the ground at the deer’s lair and looks at the sky. Suddenly, everything appears to him in a new light and with an exceptional clarity; he realizes he had previously lived incorrectly, that happiness can be attained only when one lives for others. A sense of oneness with nature induces a feeling of love for everything around him. A very similar scene is found in the story “The Morning of the Landowner” (1856), on which Tolstoy began working in the early 1850s. One morning, Dmitry Nekhlyudov walks through the forest. Having wandered in the wilderness for several hours, he lies down on the ground. Lying down and looking at the sky, Nekhlyudov realizes the falsity of his former beliefs and understands that love and dedication to people must be his moral goals. This suddenly discovered truth fills his heart with joy. Naturally, the most famous example of an epiphany triggered by a contemplation of the sky is the scene from War and Peace in which the wounded Prince Andrei, lying on the ground and looking at the sky, reflects on silence, peace, and eternity, and suddenly realizes that compared with the “remote, lofty, eternal sky,” his hero Napoleon looks too small and insignificant. The scene in Anna Karenina (1877), in which Konstantin Levin, lying on his back and staring at the sky, is experiencing a feeling close to religious ecstasy, is no less famous: “‘Can this be Faith?’ he wondered, afraid to believe in his happiness. ‘My God, I thank Thee!’ he breathed, gulping down the sobs that rose within him and with both hands brushing away the tears that filled his eyes.”18

18



Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenin, trans. and intro. Rosemary Edmonds (New York: Penguin Books, 1978), 835.

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Indeed, contemplation of the sky is a spiritual experience, but it is worth stressing that Tolstoy’s characters undergo a metamorphosis even when, instead of the sky, there is only a low ceiling above their heads. It seems to me, then, that a precondition for a sudden spiritual awakening in Tolstoy is the position of the body. We may recall a scene from War and Peace, when, on the eve of the Battle of Borodino, Prince Andrei is lying in the wrecked village barn and thinking about the next day’s battle. Facing the possibility of death, he reevaluates his ideals: “Glory, the commonweal, love for a woman, the fatherland itself—how grand those pictures appeared to me, and with what profound meaning they seemed to be filled! And it is all so simple, colorless and crude in the cold, white light of the morning that I feel is dawning for me” (926). Feeling the futility of his former ideals, unable to overcome the sudden fear of death, Prince Andrei gets up quickly and leaves the barn. Another “skyless” scene is Bolkonsky’s similar experience when he is taken to the low tent of the Borodino field dressing station: “All he saw about him merged into a single general impression of naked, bleeding human bodies, which seemed to fill the whole of the low tent” (976). Lying on the operating table and looking at the wounded man whose leg was amputated, he does not immediately recognize his rival Anatole Kuragin and is trying to remember who this man is. When the doctor’s assistent begins to undress Prince Andrei, he recalls his childhood, “when he had been undressed and put to bed, and when his nurse had sung lullabies to him and he had buried his head in the pillow and felt happy just to be alive” (977). The memories from his childhood and happy youth stir ecstatic empathy in Andrei’s soul. He begins to feel love for his former rival Kuragin and for all of humanity. The correlation between a bodily position and an emotional state is also found in Tolstoy’s shorter works written in the 1880s and 1890s. “The Death of Ivan Ilych” (1886) is the story of a man on his deathbed. Lying on the couch, suffering from pain and terrible loneliness, Ivan Ilych turns to the wall and looks inward. When he comes to realize that his life has been a waste, his thoughts turn to God. The light he sees helps him to die quietly, with relief, 49

Spaces of Creativity    Essays on Russian Literature and the Arts

and the hope that “He whose understanding mattered would understand.”19 Unlike Ivan Ilych, Vasili Brekhunov, the protagonist of the story “Master and Man” (1895), has a revelation in the open air, but because of the darkness and the intensifying snowstorm, he does not see the sky. While trying to warm up the peasant Nikita, who is lying under him, he ceases to fear death. In his dream he sees that “he was still lying on his bed and could not get up, but was always waiting. And this waiting was uncanny and yet joyful.”20 In “Father Sergius” (1898), the revelation also takes place in the open air, though this time in May. Having sinned with a woman, the hermit monk Sergius plunges into a state of despair and considers committing suicide. In the morning he goes to the river, unable to pray, tortured by the absence of God. When he lies down on the ground, his thoughts about death begin to recede. He falls asleep, and in his dream he sees an angel telling him to find his childhood friend Pashenka. The dream turns out to be prophetic: through his encounter with Pashenka, he realizes that the meaning of existence is to be found in humility and love for one’s neighbor. Each of these characters—Dmitry Olenin, Dmitry Nekhlyudov, Andrei Bolkonsky, Konstantin Levin, Ivan Ilych, Vasili Brekhunov, and Father Sergius—has his unique fate. For some characters the reassessment of values is ​associated with a feeling of the fullness of life and unity with nature. For others, it is associated with a sensation of emptiness. Some recall their early childhood; others think about their imminent death. What unites them all is their horizontal position, in which they find themselves excluded from the general flow of active life. During that pause, each of them realizes that his old priorities—whether a social or military career, family life, or ascetic strivings—are illusory. In other words, we see a persistent pattern in Tolstoy: a horizontal position of the body changes the point of view in a literal and

19



Tolstoy, Collected Shorter Fiction, 2:70.

20



Ibid., 2:591–92.

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“H o r r o r ­— R e d , W h i t e , a n d S q u a r e”: A b s t r a c t I m a g e s i n To l s t o y

figurative sense. In this position, the person is looking at the world in a way different from when he or she is engaging with the world face to face. This is partly because, when seen from below, the world is devoid of many objects. Detached from their everyday activities, people see other people and their actions from an unexpected angle, one inaccessible to ordinary vision, and this experience affects their hearts and minds. This effect is perfectly natural, for body positions are associated with different types of activity. Unlike standing, sitting, squatting, kneeling, and crouching, lying down is the most appropriate for introspection: a horizontal position enables one to withdraw from the world of objects and to observe one’s mental processes. Tolstoy’s characters, while meditating in a supine state, focus on a limited number of objects or even on a single object or a single sense—visual, gustatory, auditory, olfactory, or tactile. For example, Dmitry Olenin’s concentration on the gnat’s buzz enables him to look at himself from an unusual perspective: “And it became clear to him that he was not a Russian nobleman at all, a member of Moscow society, the friend and relative of such and such a person, just a gnat, or a pheasant or a stag, like the ones that were living now, all around him.”21 In a similar way, Ivan Ilych’s gaze rests on the button of the couch and brings memories from the distant past when he was a child; the stewed prunes remind him of the “French plums of his childhood, their peculiar flavor and the flow of saliva when he sucked their stones, and along with the memory of that taste came a whole series of memories of those days: his nurse, his brother, and their toys.”22 Most other objects disappear from Ivan Ilych’s surroundings because he is dying and does not need them anymore.23

21



Leo Tolstoy, The Cossacks and Other Stories, trans., with notes, David McDuff and Paul Foote; intro. Paul Foote (New York: Penguin Books, 2006), 93.

22



Tolstoy, Collected Shorter Fiction, 2:155.

23



Yuri Olesha revisits Tolstoy’s idea of the disappearance of objects from a dying person’s life in his short story “Liompa” (1927), which describes

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To phrase it differently, the look at the world from below, from a horizontal position, enables Tolstoy’s characters to detach from objectivity (предметность) and to visually abstract moral essences and inner truths. In this sense, looking at the sky—an epitome of emptiness, an absolute absence of objects—is the most rewarding spiritual experience.24 

Susanne K. Langer states that “all genuine art is abstract,” because “‘abstraction’ is the recognition of a relational structure, or form, apart from the specific thing (or event, fact, image, etc.) in which it is exemplified.”25 One may also say that all visual art is abstract because drawing begins with an abstract sketch representing the chief features of an object (or a scene), distilling it down to its essence. In some forms of visual art, such as Orthodox iconography, abstraction is used for other reasons: “Thus visual art, instead of proclaiming the beauty and importance of physical existence, used the body as a visual symbol of the spirit; by eliminating volume and depth, by simplifying color, posture, gesture, and expression, it succeeded in dematerializing man and world.26 a dying man who is lying in his bed and suddenly notices that all things are slipping away from him: “And now their disappearance came with an immediate violence, very close to him—already the corridor had escaped out of his power—and in his own room, under his very eyes, his coat had vanished, and so had the door bolt, and his shoes had lost their significance. He knew that death, as it came to him, was destroying things.” Yuri Olesha, Love and Other Stories (New York: Washington Square Press, 1967), 177. 24



For more on this see Ksana Blank, “Gde ia i na chem ia lezhu? Zakliuchenie k ‘Ispovedi’ Tolstogo,” Russkaia literatura 4 (2010): 45–52.

25



Susanne K. Langer, “Abstraction in Science and Abstraction in Art,” in Structure, Method, and Meaning: Essays in Honor of Henry M. Sheffer, with a foreword by Felix Frankfurter, ed. Paul Henle, Horace M. Kallen, and Susanne K. Langer (New York: Liberal Arts Press, 1951), 171–82.

26



Rudolf Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye (1954; reprint, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 146–47.

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Malevich’s search for nonobjectivity had a spiritual underpinning and was motivated by his belief that the traditional art of the past was obscured by the accumulation of objects. He wrote: “It appears to me that, for the critics and the public, the painting of Raphael, Rubens, Rembrandt, etc. has become nothing more than a conglomeration of countless ‘things,’ which conceals its true value—the feeling which gave rise to it. The virtuosity of the objective representation is the only thing admired.”27 Liberation from the power of the object in the representation of reality is what creates an affinity between Tolstoy’s and Malevich’s nonobjective images. At certain moments of their lives, Tolstoy’s characters draw away from material reality and contemplate the essence of things, people, and ideas. Abstract art depicts the artist’s vision of an object rather than the object itself. In the same way, Tolstoy’s nonobjective images depict the observers. Thus, Fyodor’s inner vision of “horror: red, white, and square” is the author’s statement about his protagonist’s crisis. Petya’s look at the black and red spots is a depiction of his anxiety on the eve of battle; Natasha’s vision of Pierre is her creative emotional response to her future husband; Pierre’s fascination with Karataev’s roundness sheds light on the state of Pierre’s psyche; Nikolenka’s abstract vision of his father is a word about the boy. These characters’ inner visions shed light on their psychological, emotional, and mental states. The nonfigurative images they contemplate serve as projections of their psyche, contributing to and complementing the realist representations. Tolstoy’s and Malevich’s objectives were very different, but they both felt that alongside external form of physical body there is such a thing as inner form and spiritual body, and they clothed this inner form in shapes and colors. Thus, in different ways and at different paces, both Tolstoy and Malevich transcended Realism.

27



Malevich, “Suprematism,” 74.

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Dobuzhinsky’s Farewell to Petersburg

M

stislav Dobuzhinsky’s illustrations for Dostoevsky’s White Nights, made in 1922 and published in 1923, are perhaps the most famous work of the artist, the pinnacle of his book graphics and Russian book illustration in general. It is often said that in these drawings Dobuzhinsky re-created the spiritual atmosphere of the city in which the story unfolds—light, lyrical, poetic, and ghostly, lit up by the glow of Petersburg’s white nights. Yet the sharp contrasts between black and white colors, tall spires and occasional low cabins, dark clouds and bright rays of light, produce a sense of deep inner tension, drama, and even tragedy. In this chapter I argue that besides re-creating the atmosphere of Dostoevsky’s sentimental story, these illustrations absorbed the multifaceted spirit of Dobuzhinsky’s own cityscapes he created in Petrograd (as Petersburg was named between 1914 and 1924). They reflect the duality of the Petersburg myth: the idea of the city’s imminent death and of its miraculous salvation. According to legend, the prophecy of the city’s desolation belonged to Peter the Great’s first wife, Eudoxia Lopukhina, who on her way to imprisonment in a monastery dropped a warning that Petersburg was doomed.1 Beginning with Pushkin’s Bronze Horseman, the theme of the possible destruction of the city by water became an integral

1



Specifically, she said, “Piterburkh will not withstand after us: it shall be desolate; many people speak about that.” L. K. Dolgopolov, “Mif o Peterburge i ego preobrazovanie v nachale veka,” in Na rubezhe vekov (Leningrad: Sovetskii pisatel', 1977), 160.

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part of the “Petersburg text of Russian literature.” 2 At the same time, Pushkin’s story of the flood that almost destroyed Petersburg contains the idea of the city’s inviolability and steadfastness. Dobuzhinsky’s White Nights reflects the same dual pattern. Pe t r op ol i s Tu r n i n g t o Ne c r op ol i s : “Pe t e r s bu r g i n 19 21” Having joined the World of Art in 1902, Dobuzhinsky followed the example of Aleksandr Benois and Konstantin Somov: he began to collect vintage lithographs of the old Petersburg. He shared his colleagues’ sense of aestheticism, their passion for eighteenthcentury style, and the predominance of Elizabeth and Catherine II– era architecture in their urban landscapes. Dobuzhinsky’s Petersburg cityscapes created in 1902–3 are reminiscent of the drawings and watercolors of Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva and Eugene Lancéray, made in the genre of “retrospective landscape.” Characterized by a sense of harmony and proportion inherent in the Empire style, their clear-cut lines convey the city’s “strict and slender look,” praised by Pushkin in the introduction to his Bronze Horseman. The early works of Dobuzhinsky and other members of the World of Art extol the bright side of the mythological image of Petersburg, conceived by Peter the Great as a utopian “city-paradise.” This explains why the leading art historians and art critics of the time, Konstantin Erberg, Yakov Tugendhold, and Nikolai Wrangel, bestowed on Dobuzhinsky the title “the poet of Petersburg.” Dobuzhinsky did not appreciate this title, however. Later he recalled, “When the critics proclaimed me ‘the poet of Petersburg,’ I felt appalled by the idea of having this label, performing some kind of ‘social contract’ and being obliged to continue these

2



On the concept of “Petersburg text of Russian literature,” introduced into scholarly discourse by Viktor Toporov and Yuri Lotman, see V. N. Toporov, Peterburgskii tekst russkoi literatury (St. Petersburg: Iskusstvo, 2003) and Yuri M. Lotman, “Symbolic Spaces,” in his Universe of the Mind: A Semiotic Theory of Culture, trans. Ann Shukman, intro. Umberto Eco (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), 171–217.

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‘dithyrambs.’ The obligation to become a ‘specialist’ and to create exactly what I was told was inimical to my nature and my artistic taste.”3 By the artist’s own admission, Petersburg acquired different features in his works after he returned from his first journey abroad in 1906, and to his own surprise, he suddenly saw the city through the eyes of Dostoevsky. At this moment Petersburg revealed itself to him in a new guise: “Now, as if for the first time, I saw clearly all that which confused me and seemed vague in Dostoevsky’s novels, and I felt increasingly that Petersburg, with all its character, with all the contrasts of the tragic, funny, majestic and really cozy is indeed the only and the most fantastic city in the world.”4 At that time Dobuzhinsky’s attention switched to the darker side of the mythological Petersburg—not magnificent palaces and broad panoramas, but much less attractive sides of the city: dirty canals, old fences, and dingy walls. Years later, when Dobuzhinsky illustrated Nikolai Antsiferov’s essay “Dostoevsky’s Petersburg” (1923), he revisited these sites. In the years shortly before and after the Revolution, like many of his contemporaries, Dobuzhinsky speculated on the mythological prophecy about the fate of the new capital—“that place shall be desolate.” The Revolution challenged the old order and traditional culture, and the prophecy was gradually coming true. Writing about the threat hanging over the city in his essay “The Soul of Petersburg” (1923), Nikolai Antsiferov voiced the hope of its future resurrection: “Petropolis is turning into a Necropolis. Several years will pass and new buildings will be raised in the empty spaces,

3

M. V. Dobuzhinskii, Vospominaniia, ed. G. I. Chugunov (Moscow: Nauka, 1987), 218.

4

Ibid., 188. Vladimir Nabokov, who studied the art of painting under Dobuzhinsky’s guidance at the Tenishev School in Petersburg and maintained a warm personal relationship with him when he emigrated, must have felt that there was something nostalgic in Dobuzhinsky’s portrayals of Petersburg in these years, for he wrote ekphrastic poems about them. See Gavriel Shapiro, The Sublime Artist’s Studio: Nabokov and Painting (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2009), 118–19.



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and new young life will gush forth. The revival of Petersburg will begin. Petersburg shall not be desolate.”5 However, the threat kept intensifying during the Revolution. In his essay “The Face of Petersburg” (“Облик Петербурга,” 1943), Dobuzhinsky bitterly recalled, The real danger of spontaneous destruction occurred in the midst of the October Revolution, and it should be considered a miracle that the Winter Palace survived, although it could have been burned like the Tuileries during the Commune, like the District Court, the Lithuanian castle, and various other buildings in Petersburg. Not surprisingly, the symbols of the former regime were then destroyed—the old eagles decorating the pediments and other royal emblems. In those years when the idea of destruction of the old world and the creation of a new from scratch prevailed, during this difficult time we, the people of art, had to make a lot of effort (here M. Gorky’s role was particularly appreciated) to persuade local authorities to treat the objects of the olden time with respect, even though they were a “legacy of the old regime.”6

Before and after the Revolution, along with other members of the World of Art, Dobuzhinsky worked on the preservation of the city’s cultural monuments. He participated in the work of the Museum of Old Petersburg, founded in 1907. He was an active member of the “Old Petersburg” society created in 1921. Yet in Dobuzhinsky’s pre- and postrevolution artistic works, one can sense the persistent theme of the city’s death. Thus, the album of lithographs, Petersburg in 1921 (1922), stands out for its anachronistic title: created in revolutionary Petrograd, the

5

N. P. Antsiferov, “Dusha Peterburga,” in Nepostizhimyi gorod (Leningrad: Lenizdat, 1991), 173–74. Petropolis is the Greek version of Petersburg’s name, used in the eighteenth century in Gavrila Derzhavin’s and Mikhail Lomonosov’s odes. Pushkin uses this name in the description of the 1824 flood in Bronze Horseman.

6

Mstislav Dobuzhinskii, “Oblik Petersburga,” preface and comm. Galina Glushanok, Zvezda 5 (2003): 107. The essay was first published in New York, in Novosel'e 2 (1943): 31–37.





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album is permeated with nostalgia for the vanishing countenance of the old city. These works are marked by the disappearance of balance and harmony. St. Isaac Cathedral is overshadowed by a giant groundwater pump; the tiny figure of the Bronze Horseman is barely distinguishable in the distance (The Dredger). The Egyptian Sphinx on the Neva embankment is depicted from a grotesque angle, so that the animal’s paws and tail are overemphasized in the foreground, whereas the human face is hidden from the viewer; in the distance, a black crane shields the sky from view (The Sphinx). The black clouds above the city conceal the golden angel crowning the spire of the Peter and Paul Cathedral (Peter and Paul Fortress). Some landscapes contain no traces of old Petersburg, as, for example, the lot framed by barbed wire (The Vegetable Garden on the Obvodnyi Canal), shown below:

Fig. 4. Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, The Vegetable Garden on the Obvodnyi Canal (Petersburg in 1921), 1922.

Nevertheless, in the distorted appearance of the city, Dobuzhinsky discerns tragic beauty. In “The Face of Petersburg” he recalled, 58

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During the first years after the Revolution, Petersburg was completely desolate and dying. Grass grew on the deserted streets, as if after a hurricane; all street lights were lopsided, and house windows gaped empty. In the winter, during blizzards, Petersburg was truly a “city of Blok” and his “Twelve.” And during the white nights, motionless as glass, like never before, the dead city looked absolutely fantastic. Despite its wounds and deprivation, Petersburg, in its tragic new guise, has become extremely dignified and even looked beautiful in a new way.7

Dobuzhinsky’s contemporaries shared his admiration for the dying city’s beauty. The philosopher and historian Georgy Fedotov wrote: “Those who visited Petersburg in these terrible, mortal years of 1918–1920 witnessed eternity emerging from corruption. The ‘womb’ of the capital suddenly disappeared. Only palaces and phantoms remained in the city, lit by unprecedented dawns. The decaying golden Venice and even eternal Rome would look pale when compared with the grandeur of the dying Petersburg.”8 Dobuzhinsky tried to capture the image of the dying city not only in graphics but also in verse. His poem “My Petersburg, Wounded and Deprived” (1920–21) views the old prophecy of the city’s destruction as inevitable: “The ancient threat: ‘Petersburg shall be desolate.’ / So be it, as it is said in the Holy Writ” (Угроза древняя: ‘быть Петербургу пусту.’ / Да будет так, как сказано в Писаньи). In another version of this poem he expresses the hope that the city will eventually be resurrected: “My city will revive from darkness and decay / and it will not rise again unless it dies” (Воспрянет город мой из мрака и из тленья / И не воскреснет вновь он, если не умрет).9

7



Ibid., 107.

8

E. Bogdanov [Georgy Fedotov], “Tri stolitsy,” Versty 1 (1926): 148.

9

Dobuzhinsky’s poems are cited in the commentaries to his letters. See M. V. Dobuzhinskii, Pis'ma, ed. G. I. Chugunov (St. Petersburg: Dmitrii Bulanin, 2001), 374–75.



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In his memoirs, written years later, Dobuzhinsky sounded more pessimistic: “I experienced all the revolutionary years in Petersburg. Since the 1917 Revolution, Petersburg came to its end. Before my eyes the city was dying the death of a great beauty, and I tried to capture its terrible, desolate and bruised appearance. This was the epilogue of its life; it was gradually turning into another city, Leningrad, with completely different people and a completely different life.”10 T he E me r g i n g Ne w C it y : Ur b a n Dr e a m s The series Urban Dreams, containing some fantastic industrial cityscapes, is indicative of prerevolutionary and postrevolutionary years. In Soviet editions it is generally viewed as a mirror of Dobuzhinsky’s impressions of London and Rome, the mirror that reflects the pressing problems preoccupying European and British society, such as urbanization, “capitalist enslavement,” and the decay of the early twentieth-century city.11 However, there are grounds to believe that Urban Dreams expresses his concerns about the fate of Petersburg. Thus, Dobuzhinsky’s painting The Kiss (1916), from the Urban Dreams series, portrays two lonely silhouettes of lovers standing against the backdrop of the ruined city and clouds of smoke. A. P. Gusarova observes that in the lower left corner of this painting portraying destruction and chaos, there is a fragment of the demolished Alexander Column. The angel, falling from the top of the column, extends his right hand, as if pleading for help.12

10



Dobuzhinskii, Vospominaniia, 22–23.

11



See G. I. Chugunov’s commentaries in Dobuzhinskii, Pis’ma, 355, and Gusarova’s commentaries in Mstislav Dobuzhinskii, Mstislav Dobuzhinskii: Zhivopis', grafika, teatr, comp. and intro. Alla Gusarova (Moscow: Izobrazitel'noe iskusstvo, 1982), 31.

12



Dobuzhinskii, Mstislav Dobuzhinskii, 32–33.

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Fig. 5. Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, The Kiss (from the series Urban Dreams), 1916.

Fig. 6. Fragment from Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, The Kiss (from the series Urban Dreams), 1916.

Spaces of Creativity    Essays on Russian Literature and the Arts

Betsy Moller-Sally elaborates on the emergence of the Petersburg theme in this series. She states, “Urban Dreams constitute a remarkable variation on the Petersburg theme, updating it in ways characteristic of early twentieth-century social thought and neatly capturing contemporary social, political, and economic realities and anxieties. Even though Dobuzhinskii never put a name to the city of Urban Dreams, I believe we are justified in partially identifying it as Petersburg.”13 It must be noted that Dobuzhinsky’s Urban Dreams echoes Dostoevsky’s essay “Petersburg Dreams in Verse and Prose” (1861), especially this passage: The compressed air trembled from the slightest sound and from all the roofs of both embankments columns of smoke rose like giants and were carried upwards across the cold sky, interweaving and unweaving as they went, so that it seemed that new buildings were rising above the old ones, that a new city was forming in the air. . . . It seemed, finally that this whole world, with all its inhabitants, strong and weak, with all their dwellings, beggars’ hovels or gilded palaces at this twilight hour, resembled a fantastic, magical reverie, a dream which in turn would immediately disappear and dissolve in steam up in the dark blue sky. . . . It was as if I realized something in that minute which had up until then only stirred within me but was still not fully comprehended; as if I had had a vision of something new, of a completely new world, which was unfamiliar to me and known only through some dark rumours, some mysterious signs.14

The parallels are obvious not just in the titles, but in the very nature of Dostoevsky’s and Dobuzhinsky’s “urban dreams” and their discovery of a new, unfamiliar city appearing in lieu of the old Petersburg.

13



Betsy F. Moeller-Sally, “No Exit: Piranesi, Doré, and the Transformation of the Petersburg Myth in Mstislav Dobuzhinskii’s Urban Dreams,” Russian Review 57 (October 1998): 543.

14



David Foreman, “Translation of F. M. Dostoevsky’s ‘Petersburg Dreams in Verse and Prose,’” New Zealand Slavonic Journal 37 (2003): 282–83.

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Fig. 7. Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, Flying (from the series Urban Dreams), 1909.

Fig. 8. Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, Sketch (from the series Urban Dreams), 1909.

Spaces of Creativity    Essays on Russian Literature and the Arts

Echoes of Petersburg eschatology also resound in other works in this series. One example is a drawing that depicts a city square surrounded by a hemisphere of buildings. Above the gaping hole in the middle of the square hovers an ominous black bird. Dobuzhinsky’s first two “dreams” about an empty square (with the bird, as well as without it) appeared in 1909. In 1918 and 1921, the artist returned to this theme, creating new variants of the ominous city square, using charcoal and cardboard.15 The square is stylized, so the huge round emptiness in the middle of the square in Dobuzhinsky’s fantastic drawing can be read in various ways. It is clear, however, that the center of the square is deeply symbolic, for it is a place where monuments, columns,

Fig. 9. Palace Square, St. Petersburg. Photo by Aleksandr Petrosyan. 15



One of them is in the Russian Museum in Petersburg, and another, according to Chugunov, is in Paris. See G. Chugunov, Mstislav Valerianovich Dobuzhinskii (Leningrad: Khudozhnik RSFSR, 1984), 252.

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and obelisks are erected, such as the Alexander column on Palace Square in Dobuzhinsky’s beloved Petersburg: During the Revolution, the mythological motif of the disappearance of the monument from the city square, used in Pushkin’s Bronze Horseman, turned out to be part of everyday reality. In April 1918, the Council of People’s Commissars adopted a decree titled “On the Removal of Monuments Erected in Honor of the Tsars and Their Servants, and the Drafting of the Projects of the Socialist Revolution.” The artists Aleksandr Benois, Sergei Chekhonin, Nathan Altman, and other cultural figures were called to form a special committee and were ordered to compile a list of sites to be removed.16 Within the next year numerous monuments were demolished in Petrograd: a monument to Grand Duke Nicholas in front of Mikhailovsky Manege, Peter the Great sculptures on the Admiralty Embankment and in the Summer Garden, and many others. The Bronze Horseman was rescued only because Pushkin glorified it.17 The disappearance of historical monuments occurred not only by removal or destruction, but also through camouflage, foremost— on the city’s central Palace Square. Monu me nt a l Pr op a g a nd a a nd Dobu z h i n s k y ’s Pa r t ic ip a t ion In the spring of 1918 the Palace Square was first used as a site for the celebration of the victory of the proletarian Revolution. By the time a mass spectacle, The Storming of the Winter Palace, staged by Nikolai Evreinov, was presented on the square on November 7, 1920, the place had acquired the status of the sacred center of the young Soviet country—in James von Geldern’s

16



N. B. Lebina, “Obriadnost' krasnogo ognennogo pogrebeniia (O sotsiokul'turnom kontekste pervogo sovetskogo krematoriia),” in Teoriia mody, Odezhda, Kul'tura (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2011), 20:245–56.

17



Ibid., 256.

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words, “This performance fixed the final, irreducible center of the revolution.”18 As the arrangements for the festive May Day demonstration were made, the best Petrograd artists, regardless of the style in which they worked—Dobuzhinsky, Kustodiev, Chekhonin, PetrovVodkin, Altman––were mobilized to decorate the city’s central locations. They were mandated to inject new revolutionary aesthetics into the “mass consciousness.” The huge newly designed decorative panels were hung on buildings, across streets and bridges. The government’s ultimate objective was to change Petersburg’s old facade and to turn Petrograd into a new “socialist paradise.” In 1951, V. P. Tolstoy, an expert on Soviet monumental propaganda, wrote: “Picturesque panels were often used to hide sculptural emblems of the czarist autocracy or sculptures that did not correspond to the revolutionary celebration and instead provided their own proletarian logo, slogan, or an entire composition on the theme of Revolution. Panels were often installed on the attics of buildings, pediments, and porticoes, as well as under the arches. This explains the unusual format of many panels, clearly related to the specific features of architecture.”19 During the May Day demonstration of 1918, in keeping with Nathan Altman’s design, the Alexander Column on Palace Square was wrapped with red cloth. It took fifty thousand square meters (sixty thousand square yards) of expensive fabric to decorate the square.20 The facade of the Winter Palace was curtained with a huge poster depicting the figures of a worker and a peasant. Three days later, on May 4, 1918, Dobuzhinsky responded to the monumental projects with an article, published in the newspaper

18



James von Geldern, Bolshevik Festivals, 1917–1920 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 206.

19



V. P. Tolstoi, “Materialy k istorii agitatsionnogo iskusstva perioda grazhdanskoi voiny,” in Soobshcheniia Instituta istorii iskusstv Akademii nauk SSSR, vol. 3 (Moscow: Izd-vo Akademii Iskusstva, 1951), 53.

20



Grisha Bruskin, “Rabota nad oshibkami: Svidetel'stva,” Znamia 8 (2003): 116–35.

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New Life.21 The article was written as a dialogue between two artists discussing the war against old architecture. The first artist defended the rights of those who kept pace with the proletarian movement, rebelling against the hypnotic harmony of the city as sung by artists and poets. The second artist called the revolutionary design of the Palace Square and other city locations “a slap in the face of Petersburg.” He objected to the first artist: “But I don’t think that the buildings which you declared ‘outlawed’ can be conquered by means of patches and plasters that hang at random, even in the form of the most brilliant panels and posters. Alas, they continue to stand still steadfastly and solemnly, and your posters already perish in an unequal battle and hang tattered by the counterrevolutionary wind.”22 He also spoke of the futile “assassination attempt” on the Alexander Column, and called the figures of the worker and the peasant on the facade of the Winter Palace “two muckers, spread under the pediment of the palace.” A few months later, in the fall of 1918, Palace Square was renamed Uritsky Square, after the first head of the Cheka (Petrograd Extraordinary Commission). For the anniversary of the Revolution, Nathan Altman was again commissioned to create the decoration sets for this Square. Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin worked on historical compositions for the decoration of Teatralnaya Square. Nikolai Tyrsa decorated Nevsky Prospect. The architect (sculptor) Boris Iofan was in charge of Peter and Paul Fortress, the Stock Exchange

21



M. B. Dobuzhinskii, “Bomba ili khlopushka: Beseda dvukh khudozhnikov,” in Khudozhestvennaia zhizn' Sovetskoi Rossii, 1917–1932 gg.: Sobytiia, fakty, kommentarii. Sb. materialov i dokumentov, ed. V. P. Tolstoi (Moscow: Galart, 2010), 44.

22



Dobuzhinsky was distressed not so much by the idea of ​​decorating the city as by its inept execution. In his essay, the second artist says to the first, “You will certainly say that I fall again into retrospectivism, but let me remind you that under Peter the Great huge panels and banners were erected at festivals, but for this purpose solid architectural cartouches, triumphal arches, and special iconostases were built in the streets and squares, and it was impressive and wonderfully theatrical.” Ibid.

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Square, and the Dvortsovyi Bridge.23 As in May, the pedestal of the Alexander Column and its bas-reliefs were enveloped in red cloth, symbolizing the flame of the Revolution. The central part of the Winter Palace’s facade was again covered with a giant panel: in front of a background of black factory chimneys was the figure of a worker dressed in blue, holding a red banner, with a line from the revolutionary anthem “The International” on it: “Who was nothing will become everything.”

Fig. 10. Nathan Altman, sketch design of the Winter Palace on the first anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, 1957 (author’s replica of 1918).

Both wings of the building of the General Staff were also draped; one mural depicted a worker holding a banner that read “Factories to the Workers”; the other one featured a farmer with a placard reading “Land to the Workers.”

Fig. 11. Nathan Altman, sketch design of the General Staff building on the first anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, 1957 (author’s replica of 1918). 23



See V. L. Tsybul'skii, “Fakty, sobytiia, liudi: Prazdnovanie pervoi godovshchiny Velikogo Oktiabria v Petrograde,” Voprosy istorii 11 (November 1968): 203.

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Fig. 12. Nathan Altman, sketch design of the Palace Square on the first anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, 1957 (author’s replica of 1918).

Sober-minded and outwardly loyal to the new government, Dobuzhinsky, along with other artists, participated in the decoration of revolutionary Petrograd. He created a sketch for the decoration of the Admiralty building. In preparation for the second anniversary of the October Revolution, in the fall of 1919 Dobuzhinsky and other members of the World of Art—Kustodiev, Benois, Petrov-Vodkin, Fomin, Shchuko—were invited to create individual designs for the festive decoration of Petrograd. When the artists refused, the authorities labeled their refusal as “the Cadets’ conspiracy.” But the government exerted pressure on the group, and the artists agreed to implement the project collectively. Dobuzhinsky helped decorate Vosstaniya Square.24 In April 1920, together with Annenkov and Shchuko, Dobuzhinsky worked on the design of the open-air mystery “Liberated Labor Anthem.” The performance, held on May 1, presented the most glorious events from the history of revolutionary movements: the revolts of Spartacus, Razin, and Pugachev; the French Revolution; and the Russian October Revolution. The presentation was held at the portico of the former Stock Exchange. This was a real mass spectacle—two thousand people participated in it, including three hundred Red Army soldiers.25

24



See Dobuzhinskii, Pis'ma, 369.

25



Ibid., 362.

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These activities left Dobuzhinsky almost no time for personal creative work. His 1920 drawings and paintings of Petrograd are rather sparse: two images of old Petersburg sites—the Hermitage Summer Garden and the yard of the House of Arts; a few works entitled From the Life of Petrograd in 1920, showing derelict houses and the city’s swathed residents with gloomy faces, standing in queues. Three other drawings feature the Second Congress of the Communist International, held in Petrograd in July–August 1920, to which Dobuzhinsky, among other artists, was delegated. They depict mass scenes: Procession of Smolny, The Opening of the Congress, and Petrograd: At the Champ de Mars. In his memoirs Dobuzhinsky makes no mention of his reaction to the events taking place in the first years after the Revolution. But his attitude is evident in the following passage from one of his letters: While living there, you gradually comply with circumstances, seeing how everyone is in the same position—your frame of mind is being formed tangential to some reconciliation with fate. “To accept” the Revolution is to hold fate with clenched teeth. But to climb into the atmosphere voluntarily is another matter. So I tell you right away, no, it is not the time. There’s such a mess there, the fate of every person is so bizarrely mysterious, the future is so mysterious (I do not say “hopeless”), and everything is so clogged and soiled, at every step one has to swallow platitudes, lies, and insults, that only having lived so long among all these conditions, you get encrusted with some sort of bark and live day-to-day.26

In January 1924, Lenin died, and three days later the authorities changed Petrograd’s name to Leningrad. In the autumn of the same year the city administration began to discuss replacing the angel on the Alexander Column with a statue of Lenin.27 The urban intelligentsia was commissioned to bring this idea to fruition.

26



Ibid.

27



See Natal'ia Lebina, “Lenin v toge,” Rodina 7 (July 2001): 81–83.

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In the fall of 1924, Dobuzhinsky accepted Lithuanian citizenship and obtained permission from the Soviet government to leave the country. T he De v i l ’s Mo c k i n g G e s t u r e t o t he Ne w C it y : Dobu z h i n s k y ’s Un k now n Dr aw i n g Among the works that Dobuzhinsky took with him was a little drawing marked “1920.” It features the figure of a devil standing atop a crane placed against an industrial landscape. Looking down at the city’s roofs, splaying his fingers, and thumbing his nose, the devil makes a mocking gesture to the city or its inhabitants.

Fig. 13. Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, 1920.

This virtually unknown drawing (for the sake of convenience, we will call it “The Devil”) is interesting, first, because Dobuzhinsky did not create many works in 1920. In a letter to K. S. Stanislavsky dated April 13, 1920, he wrote: “I am busy from morning till night, 71

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but not with what I should be busy with; I am sitting in sessions and meetings and draw very little, to my despair—there is no time at all.”28 The style of the drawing is another feature that makes it unusual; in the metal structures of the crane and its linear perspective, in the geometric contours of its architectural construction, one can see anticipation of constructivism. Geometric forms, the bird’s eye view, the industrial structures, and the element of fantasy create an affinity with the cityscapes in the Urban Dreams series. But its trickster spirit hints at an association with the term scurrility (скурильность), introduced by Aleksandr Benois and popularized by members of the World of Art (from the Latin word scurra— “jester”). Its main character, standing on top of the crane, has nothing in common with the devil that Dobuzhinsky depicted in allegorical form as a giant spider in 1907 for the art and literary magazine Golden Fleece. Grotesque and playful, Dobuzhinsky’s drawing is rather reminiscent of Benois’s design of the curtain for Igor Stravinsky’s ballet Petrushka, featuring devils flying in the dark sky over Petersburg, above the darkened silhouettes of St. Isaac’s Cathedral and the Admiralty. The ballet was premiered in Paris at the Théâtre du Châtelet in 1911, with choreography by Michel Fokine and sets by Aleksandr Benois; the title role was danced by Vaslav Nijinsky. A close friend of Benois, Dobuzhinsky must have seen the ballet in Petrograd in November 1920 when it was performed in the Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre (Mariinsky Theatre). But the industrial city on Dobuzhinsky’s drawing is the direct opposite of Petersburg. Moreover, the figure of the devil on the boom of the crane seems to be a grotesque antithesis of one of Petersburg’s major monuments—the Alexander Column crowned with the figure of an angel. If the angel rising above the center of Palace Square makes a blessing gesture to the city, the gesture of the devil shows the opposite—mockery and sarcasm.

28



See Dobuzhinsky’s letter no. 176 to Stanislavsky, dated April 13, 1920, in his Pis'ma, 153.

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“The Devil” also seems to be a caricature of another holy site in Petersburg—the angel above the Peter and Paul Cathedral. According to legend, when Peter the Great began building a fortress, he planned to install a sculpture of an angel with a cross on top of the cathedral’s spire, the highest point of the city. His idea was that the angel would protect Petersburg from harm and enemy invasion. In 1724, shortly before Peter’s death, his wish was fulfilled. Since that

Fig. 15. The statue of the angel on top of the Peter and Paul Cathedral. Photo by Aleksandr Petrosyan.

Fig. 14. The statue of the angel on top of the Alexander Column, St. Petersburg. My photo.

time, residents of Petersburg believe that as long as the angel blesses the city from the Peter and Paul Cathedral, the city is safe from destruction. The installation of an angel on the cathedral’s spire was important for Petersburg because of yet another reason—it created the vertical axis of the city. V. N. Toporov suggests that spires in Petersburg hold a special symbolic meaning. Akin to crosses in Moscow churches, they entice viewers away from the pro73

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fane city space to heavenly spheres.29 Dobuzhinsky’s devil standing on top of the diagonal crane does precisely the opposite—it leaves the industrial city in the realm of profanity. Finally, the diagonal crane on Dobuzhinsky’s drawing seems to be a grotesque parody of the main architectural symbol of revolutionary Petrograd—Vladimir Tatlin’s Tower, the Monument to the Third International. The likeness is not surprising—as a symbol of the construction of a new city, the central axis of the tower’s structure was meant to imitate the mast of the crane. Tatlin got the idea of building this gigantic monument in early 1919. In November 1920, the model he created was exhibited in the workshop of the former Academy of Arts. The diagonal tilt of the mast, precisely parallel to the Earth’s axis, carried the idea of planetarity and cosmism.

Fig. 16. Reprinted from N. Punin, Monument to the Third International (St. Petersburg: Izdanie otdela izobrazitel'nykh iskusstv, 1920).

29



V. N. Toporov, Peterburgskii teskt russkoi literatury (St. Petersburg: Iskusstvo, 2003), 100.

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As the height of the tower was to be four hundred meters (thirteen hundred feet), it was assumed that, towering over Petrograd, it would be three times greater than the overall height of the Peter and Paul Cathedral and nearly ten times the Alexander Column. Erected in the center of the city, the tower was supposed to contrast with the architectural styles of old Petersburg—baroque and neoclassicism. The tower was supposed to provide space for the legislative, executive, and government media offices as well as a place for artists. Its upper part would house a printing press, telegraph office, and radio station. The top was meant to be crowned with a radio antenna. In July 1920, Nikolai Punin wrote enthusiastically about the tower, To carry out this form means to create dynamic system with the same unsurpassed greatness that pyramids created static system. We claim: only proletarian consciousness filled with the power of millions of people could throw the idea of this monument and of its form unto the world; it must come into being by the muscles of this power, for we have a perfect, living, and classical expression in pure and creative form of the world international union of workers.30

Viktor Shklovsky saw this monument made “of iron, glass, and Revolution” as a reflection of the Zeitgeist.31 The excitement was not shared by all. The people’s commissar of education, Anatoly Lunacharsky, spoke about Tatlin’s project without any enthusiasm: “If Moscow or Petrograd were adorned with such an artifact by one of the most prominent artists of the ‘left’ wing, I think it would be a disappointment not only for myself.”32

30



N. Punin, “Pamiatnik III Internatsionala,” in O Tatline (St. Petersburg: Izdanie otdela izobrazitel'nykh iskusstv, 1920), 4.

31



Viktor Shklovskii, “Pamiatnik Tret'emu Internatsionalu (Posledniaia rabota Tatlina),” Gamburgskii schet: Stat'i, vospominaniia, esse (1914–1922) (Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel', 1990), 100–101.

32



A. V. Lunacharskii, Ob izobrazitel'nom iskusstve, 2 vols., ed. I. A. Sats and A. F. Ermakov (Moscow: Sovetskii khudozhni, 1967), 2:70–71.

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There is no doubt that the construction of this monument was a disappointment for Dobuzhinsky, for it symbolized victory over the old Petersburg. 

We can now come back to the claim made at the beginning of this chapter—Dobuzhinsky’s famous illustrations of Dostoevsky’s White Nights made in 1922 reflect not just Dostoevsky’s Petersburg of 1840s but the many-sidedness of the city, and this is because Petersburg was the subject of Dobuzhinsky’s paintings and graphic art for more than two decades, including those years when it was renamed Petrograd and its aesthetic appearance was forcibly changed. During this period, the artist witnessed the decline of the old city and the emergence of a new one: this transformation was the subject of his art. Dobuzhinsky’s White Nights include various aspects of the city the artist portrayed over the course of many years. They contain elements of the World of Art aesthetics: symmetry, clarity, harmony, lyricism, and hallmarks of the eighteenth-century architectural style. They also contain the unflattering features of Dostoevsky’s Petersburg: derelict houses, piles of firewood, and rain falling aslant on pavements in the dark night. The broken street lamp in Dobuzhinsky’s White Nights is reminiscent of a street lamp entangled in cords from his album Petersburg in 1921 (The Embankment of Priazhka). The dreamy atmosphere of urban scenes in Dobuzhinsky’s White Nights, matching the temperament of Dostoevsky’s protagonist (who calls himself “a dreamer”), resembles Dobuzhinsky’s series Urban Dreams. Whereas the personified buildings in Dostoevsky’s story are painted in different colors, Dobuzhinsky portrays them in black and white, thus representing the character of the city in a quite different way from Dostoevsky’s rendition. The use of only two colors makes all contrasts maximally intense. In the illustrations of White Nights, the artist portrays thesis and antithesis, Petersburg and Petrograd, the city inhabited in 1840s by “dreamers” and the desolate city of postrevolutionary years. 76

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Like Dostoevsky’s White Nights, narrated in the first person, Dobuzhinsky’s White Nights has a personal aura. Besides serving as an illustration for Dostoevsky’s story, it is Dobuzhinsky’s own statement about the city in which he lived since the turn of the century. With this synthesis, Dobuzhinsky creates an image of a city that has overcome its ominous prophecy and has survived. This overcoming is achieved graphically by maximizing all contrasts and contradictions as well as their ultimate resolution: the light shines through the stormy clouds, thus creating a sense of hope. The transfigured image of Petersburg in White Nights, with the challenges of the present and the beauty of the past, is Dobuzhinsky’s farewell to his native city.

Praising the Name: The Religious Theme in Daniil Kharms

The

religious aspect of Kharms’s legacy, commented on by several scholars during the past two decades, remains a challenging topic. The editors of a recently published volume containing Kharms’s notebooks, diaries, and letters, observe, “Judging from our reading of the notebooks, Kharms combined superstition, a desire for miracle, and a belief in magic with interest in Eastern mysticism, occult thought, and the Kabbalah so haphazardly that he entirely lacked the ability to see the world in religious or ethical terms.”1 Although the range of Kharms’s spiritual interests was indeed very broad, the editors’ sentence above may be too harsh. This essay argues that Kharms did possess the ability to see the world in religious and ethical terms, but in religious matters he was as eccentric as he was in matters concerning everyday life. In

1



“I Am a Phenomenon Quite Out of the Ordinary”: The Notebooks, Diaries, and Letters of Daniil Kharms, trans. and ed. Anthony Anemone and Peter Scotto (Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2013), 34. The religious theme emerges in Neil Carrick, Daniil Kharms: Theologian of the Absurd, Birmingham Slavonic Monographs 28 (Birmingham, UK: University of Birmingham, 1998); L. F. Katsis, “Prolegomeny k teologii OBERIU (Daniil Kharms i Aleksandr Vvedenskii v kontekste Zaveta Sv. Dukha”), in Issledovaniia po istorii russkoi mysli, ed. M. A. Kolerov (Moscow: OGI, 2000), 5:467–88; A. L. Toporkov, “Iz istorii literaturnykh molitv,” Etnolingvistika teksta; semiotika malykh form fol'klora 2 (1998): 28–31; Alice Stone Nakhimovsky, Laughter in the Void: An Introduction to the Writings of Daniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedenskii (Vienna: Wiener Slawistischer Almanach, 1982); and Mikhail Iampolskii, Bespamiatstvo kak istok (chitaia Kharmsa) (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 1998); as well as some other studies.

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the Soviet Russia of the thirties, Kharms looked bizarre dressed in his knickerbockers, leggings, suspenders, and a deerstalker hat. Kharms is also an unconventional absurdist. Unlike Camus, who in his “Myth of Sisyphus” stated that “the absurd is born out of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world,” Kharms believed that human life and effort did have meaning. This belief is noticeable in many of his notes dealing with religious topics, including the one made in his diary on May 26, 1938: 1. Every human life has but one goal: immortality. 1-a. Every human life has but one goal: the attainment of immortality. 2. One person strives towards immortality by continuing his family, another undertakes great deeds on earth to immortalize his name, and only the third leads a righteous and holy life in order to attain immortality as life eternal. 3. Man has only two interests: the earthly—food, drink, warmth, women, rest; and the heavenly, that is, immortality. 4. Everything earthly bears witness to death. 5. There is a single line along which all that is earthly lies. And only that which does not lie along this line bears witness to immortality. 6. And therefore man looks for that which diverges from this earthly line and calls it “the beautiful” or a “thing of genius.”2

Religious thinker Iakov Druskin, Kharms’s close friend, writes that Kharms was “neither a philosopher, nor moralist, but a writer, though, undoubtedly, with philosophical inclinations.”3 Robin R. Milner-Gulland maintains, Interested as Kharms was in philosophy, it would probably be a mistake to try to extract a coherent philosophical outlook from his works (as Druskin indicates): his speculative pieces,

2

“I Am a Phenomenon Quite Out of the Ordinary,” 498–99.

3

Iakov Druskin, “On Daniil Kharms,” in Daniil Kharms and the Poetics of the Absurd, ed. and trans. Neil Cornwell (London: Macmillan, 1991), 24.



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if deprived of their literary dimension, may seem merely lightweight or whimsical. . . . Kharms is most fundamentally a philosophical poet not in his ideas but in his poetic practice. . . . His religion—or the reflection of it in his writings— emerges almost as idiosyncratic and disturbing as Gogol’s. It seems entirely personal, without any hint of communality. Its preferred medium of expression is the prayer, most often for literary inspiration. It embraces the ideal of holiness.4

The issue is complicated by the fact that in Kharms’s work the sacred often verges on the absurd and blasphemous. The author of one of the first monographs on Kharms, Alice Stone Nakhimovsky, observes, “Kharms seems to delight in the reconciliation of opposites, the confusion of the sacred and profane.”5 For him, the boundary separating laughter and religious matters was permeable. According to Iakov Druskin, Kharms used to say that there were two important things in life: humor and sanctity.6 Taking into consideration all these caveats, I focus here on one particular aspect of Kharms’s spiritual strivings—his interest in the tradition of the “Prayer of the Heart.” This topic was touched upon by Nikolai Bogomolov, D. L. Shukurov, and Evgeniia Ostroukhova, though very briefly.7 My discussion will revolve around several written sources: 1) three books from Kharms’s archive, which shed

4

Robin R. Milner-Gulland, “Beyond the Turning-Point: An Afterword,” in ibid., 259–60.

5

Nakhimovsky, Laughter in the Void, 100.

6

Druskin, “On Daniil Kharms,” 24.

7

See Nikolai Bogomolov, “Iz marginalii k zapisnym knizhkam Kharmsa,” in Stoletie Daniila Kharmsa: Materialy mezhdunarodnoi nauchnoi konferentsii, posviashchennoi 100-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia Daniila Kharmsa, ed. A. Kobrinskii (St. Petersburg: IPTS SPGUTD, 2005), 5–17; D. L. Shukurov, “Opyt dekonstruktsii stikhotvornykh tekstov-molitv Daniila Kharmsa,” Lichnost', kul'tura, obshchestvo 9, no. 39 (2007): 366–76; Evgeniia Ostroukhova, “Ob imenakh personazhei D. Kharmsa,” in Stoletie Daniila Kharmsa, 159–67. See also Mitropolit Volokolamskii Ilarion (Alfeev), Sviashchennaia taina tserkvi: Vvedenie v istoriiu i problematiku imiaslavskikh sporov. 2 vols. (St. Petersburg: Aleteia, 2002), 1:405–67.



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light on his religious interests, especially his interest in Imiaslavie (a mystical doctrine of the “incessant prayer”); 2) five poems Kharms wrote in 1931, which, as I argue, contain Imiaslavie motifs; 3) a note made in his diary in the summer of 1930 containing the name of the twentieth-century leader of Imiaslavie Antony Bulatovich; and 4) the documents of the OBERIU (the Association for Real Art) poets’ arrests and interrogations in December 1931. These sources are considered in light of the status Imiaslavie had in Russia in the first third of the twentieth century, which requires digressions into the issue of resurgence of this movement in Russia in 1910s and its forceful extinguishment in the early 1930s. B o ok s on R e l i g iou s Topic s i n K h a r m s’s A r c h i ve Valery Sazhin, the OBERIU scholar and curator of the Kharms’s archive, notes that any clarification of Kharms’s religiosity, an important aspect of his personality and literary works, requires a detailed analysis of the whole complex of his writings and other materials related to his art.8 A large chunk of materials that could give us an insight into Kharms’s spirituality is lost, however. According to the documents of his first arrest in December 1931, when his apartment was searched, the OGPU agents confiscated manuscripts, various correspondence, and ten “mystical-occult” books from Kharms’s home library (which could not have been large, since he had only one room).9 During his second arrest, in August 1941, notebooks, correspondence, and four more religious books were confiscated.10

8

See Valerii Sazhin’s commentaries to Kharms’s poems in Daniil Kharms, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 5 vols. (St. Petersburg: Akademicheskii proekt, 1999), 1:386.

9

V. N. Sazhin, ed., Sborishche druzei, ostavlennykh sud'boiu: “Chinari” v tekstakh, dokumentakh i issledovaniiakh, 2 vols. (Moscow: Ladomir, 2000), 2:572.





10



Ibid., 2:610.

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We will probably never know what these fourteen confiscated books were, just as we will never know why some books were not confiscated during these searches: William James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience (in Russian translation), The Buddhist Catechism (translated from Mongolian), and The Seeker of Incessant Prayer; or, The Collection of Sayings and Examples from the Books of the Holy Scripture, written in Russian.11 These works were rescued by Iakov Druskin, together with Kharms’s manuscripts, during the siege of Leningrad. They are now housed in Kharms’s archive in the Manuscript Division of the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg. These materials give us insight into Kharms’s religious interests. The Varieties of Religious Experience, by William James, comprises his lectures on natural theology, delivered at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in 1901 and 1902. Written from a psychological perspective, James’s book was very influential in the early twentieth century. Underlining made in Kharms’s hand suggests that he was interested in James’s binary classifications of religious experience: institutional versus personal, rational versus mystical, “healthy-minded” versus “morbid-minded.” The passages he underlined argue that theological formulas and the worship of God are secondary; the primary criteria are “immediate luminousness,” “philosophical reasonableness,” and “moral helpfulness.”12 These three points, italicized by James, are marked in green by Kharms. Underlining in different colors seems to have had special meaning for Kharms. He used it in his 1937 diagrams of “Holy Spirit, Soul, Reason, and Basic Feelings,” in which he recreated

11



Vil'iam Dzheims, Mnoobrazie religioznogo opyta, trans. V. G. MalakhievaMirovich and M. V. Shik, ed. S. V. Lur'e (Moscow: Tovarishchestvo tipografii A. I. Mamontova, 1910); Buddiiskii katekhizis, perevod s mongol'skogo (St. Petersburg: Izd. Knigoprodavtsa F. I. Mitiurnikova, 1902); Iskatel' neprestannoi molitvy, ili, Sbornik izrecheniii i primerov iz knig Sviashchennogo Pisaniia sochneniii bogomudrykh podvizhnikov blagochestiia o neprestannoi molitve (Moscow: Tipo-litografiia I. Efimova, 1904).

12



William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, ed. with an introduction by Martin E. Marty (New York: Penguin Books, 1982), 18. Italics are original.

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Pavel Florensky’s diagram of three principles of the human body. In this illustration, orange stands for basic feelings, blue for reason, green for soul and golden yellow for Holy Spirit.13 In the books from Kharms’s archive, blue is most often associated with the realm of the spirit, red with emotions, and green with the soul. Among the underlined material in James’s book are two quotations by Havelock Ellis: “Even the momentary expansion of the soul in laughter is, to however slight an extent, a religious exercise”; “laughter of any sort may be considered a religious exercise.”14 In the margin across from the first note, Kharms wrote in black pencil: “Kharms.” The other two books deal with mystical matters. The tiny Buddhist Catechism reflects Kharms’s interest in Oriental spirituality. In the spring of 1937, he used to visit a Buddhist temple on the outskirts of Leningrad, alone or with his second wife, Marina Malich. This temple belonged to a Tibeto-Mongolian mission. Kharms personally knew Agvan Dorzhiev, the head of the mission, whose name figures in Kharms’s notebooks, and he was acquainted with other ministers of the temple. Kharms’s sister recalls that Buddhist monks sometimes visited him in his apartment.15 His notebooks of the time indicate that he attempted to learn Mongolian and Tibetan languages. Kharms may have inherited his interest in Buddhism from his father, Ivan Pavlovich Yuvachev, who had a small collection of Buddhist mandalas, housed after his death in the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism in the Kazan Cathedral. According to Marina Malich, on one of the walls of their room in the communal apartment, Kharms had hung the Buddhist mantra “Om mani

13



L. F. Katsis, “Prolegomeny k teologii OBERIU (Daniil Kharms i Aleksandr Vvedenskii v kontekste Zaveta Sv. Dukha”), in Issledovaniia po istorii russkoi mysli, ed. M. A. Kolerov (Moscow: OGI, 2000), 5:473, and Iampolskii, Bespamiatstvo kak istok, 257.

14



William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, 49, 77 (quotes are taken from the English original).

15



“Elizaveta Ivanovna Gritsina vspominaet,” Teatr 11 (1991): 43.

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padme hum,” which he regarded as a “sacred and very powerful spell.”16 In September 1937, the Tibeto-Mongolian mission ceased to exist; lamas were arrested and executed. In November, Dorzhiev was arrested in Buryatia and soon after died in a prison hospital. In 1938, the Buddhist temple was taken over by various Soviet institutions. Kharms’s interest in Buddhism lasted until the end of his life. The serene Buddhist philosophy must have stood in stark contrast to the atrocities of Stalin’s regime. Less than a month before his second (and final) arrest, at the bottom of Buddhist Catechism’s last page, Kharms wrote the date “28 July 1941.” Among passages he underlined, one in blue reads, “What are the three spiritual perfections? Faith, desire, benevolence.” The “gleaming, sparkling, golden top” of the Buddhist temple shines like a ray of light at the very end of his otherwise dark story “The Old Woman” (1939). The third book—The Seeker of Incessant Prayer—is a collection of texts related to the doctrine of Imiaslavie (also called Onomatodoxy, literally “name praising” or “name worshipping”). Unlike Buddhism, this doctrine is virtually unknown to a Western readership, which is why it requires a short introduction. I nc e s s a nt Pr aye r The idea of praising God’s name goes back to Greek patristics and the eremitic tradition of prayer known as Hesychasm.17 This ascetic practice involves seclusion, sitting and concentrating on one’s heart, and constant meditation on the so-called Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”). Similar

16



Vladimir Glotser, Marina Durnovo: Moi muzh Daniil Kharms (Moscow: IMAB.S.G.-Progress, 2000), 44.

17



For a detailed analysis of Imiaslavie as a discipline, see Elena Gurko, Bozhestvennaia onomatologiia: Imenovanie Boga v imiaslavii, simvolizme i dekonstruktsii (Minsk: Ekonompress, 2006). For detailed discussions of the history of Imiaslavie, see Mitropolit Volokolamskii Ilarion (Alfeev), Sviashchennaia taina tserkvi: Vvedenie v istoriiu i problematiku imiaslavskikh sporov, 2 vols. (St. Petersburg: Aleteia, 2002).

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to Buddhist mantras, the Jesus Prayer requires a focus on one’s breathing and on the rhythm of one’s heart. The goal of this practice is the descent of the mind into the heart. The Cappadocian Fathers of the fourth century believed that God exists in a different sense than everything else exists. According to their apophatic (negative) theology, the essence of God is unknowable; humankind can know God only through divine energies. In the fourteenth century, the theologian Gregory Palamas, drawing from earlier Hesychast sources, developed the concept of synergy (συνεργία)—the collaboration of human effort based on the Jesus Prayer and divine energy. Palamas argued that the advanced stage of this prayer opens the way to unification with the divine absolute, and to knowledge of God.18 The Seeker of Incessant Prayer in Kharms’s archive contains excerpts from Dobrotoliubie (Philokalia in Greek), a collection of texts by spiritual masters of the Hesychast tradition, originally written to provide guidance to monks. Its purpose is to instruct readers on various aspects of contemplative life, to guide them toward the so-called hesychia (the Greek word for “tranquility,” “stillness,” or “silence of the heart”). The book offers spiritual advice from various Greek and Russian authors from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries. It is evident that Kharms read this book with great attention. He underlined nearly two dozen passages in black, blue, and red pencil. Paragraphs marked in black contain recommendations for beginning practitioners of the Jesus Prayer. Those marked in blue give instructions on how to create the Jesus Prayer in one’s heart, on how to sit and breathe during the prayer, on the importance of physical effort and ascetic practice during the prayer, and on spiritual sobriety. Passages marked in red contain statements on the fear of

18



Tracing the history of Imiaslavie, Elena Gurko observes, “Although he was not a theologian in the strict sense, Palamas’s contribution is, perhaps, the strongest after Plato. It will take more than six centuries to reclaim Palamas’s contribution and make it the foundation of a truly grandiose theory of the name (or rather a group of such theories), developed by Imiaslavie.” See Gurko, Bozhestvennaia onomatologiia, 105.

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God instilled by the prayer, on the effect of silence in cleansing the soul, on concentrating on the inner self, and on solitude. One passage in this book seems to have had special importance for Kharms, as his underlining of the whole passage is the most pronounced. In addition to underlining every line, he marked the passage with two parallel red lines on the left and right margins. This section containing spiritual advice given by Theophan the Recluse (1815–1894) sounds paradoxical: One has to ignite the misfortune around oneself (Надо беду зажечь вокруг себя) . . . One has to sting and trouble one’s inner being in order not to fall asleep . . . What does it mean to ignite the misfortune around you? It is a deep sensation of the danger of one’s situation (это глубокое чувство опасности своего положения), and of extreme danger, from which there is no other salvation than in Lord Jesus Christ . . . It is this feeling that will chase us toward the Lord and make us constantly cry out: Lord, have mercy! Help us! Protect us! . . . All saints experienced it, incessantly.19

In his essay on Kharms, Iakov Druskin writes that starting in 1934–35, the years preceding Stalin’s great terror, Kharms lived with a presentiment that “something terrible would happen to him.” He maintains, “It was no accident that Kharms was greatly interested at that time in the Dobrotoliubie. He did not read very far, only as far as the saying, ‘Ignite the misfortune around you.’ He read no further because this was exactly what he needed. In the final month before his disappearance he kept repeating this saying all the time.”20 The words of Theophan the Recluse turned out to be prophetic. In August 1941, misfortune struck. Kharms was arrested and incarcerated in a psychiatric clinic of Kresty Prison, where he soon died.

19



Iskatel' neprestannoi molitvy, 37.

20



Druskin, “On Daniil Kharms,” 30.

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Mot i f s of I m i a s l av ie i n K h a r m s’s 1931 Po e m s The most explicit treatment of Imiaslavie motifs is found in Kharms’s “Prayer before Sleep, March 28, 1931, at 7 o’clock in the Evening” (“Молитва перед сном 28 марта 1931 в 7 часов вечера”), which ends with a reference to praising God’s name (it must be stressed that, as in all Russian originals, Kharms’s spelling and punctuation are retained): Господи, среди бела дня накотила на меня лень. Разреши мне лечь и заснуть Господи и пока я сплю накачай меня Господи Силою Твоей. Многое знать хочу но не книги и не люди скажут мне это Только Ты просвети меня Господи путем стихов моих. Разбуди меня сильного к битве со смыслами быстрого к управлению слов и прилежного к восхвалению имяни Бога во веки веков.21 Lord, smack in the middle of the day A laziness came over me. Permit me to lie down and go to sleep, Lord, And while I sleep, oh Lord, pump me full of Your Strength. There is much I wish to know But neither books nor people will tell me. Only You can enlighten me, Lord, By way of my poems. Wake me up strong for the battle with meanings And quick to the governance of words And assiduous in praising the name of God For all time.22

21



Kharms, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 1:193. All poems are from this edition. Volume and page numbers are given in the text in parentheses.

22



Daniil Kharms, Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms, ed. and trans. Matvei Yankelevich (New York: Ardis Books,

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The genitive case of the word “name,” spelled as “imiani” instead of the modern standard “imeni,” also hints at the poem’s relation to Imiaslavie, for the word can be written in two ways in Russian: Imiaslavie and Imeslavie. Kharms views laziness as divine creativity, the way another avant-garde artist of the time, Kazimir Malevich, interpreted it in his treatise Laziness as a Real Truth of the Human Condition (Лень как действительная истина человечества, 1921).23 Kharms also views laziness as profound silence and stillness of the mind reminiscent of the state of hesychia. Among other passages in The Seeker of Incessant Prayer, Kharms underlined the part where silence is called the “foundation of the purification of the soul” and is compared to a “chariot pulling to heaven.”24 The next four lines, “There is much I wish to know / But neither books nor people will tell me. / Only You can enlighten me, Lord, / By way of my poems,” echo the apophatic theology posited by the Hesychasts: knowledge gained not by rational thinking but through silence, prayer, and revelation.25 The request to be enlightened by way of poems is traditionally interpreted as Kharms’s quest for poetic inspiration. The motif of the glorification of God’s name also appears overtly in another poem Kharms wrote in 1931:

2009), 152. This evening prayer resonates with a morning prayer titled “Morning, Awakening of Elements” (“Утро, пробуждение элементов”), which Kharms had written earlier, in January 1930. One of the brightest of Kharms’s poems, it provides a picture of a sequential awakening of the world: God, people (“us”), animals (lion, goat, deer), vegetation, and birds. The poem ends with a picture of people standing on the mountains and glorifying the new day. 23



See Kazimir Malevich, Len' kak deistvitel'naia istina chelovechestva, s prilozheniem stat'i Feliksa Filippa Ingol'da “Reabilitatsiia prazdnosti” (Moscow: Gileia, 1994).

24



Iskatel' neprestannoi molitvy, 23.

25



On apophatic theology in Kharms, see Neil Carrick, Daniil Kharms, 76–77.

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Слава радости пришедшей в мой дом. Слава радости приходящей в дом когда меньше всего ждешь ее. Все внезапно пока не придет внезапная радость. Тогда внезапное становится долгожданным а имя Господа моего звучит ликованием. (1:216) Glory to the joy that came to my home. Glory to the joy that comes to my home when you least expect it. Everything is sudden until sudden joy comes. Then the sudden becomes the long-expected, and the name of my Lord resounds with exaltation.

Here the expression “sudden joy” (“внезапная радость”) seems to refer to the miracle-working icon of the Mother of God traditionally called “Unexpected Joy” (“Нечаянная радость”). The exaltation of the image and of the name of God establishes the poem’s connection with the Hesychast tradition, in which the name of God is considered his verbal icon.26 Another poem written in early July 1931 introduces the themes of praying and synergy: Однажды Бог ударил в плечо воскликнул я: ой горячо! и в воду прыгнул остудиться заглушать на теле зной Я пребывал в воде молиться сидел на солнце под сосной. (1:211) One day, God struck me in the shoulder I exclaimed: oh, it’s hot! And jumped into the water to cool down to quench the ardent heat on my body I stayed in the water to pray I sat in the sun under a pine tree.

26



Fifteenth-century iconographers—Theophanes the Greek, Andrei Rublev, and Dionysius— were supporters of Imiaslavie.

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The poem appears nonsensical unless we place it into the context of Imiaslavie: the image of God striking with a stroke of heat hints at the ancient idea of synergy as an intersection of two energies— human and divine. Kharms was familiar with the practice of the contemplative Jesus Prayer, specifically, with the fact that it requires a sitting position and deep concentration on one’s heart. In The Seeker of Incessant Prayer, he underlined the advice from Saint Gregory of Sinai: “The active mindful heart prayer is performed in the following way: ‘Sit on a low seat, shift your mind from the head to the heart, and hold it in the heart.’”27 The encounter with divine energies through prayer is the subject of yet another 1931 poem by Kharms, which begins with a Trinitarian formula common in many Christian prayers: Во имя Отца и Сына и Святаго Духа вчера я сидел у окна выставив ухо земля говорила дереву: произростай дерево медленно росло—но всe же заметно глазу то голым стояло то прятало ствол в зелeную вазу на солнце читая значeк своей радости планеты порой шевелились меж звeздами а дерево гнулось махая птичьями гнeздами семь радуг над деревом возносилось я видел доски ангельских глаз они глядели сверху на нас читая годов добрые числа. (1:224) In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit yesterday I was sitting by the window holding up my ear The earth was telling the tree: grow The tree was growing slowly—yet noticeably to the eye now standing bare, now hiding its trunk in a green vase reading in the sun the sign of its joy planets occasionally stirred between stars and the tree was bending and waving birds’ nests

27



Iskatel' neprestannoi molitvy, 18.

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Seven rainbows rose above the tree ascending I saw the (wooden) panels of the angels’ eyes they were glancing at us from above reading the years’ good numbers.

The poem depicts an act of contemplation in a peaceful setting and an encounter with the divine. Sitting by the window, the “I” is listening to the earth talking to the tree, looking up into the sky, watching the movement of the seasons, stars, planets, and rainbows. The angels’ eyes watching from above appear iconic (hence the mention of “[wooden] panels”); thus the sky is likened to the dome of a temple. Like “Prayer before Sleep,” “Glory to the Joy,” and “One Day God Struck Me,” the poem is devoid of any dark or humorous overtones characterizing other poems that Kharms wrote in the early 1930s. The years 1930–31 were transitional ones in Kharms’s personal life and career. After a long period of family troubles, in December 1929 he separated from his first wife, Esther Rusakova. On April 1, 1930, the poetry reading of the OBERIU group, in which he participated, turned out to be their last performance. The reviews that followed contained political accusations and signaled the end of the OBERIU poetic association. For Kharms, the following two years were marked by a transition from the “trans-sense” (“заумь”) poetry of the 1920s to the absurdist prose of the 1930s. In the early 1930s, his poetics underwent a transformation: experiments with “trans-sense” gave way to more serious semantic layers.28 A Hu s s a r-Mon k Lazar Fleishman reminds us that in the late 1920s, the members of the OBERIU circle dissociated their poetic language from “transsense”; they aimed not to destroy but to expand and deepen the meaning of the subject and the word. Fleishman provides a “rational” interpretation of a poem Kharms wrote in 1929, finding in it a reflection of historical circumstances—the calendar reform

28



Aleksandr Kobrinskii, Daniil Kharms (Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 2009), 185.

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of the five-year plan.29 He suggests that, contrary to what scholars commonly claim, the echoes of contemporary reality are present in Kharms’s art. I will argue that Kharms’s poem “A Certain Monk Was Standing in a Desert” (“Один монах стоял в пустыне”), written in early January 1931, also refers to concrete historical events: Один монах стоял в пустыне о альманах тебя отныне не узнаю. Ужели ты оставил келью молитвы, деньги и покой ужели ты на долг и зубы махнул единственной рукой. Однако руль в твоей ладоне боится пуль святой погони и дребежжит. прощай монашек твой лоб стакан тебя согреет. в густых колосьях спасется рожь в твоих волосьях родится вошь Собачка гнид. Ребенку ясно— ужели можно оставить сумрачное лето? Когда летят к земле тревожно цветы студента и валета.

29



Lazar Fleishman, “On One Enigmatic Poem by Daniil Kharms,” Daniil Kharms and the Poetics of the Absurd, ed. and trans. Neil Cornwell (London: Macmillan, 1991).

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И в миг лишившись пуговиц Наполеон став голым вдруг произнес: отныне я хамелеон. Ну кто поверит этим бредням Я ли ты ли или он или Марья или Федор или сам наполеон? (1:185) A certain monk was standing in a desert oh almanac; from now on I do not recognize you. Did you really leave your cell, prayers, money, and serenity, did you really wave good-bye with your only hand to your duty and your teeth? However, the rudder in your palm is afraid of the bullets of the holy chase and rattles. Farewell, monk, your forehead a glass will warm you up. In thick grass the rye will be saved, in your hair a louse will be born. A little dog of nits. A child could understand— can one really leave the gloomy summer? When restlessly to the ground fly the flowers of the student and the knave. And in an instant, bereft of buttons, Napoleon

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denuded suddenly pronounced: From now on I am a chameleon. But who will believe this nonsense? Will I or you or he Or Maria or Fyodor Or napoleon himself?

Outwardly “trans-sense,” the poem contains several literary allusions. The motif of nakedness hints at Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” mentioned in Druskin’s writings on Kharms.30 The figure of a one-armed warrior in the poem is reminiscent of at least two literary personae: Captain Kopeikin in Gogol’s Dead Souls and civil servant Lebedev in Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, both of whom lost their limbs in the war with Napoleon.31 The word “louse” refers to Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Raskolnikov’s preoccupation with whether he is “a Napoleon or a louse.” These allusions to Russian literature suggest a common historical past—Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. The figure of the persecuted monk indicates a more recent past, however. The contrast between a peaceful setting (a desert and a monastic cell) and a ferocious war theater with bullets, the expression “holy chase” (“святая погоня”), and the very idea of a monk being in a war theater suggests that the poem refers to concrete historical circumstances, and perhaps a real historical figure: Antony Bulatovich (1870–1919), the twentieth-century leader and defender of the Imiaslavie movement. The key to this poem may be found in Kharms’s mention of Bulatovich’s name in his notebook. In the summer of 1930, a few months before he wrote the poem “A Certain Monk,” Kharms

30



In his essay on Kharms, Iakov Druskin writes that Kharms was like the little boy in Andersen’s tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes”: “He was not afraid to say ‘But the king’s got nothing on.’ This applies to many of the idols people create, but not, of course, to faith.” See Druskin, “On Daniil Kharms,” 23.

31



See the discussion of this topic in the chapter “Sex, Crime, and Railroads: Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata and Dostoevsky’s Idiot” in the present book.

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made a note in his diary, “Antony Bulatovich, as in Ilarion’s book Imiaslavtsy.”32 At the outset of the twentieth century Bulatovich was a legendary figure, not only because he had a leading role in the resurgence of Imiaslavie, but also because his biography abounds in eccentricities. When he was young, he served in the Hussar Regiment as an officer and traveled extensively. During and after the Italo-Abyssinian War, he visited Ethiopia three times, where he made important geographic discoveries. His expeditions and his exploits inspired the poet Nikolai Gumilev, who was the first traveler to follow the same route. Bulatovich’s sudden decision to become a monk was spurred by an episode that took place during his military service in Africa, when he was attacked by several elephants. Being convinced that prayer helped him to blunt the elephants’ attack, in 1906 Bulatovich took monastic vows on Mount Athos. While living there, he was inspired by the book On the Caucasus Mountains (1907), authored by the schemamonk Ilarion Domrachev (1845–1916). Portraying the life of hermits in the wilderness, the book introduced the ancient tradition of the Prayer of the Heart. Bulatovich’s inspiration was shared by many members of the monastic community, but the spread of Imiaslavie in the Russian monasteries on Mount Athos soon resulted in the rise of controversies among the monks. The opponents debunked the idea of God’s name being God himself as nonsensical and undogmatic. As the debates intensified, the patriarch of Constantinople and the Russian Holy Synod condemned the doctrine as “blasphemous and heretical teaching.” In 1913 Russia used military force to expel more

32



“Zapisnaia knizhka 20,” in Kharms, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 1:368. This phrase is not included in Kharms’s notebooks and diaries recently published in English under the title “I Am a Phenomenon Quite Out of the Ordinary,” perhaps because it seems enigmatic (the editors of this collection acknowledge that it is incomplete). Nikolai Bogomolov, however, recently dedicated a few pages to this note. Commenting on this entry in Kharms’s notebook, Bogomolov observes that the book entitled Imiaslavtsy authored by Ilarion does not seem to exist. See Bogomolov, “Iz marginalii k zapisnym knizhkam Kharmsa,” 15.

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than a thousand Russian monks from the Athos monasteries and send them to the provinces. When World War I began, despite their monastic rank and the prohibition on the use of weapons, many monks were drafted into the army with the mission “to defend Holy Orthodox Russia from its enemies.” Following the expulsion of Russian monks from Mount Athos, Bulatovich, together with other clerics, volunteered for the Russian army in the capacity of a priest. During the war, he served as both priest and officer and was awarded the Order of Saint Vladimir and the Cross of Saint George. In 1916, Bulatovich returned from the war, half blind and in deteriorating health. The unusual combination of Bulatovich’s monastic and military career deeply impressed the Orthodox theologian and philosopher Sergei Bulgakov when they met in March 1918. In a letter to Pavel Florensky, Bulgakov wrote that he felt there was something Hussar in Bulatovich and that the whole controversy about Imiaslavie had some Hussar spirit in it.33 The persecution of monks on Mount Athos ignited polemics in the Russian press, both religious and secular. Russian intellectuals strove to conceptualize the doctrine and to express support for its adherents. In 1915, Osip Mandelstam wrote “Even Now on Athos, the Miracle Tree Grows” (“И поныне на Афоне древо чудное растет”), a poem about Mount Athos monks extolling the name of God. In 1916, the idea of name praising framed Marina Tsvetaeva’s poem “Your Name” (“Имя твое”), dedicated to Aleksandr Blok. In the late twenties, a decade after Bulatovich’s death, he was still a legendary figure. In their novel The Twelve Chairs (1927), the satirists Ilya Ilf and Yevgeny Petrov used Bulatovich’s biography to create a fictional account of a hermit hussar, Bulanov, narrated by Ostap Bender. The monk in Kharms’s poem can be any monk, or a “certain monk.” The way he is addressed—“oh almanac” (“о альманах”),

33



See Perepiska sviashchennika Pavla Aleksandrovicha Florenskogo so sviashchennikom Sergiem Nikolaevichem Bulgakovym, ed. Hegumen Andronik (Trubachev) (Tomsk: Vodolei, 2001), 154–55.

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with the exotic prefix “al-” (an Arabic article that renders the noun on which it is prefixed definite)—suggests a wordplay that hints at a specific monk, whose name Kharms jotted down in his notebooks a few months before he wrote this poem: Antony Bulatovich, a monk, a warrior, and an explorer of Africa. Ph i lo s ophy of t he Na me a nd t he Pe r s e c ut ion of I m i a s l a v i e Sergei Khoruzhii observes that, having originally appeared in an environment far removed from philosophy, the Imiaslavie controversy soon played an important role in Russian intellectual history.34 Synthesizing the classical legacy of Platonism and Neoplatonism, patristics and the linguistic thought of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Russian religious thinkers Pavel Florensky, Sergei Bulgakov, and Aleksei Losev developed philosophical concepts of God’s name, energies, and essence. Florensky viewed the name in light of Gregory Palamas’s teaching on synergy.35 His most important contribution to the

34



S. S. Khoruzhii, “Imiaslavie i kul'tura serebrianogo veka: Fenomen moskovskoi shkoly khristianskogo neoplatonizma,” in S. N. Bulgakov: Religiozno-filosofskii put': Mezhdunarodnaia nauchnaia konferentsiia, posviashchennaia 130-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia, ed. M. A. Vasil'eva and A. P. Kozyrev (Moscow: Russkii put', 2003), 191.

35



Pavel Florenskii, “Imiaslavie kak filosofskaia predposylka,” in his Sochineniia, 4 vols. (Moscow: Mysl', 2000), 3(1):252–373. Florensky became captivated by the ideas of Imiaslavie in 1906–7, when he was still a student at the Moscow Ecclesiastical Academy. Later, during the debates on Mount Athos in 1913–17, Florensky, then professor at the Academy, supported the adherents of Imiaslavie in a number of articles and appealed to cease the persecution of monks. He also provided a preface to An Apology of Faith in the Name of God and the Name of Jesus (1913)—the book written by Antony Bulatovich. Although Florensky’s name was not indicated under it, the influence of this preface was tremendous. Elena Gurko writes, “With his preface to Bulatovich’s book, Florensky instigated the transformation of religious Imiaslavie into a theological and philosophical approach to the name of God.” See Gurko, Bozhestvennaia onomatologiia, 120, 150. In 1921–26,

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philosophy of the name and religious philosophy in general was his transformation of the Athonite formula “The name of God is God himself” into an antinomy: “The name of God is God himself, but God is not his name” (in Greek, antinomia indicates a contradiction between two statements, each of which is reasonable, valid, and legitimate on its own. In an antinomy, two ideas are juxtaposed as contradictory but are at the same time united into a single conceptual whole). In his Philosophy of the Name (begun in 1920), Sergei Bulgakov developed concepts very much in the spirit of Florensky’s antinomy, arguing that the name of God is the energy of God, inseparable from the very essence of God and therefore God himself. Drawing parallels between the concept of the name and Plato’s concept of eidos, both Bulgakov and Florensky argued that the name expresses the essence of personality. In the early 1920s Aleksei Losev, who had associated with Florensky and Bulgakov, as well as with monks expelled from Mount Athos, became a leader of the Moscow Imiaslavie circle. During these years he wrote the treatise Philosophy of the Name (1923). In the late 1920s he worked on Thing and Name, positing an antinomy in the spirit of Florensky: “The name of the thing is the thing itself; however, the thing is not its name.” 36 At that time

during the third stage of his interest in the controversy, Florensky wrote an essay “Imiaslavie as a Philosophical Premise” (1921–22) and the treatise “Names” (1923–26). In 1921 he gave a series of public lectures on this topic. On Florensky, Bulgakov, Losev, and Imiaslavie, see Gurko, Bozhestvennaia onomatologiia, 117–233. On the intersection of philosophy, linguistics, and theology in the age of Russian modernism, see Thomas Seifrid, The Word Made Self: Russian Writings on Language, 1860–1930 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005), esp. chapter 3, “Orthodox Essentialism and Its Dialogue with Modern Thought,” 82–129. On Florensky, Losev, and Imiaslavie, also see the chapter “Moskovskii kruzhok: Sviashchennik Pavel Florenskii i A. F. Losev v 20e gody,” in Mitropolit Volokolamskii Ilarion (Alfeev), Sviashchennaia taina tserkvi, 2:111–29. 36



A. F. Losev, “Imiaslavie,” in Imia, Izbrannye raboty, perevody, besedy, issledovaniia, archivnye materialy, ed. A. A. Takho-Godi (St. Petersburg: Aleteia, 1997), 15.

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Losev also finished his major work, The Dialectics of Myth, obliquely related to Imiaslavie. In June 1929, Losev and his wife were secretly tonsured and became monks. Losev’s philosophical opposition to Communist ideology resulted in his arrest in April 1930. Although formally he was arrested for violating censorship regulations—“smuggling a counterrevolutionary Addendum” to the manuscript of The Dialectics of Myth, approved earlier that year, the real reason for his arrest, according to A. A. Takho-Godi (Losev’s disciple and close friend) was his leadership in the Onomatodoxy movement.37 During the antireligious campaign of these years, the adherents of Imiaslavie stood in opposition to the official Orthodox Church, which was loyal to the Soviet government. Bolsheviks were suspicious of their activities, especially because members of the circle criticized Metropolitan Sergii’s collaboration with the new Soviet authorities. In 1930 and 1931, religious purges were conducted in the Caucasus—the region that served as a refuge for monks who had been expelled from Mount Athos. Their activity was labeled as counterrevolutionary. The monasteries were closed, the monks arrested, and many executed or drowned in the Black Sea. A few years earlier, one of the Caucasus’ major spiritual centers, the New Athos Monastery, was condemned as a “hotbed of counterrevolutionary propaganda” and transformed into a tourist recreation center, its church converted into a history museum. Nearby, a tourist resort was built for Soviet citizens. A few years later, in the place where the house of the Hegumen of New Athos monastery previously stood, a summerhouse for Joseph Stalin was built. By 1932, the Imiaslavie movement had been extinguished.38

37



Ibid., xi. In the translator’s introduction to Losev’s Dialectics of Myth, Vladimir Marchenkov writes, “The government had . . . a dual purpose: to discredit and suppress a religious movement opposed to its policies and, more broadly, to stifle all attempts at intellectual dissent in the country.” See Vladimir Marchenkov, introduction to Aleksei Losev’s Dialectics of Myth, trans. Vladimir Marchenkov (New York: Rutledge, 2003), 13.

38



The purges in the Caucasus were part of a bigger antireligious campaign. In 1930–31, the OGPU (Joint State Political Directorate) carried out an

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How much did Kharms and his friends the OBERIU poets know about the existence of the Imiaslavie circle and the philosophy of the name that Florensky, Bulgakov, and Losev developed? We may assume they knew more than ordinary people would. Dmitry Shukurov suggests that the influence of their philosophical ideas on Kharms could have been immediate, through Kharms's close friends Leonid Lipavsky and Iakov Druskin, both of whom were students of the Russian religious thinker Nikolai Lossky, the founder of religious intuitionism.39 Although Shukurov does not offer any concrete arguments, his assumption is not groundless— after Lossky had been expatriated from Russia in 1922, Druskin’s interest in religion and philosophy increased over the years; 1932 was the year of his religious conversion. In the 1920s nearly twenty philosophical and religious societies and circles existed also in Petrograd. Members of these circles discussed philosophical, historical, literary, and religious matters relatively freely. They gathered at the university, at the Geographical Society, at the Institute of Art History, at Tenishev School, and in private apartments. In the late 1920s, many of these circles, among them Resurrection (Voskresenie) and Seraphim of Sarov Brotherhood (Bratstvo Serafima Sarovskogo), were closed down by the OGPU. Kharms and his friends, who regularly gathered at Petr Kalashnikov’s place to read and discuss one another’s works, must have been abreast of other circles’ closures. In 1931, when Losev was already in a labor camp, in an article published in two major national newspapers, Pravda and Izvestiia, Maxim Gorky ostracized Losev, calling him an “insane,” “blind, and illiterate professor.” Kharms claimed he did not read newspapers, but other people did, and this news was undoubtedly discussed among the intelligentsia. investigation of the “counter-revolutionary monarchist organization named ‘The Russian True Orthodox Church,’” a denomination that separated from the Russian Orthodox Church during the early years of Communist rule and did not profess loyalty to the Soviet government. 39



Shukurov, “Opyt dekonstruktsii stikhotvornykh tekstov-molitv Daniila Kharmsa,” 367.

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There are also reasons to believe that Kharms and his friends were aware of the events taking place in the Caucusus. In the collective OBERIU “Conversations” led by the poets in 1933–34 in the style of dialogic reasoning, Lipavsky (who later recorded and edited this volume) talks about his visit to New Athos.40 He must have visited this place in the early 1930s, when Samuil Marshak— a writer, translator, and children’s poet who was benevolent towards OBERIU poets—stayed there. Apparently, by “New Athos” Lipavsky means not the monastery, which was closed in 1924, but the city located in the vicinity of the monastery and sharing its name (New Athos, Новый Афон).41 While describing his stay, as always, Lipavsky writes in a highly playful tone: “When I was in New Athos, I could not bear to see every morning the same shining sky, to feel the strong fragrance of the local plants and all the power and cynicism of the local wildlife (цинизм природы). But I knew that this same wildlife would be amazing if I were passionately in love; then it wouldn’t be oppressive but would increase my happiness.”42 The word “cynicism” in this passage stands out as odd if referring to wildlife, but is understandable if alluding to the cynicism toward events and actions that were taking place in New Athos. Lipavsky’s words about passionate love also sound ironic, because during this period he was in love with Tamara Meier, who at that time was the wife of Aleksandr Vvedensky. Vvedensky also planned to visit the

40



Sazhin, Sborishche druzei, 1:767–78.

41



It is possible that the vicinity to the monastery played a role in Marshak’s choice of location—according to Leonid Panteleev, who was close to Marshak in the early 1930s, Marshak was a religious man. Panteleev writes, “I did not ask him what his faith was. He knew about me, that I frequented the church, that I wore a cross, that I was (Christian) Orthodox. We had the same God.” See L. Panteleev, Veruiu! (Ekaterinburg: U-Faktoriia, 2002), 467– 68. On Vvedensky’s religiosity, see 475–78. Lev Druskin, who was also close to Marshak in 1930s, writes that Marshak always carried around the Gospel (“никогда не расставался с Евангелием”). See Lev Druskin, Spasennaia kniga (St. Petersburg: Gelikon Plius, 2001), 75.

42



Sazhin, Sborishche druzei, 1:194.

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place, but his plans were not realized. According to the report of his arrest, in December 1931 he was detained in a train while on his way to New Athos. G u i lt y of My s t ic i s m When Kharms and his friends Vvedenskii, Tufanov, Kalashnikov, and Voronich were arrested in December 1931, they were charged with participating in anti-Soviet activities, for writing “trans-sense” poetry directed against Soviet power, and for introducing harmful ideas into children’s literature. They were also found guilty of being interested in mystical philosophy. The word “mysticism,” repeatedly mentioned in the documents of Kharms’s arrest, first comes up in his “confession” signed on December 18, 1931: “Our ‘trans-sense’ language is antithetical to the materialist purposes of Soviet artistic literature, it being based completely on a mystical and idealistic philosophy, and is counterrevolutionary in present conditions.”43 This word appears twice in the document Kharms was made to sign on January 13, 1932: “My philosophical quests, which run along the lines of idealist philosophy and are closely aligned with mysticism, are in much greater harmony with the political and social forms of the prerevolutionary order than with the contemporary political system founded on a materialist philosophy . . . up to my neck in ‘trans-sense’ writings and mystical idealist philosophical pursuits, I consciously set myself against the present social and political order.”44 The word “mysticism” also figures in the reports of the interrogation of Petr Kalashnikov, Aleksandr Tufanov, and Nikolai Voronich. In the report of Aleksandr Vvedensky’s arrest, it appears five times. Interrogated by the OGPU officer who also questioned Kharms, Vvedensky was made to confess, “In our

43



“I Am a Phenomenon Quite Out of the Ordinary,” 293–94. My italics.

44



Ibid., 300. My italics.

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trans-rational, meaningless works we also found the inner, mystical meaning, composed from word collocations which outwardly seem meaningless.”45 Aleksandr Kobrinskii finds Vvedensky’s phrase puzzling, for the OBERIU poets had never claimed that their trans-sense poetry had mystical meaning, and concludes that the term was coined by the interrogator.46 If Kobrinskii is right, the word must have referred to the books the OGPU confiscated from Kharms and Kalashnikov. As was mentioned at the beginning of this essay, during the search conducted in Kharms’s apartment in December 1931, the OGPU agents confiscated ten “mystical-occult” books from his home library. During the search conducted in Kalashnikov’s apartment, twelve books were confiscated from his library, which, according to the report, was “composed of mystical-occult and monarchist old publications.” 47 Kalashnikov, who was not part of the OBERIU association, and had nothing to do with children’s literature, was accused of sharing books from his library with people having antiSoviet views.48 The repeated use of the word “mysticism” in these documents suggests that these poets’ arrests had to do not only with the children’s literature they wrote, as is usually assumed, but also with the “mystical” literature they read and exchanged. 

Sergei Khoruzhii notes that the belief in the magical quality of words has been alive in Russian folk consciousness since ancient times. This archaic view of language has survived until now, so that every time the Imiaslavie movement resurges in cultural circles, it is perceived as a phenomenon of folk religion. For this reason,

45



Sazhin, Sborishche druzei, 2:543.

46



Kobrinskii, Daniil Kharms, 202–3.

47



Ibid., 571.

48



Ibid.

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this ancient doctrine serves as a fertile ground for poetic thinking.49 Khoruzhii refers to the poetry of Velimir Khlebnikov, but his idea applies to Daniil Kharms as well, for, like many Russian poets of the time, Kharms believed in the supernatural power of words. In April 1931 he made a note in his diary: “The power invested in words must be freed. Certain combinations of words make the action of power more noticeable. . . . If it is possible to think about the method of investigating this power, then this method must be absolutely different from the methods used so far in science. . . . So far I know four kinds of verbal machines: poems, prayers, songs, and incantations. These machines are built not by calculation or reasoning, but by other means, the name of which is ALPHABET.”50 Specifically, Kharms believed in the supernatural power of names, the belief that found its practical application in his invention of dozens of pseudonyms (among them Daniel Khaarms, Daniil Ivanovich Dukon-Kharms, D. Bash, Garmonius, Charms, Karl Ivanovich Shusterling, Shardam, Dandan, Daniil Protoplast, Khkhoerms, Daniil Zatochnik, and DCH). Igor Vishnevetskii observes that the search for a specific name, for unexpected semantic shifts, held great meaning for Kharms; the magical quality of language, sounds, phonemes, letters, and characters was the same as the “magic that can move mountains.”51 Evgeniia Ostroukhova writes that the names of Kharms’s characters are meaningful and that Kharms’s equation of the sign with the signified creates an affinity with Losev’s ideas: “One of the most important specific properties of Kharms’s poetonym (поэтоним) is the presence of magical and mystical meanings. In this regard, Kharms’s understanding of the name’s nature is similar to the philosophical concept of A. F. Losev, who believed that the nature of a name is magical.”52

49

51 52 50

Khoruzhii, “Imiaslavie i kul'tura serebrianogo veka,” 203. Cited in Kobrinskii, Daniil Kharms, 194–95. Igor' Vishnevetskii, “O ‘Komedii goroda Peterburga,’” Teatr 11 (1991): 60. See Ostroukhova, “Ob imenakh personazhei D. Kharmsa,” 60–61. Mikhail Iampolskii asserts that in Kharms’s works the names are “markedly meaningless” and “point to a nonexistent identity.” Iampolskii, Bespamiatstvo kak istok, 22–23.

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Kharms’s interest in Imiaslavie was just one of his passions for esoteric teachings, which also included Buddhism and Kabbalah. Imiaslavie shares some features with Buddhism in that it values silence, contemplation, and concentration. It also shares features with Kabbalah, for it seeks to define various ontological questions and claims that signs have magical qualities. Yet it remains separate from both traditions, being closer to Orthodox Christianity, the religion in which Kharms was raised.53 But in one important way it is distinct from Orthodox Christianity as well. The adherents of Imiaslavie had been criticized for contradicting logic since the fourteenth century, when Palamas’s opponent Barlaam disparaged Hesychast theories and monastic practice, reproaching Palamites for absurdism.54 The movement always remained underground in Russian culture. It was never approved by the official church or by the state. Its adherents were persecuted in Soviet, as well as Imperial, Russia. Its status has always been marginal, because from the point of view of reason, logic, and common sense, the ideas and practice of Imiaslavie stand out as absurd and eccentric. Only a certain type of religious mind— prone to antinomies and paradoxes—can see rich meaning in it, as the Russian spiritual thinkers Florensky, Bulgakov, and Losev did. The unconventionality of Imiaslavie is what seems to have attracted Kharms, who preferred eccentricity to the mainstream in all: art, life, and religious beliefs. For him, the eccentricity of the “incessant prayer” was a way of spiritual concentration.

53



“Elizaveta Ivanovna Gritsina vspominaet,” 38.

54



After sharing the life of the Hesychast hermits in Thessaloniki and Constantinople, Barlaam wrote to Ignatius in Epistole Greche, “I have been initiated by them in monstrosities and in absurd doctrines that a man with any intelligence or even a little sense cannot lower himself to describe, products of erroneous belief and rash imagination.” Quoted in John Meyendorff, St. Gregory Palamas and Orthodox Spirituality, trans. Adele Fiske (Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir Seminary Press, 1974), 85.

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W

riting about the open-endedness of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, Viktor Shklovsky makes a generalization: “Russian literature knows how not to create endings” (“умеет не создавать концы”).1 This claim can be taken a step further: Russian literature knows how to turn suspended endings into new beginnings, thus creating a whole web of literary plots. In this chapter I propose that the novel Lolita (1955) be viewed as Nabokov’s continuation of Pushkin’s unfinished drama The Water-Nymph (Русалка, 1829–32). While Pushkin writes the story of a woman who is transformed into a mermaid, Nabokov writes the story of a nymphet who is gradually transforming into a woman. Among more than sixty literary works in one way or another alluded to in Lolita, Carl Proffer finds only three minor allusions to Russian sources: a reference to Pushkin’s The Gypsies, a line from Valery Bryusov, and a line from Gogol’s Notes of a Madman.2 Alfred Appel also points to numerous references to world literature,

1

Viktor Shklovskii, “Energiia zabluzhdeniia: Kniga o siuzhete,” in Izbrannoe v dvukh tomakh (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1983), 2:389.

2

See Carl R. Proffer, Keys to “Lolita” (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1968), 49. Priscilla Meyer juxtaposes Lolita with Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin in her “Nabokov’s Lolita and Pushkin’s Onegin: McAdam, McEve, McFate,” in The Achievements of Vladimir Nabokov: Essays, Studies, Reminiscences and Stories from the Cornell Nabokov Festival, ed. George Gibian and Stephen Jan Parker (Ithaca, NY: Center for International Studies, 1984) , 179–215, as well as in “Teaching Lolita through Pushkin’s Lens,” in Approaches to Teaching Nabokov’s “Lolita,” ed. Zoran Kuzmanovich and Galya Diment



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but not to Russian sources. This is not at all surprising: Lolita was written during Nabokov’s “American” years, after he had switched to writing in English. There are no Russian realities and no Russian characters in the novel. (Lolita is an American girl with a Spanish name. Humbert is born in Paris; his father, half French and half Austrian, is a Swiss citizen; his mother is British). An extensive network of literary allusions in Lolita owes to the fact that the novel has two authors. One of them is the writer Vladimir Nabokov, who had studied French and English literature at Cambridge University and knew this subject in depth. The second author is Humbert, who studied in London and Paris, specializing in French and English literature. While living in Paris in his youth, he wrote a scholarly paper on a Proustian theme in Keats, soon started to work on “Histoire abrégée de la poésie anglaise” (“Abridged History of English Poetry”), and then turned to another project— the manual of French literature for English-speaking students. His Lolita, or the Confession of a White Widowed Male, written in a psychopathic ward, is a literary project. Humbert expresses the hope that this text will be published after his and Lolita’s death. These two authors’ Russian literary background is very different, however, and not only because of Nabokov’s Russian origin. During the years of 1949–1954, when Lolita was written, Nabokov’s thoughts constantly revolved around works of Russian literature, as he was teaching it at Cornell University. Among other writers he taught Pushkin, who had always been a literary model for him. The affinity between Nabokov’s and Pushkin’s aesthetic creed, artistic concerns, and common themes has been well documented.3

(New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2008), 94–100. In the same edition, Julian W. Connolly dedicates two pages to the comparison of Nabokov’s Lolita and Pushkin’s Water-Nymph. He suggests that Humbert identifies Dolly Haze with a demonic nymphet. See Julian W. Connolly, “Russian Cultural Contexts for Lolita,” in Approaches to Teaching Nabokov’s “Lolita,” 90–91. 3



On Nabokov and Pushkin, see Pushkin i Nabokov: Materialy mezhdunarodnoi nauchnoi konferentsii, ed. V. P. Stark (St. Petersburg: Dorn, 1999); Sergei Davydov, “Weighing Nabokov’s Gift on Pushkin’s Scales,” in Cultural

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As I will demonstrate later, the fact that Humbert’s knowledge of Russian literature is rather superficial has a key role in the novel. It is a commonplace in Nabokov studies to see the description of Humbert’s first encounter with Lolita as an allusion to Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee” (1849), which explores the themes of illness and death of the beloved. In this chapter I suggest that the rising action scene in Lolita has yet another, Russian, intertext— Pushkin’s The Water-Nymph, the story of a seduced and abandoned girl. In the early 1950s, the drama was not yet available in its English translation, so Humbert could not have been familiar with its text. His author Nabokov was very well familiar with it and, as we will see further, even attempted to finish it. In other words, the connection between Lolita and Pushkin’s drama is the Nabokovian master plan, but not Humbert’s. The discrepancy between the two authors’ literary horizons creates tension in this multilayered metafiction. The novel contains allusions to other literary treatments of the mermaid theme, specifically to Andersen’s “Little Mermaid” (the book Lolita owns) and one of Lolita’s Russian literary predecessors—undine from Lermontov’s “Taman.” In Nabokov’s translation of this story, undine’s appearance is reminiscent of that of Lolita, especially a tiny detail: “a kind of golden sheen on the slightly sun-tanned skin of her neck and shoulders” (“какой-то

Mythologies of Russian Modernism: From the Golden Age to the Silver Age, ed. Boris Gasparov (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 415–28; Sergei Davydov, “Nabokov and Pushkin,” in Association of Russian-American Scholars in USA, ed. Nadja Jernakoff (New York: Association of Russian American Scholars, 1987), 20:185–97; Meyer, “Nabokov’s Lolita and Pushkin’s Onegin”; Johnson D. Barton, “Nabokov’s Ada and Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin,” The Slavic and East European Journal 15, no. 3 (Fall 1971): 316–23; W. W. Rowe, Nabokov’s Deceptive World (New York: New York University Press, 1971), 73–87; Clarence Brown, “Nabokov’s Pushkin and Nabokov’s Nabokov,” in Nabokov: The Man and His Work, ed. L. S. Dembo (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1967), 195–208.

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золотистый отлив ее слегка загорелой кожи”).4 But as a whole, these two sources do not play an important role in Lolita. According to Nabokov’s preface to The Hero of Our Time, he considered “Taman” the worst story in the book and especially disliked undine’s manners. Pushkin’s Water-Nymph plays a decisive role in the novel not only because Nabokov worshiped Pushkin but also because this unfinished drama has a very intriguing fate. T he Op e n-E nde d ne s s of P u sh k i n’s T h e Wa t e r - N y m p h The story of a seduced and abandoned maiden, Pushkin’s The WaterNymph is based on a conventional literary plot, very similar to that of Karamzin’s “Poor Liza” (1792). Their structure and composition are in many respects kindred. Both heroines live with a parent of simple origin: a peasant mother in Karamzin and a miller father in Pushkin. Seduced respectively by Erast and the Prince, both maidens fall in love with the handsome noblemen, but the couples’ happiness ends when the young men decide to retreat. At their last rendezvous, they offer farewell gifts to their beloved—Erast gives Liza money, and the Prince offers the girl a pearl necklace and money for her father. Insulted and desperate, both maidens commit suicide by throwing themselves into the water. In The Water-Nymph, however, the story continues, for the guilt of the seducer is aggravated by a serious circumstance—the Miller’s daughter is pregnant. In fact, we cannot be sure that Liza is not pregnant when she decides to commit suicide. Karamzin writes that after Erast gave her money and shut the door of his house, “Liza found herself outside the house, and in a position that cannot be described by words” (“Лиза оказалась на улице, и в таком положении, которого никакое перо описать не может”). At the time the story was written, the expression “быть в (интересном)

4



Mikhail Lermontov, A Hero of Our Time, trans. Vladimir Nabokov in collaboration with Dmitri Nabokov (Ardis: Ann Arbor, 1988), 74.

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положении” (to be in an interesting position), which came from the French “être dans une position interessante,” was a euphemism for “being pregnant.”5 The question whether Karamzin meant the ambiguity or not remains unclear, but this pun does not contradict the flow of the events in “Poor Liza.” The plot of The Water-Nymph follows the scenario of a Slavic myth: at the bottom of the Dnieper River, the drowned maiden turns into a Water-nymph, “cold of heart and potent.”6 Under the water, she bears a daughter. One day, the Prince comes to the banks of the Dnieper, sees the old mill, and meets the old Miller, who has gone insane. Meanwhile, the Water-Nymph plans revenge: she sends her little daughter ashore, giving her the errand of luring her father into the water. The Prince, tormented by his memories, approaches the shore: Unwillingly to these sad banks I come Drawn by some unknown power—I know not why. . . . For me each stick and stone speaks of the past Retells the sad but well-beloved tale Of my young days, my fair and carefree youth. Where, once upon a time, love waited for me— Freehearted, ardent love—ah, what a madman I was to let such joy slip through my fingers, Renounce such happiness—for I was happy. . . . How sorrowful, how sorrowful these thoughts. That meeting yesterday has brought them back. The poor, mad father! He is terrible. Perhaps it may be that today I’ll meet him

5

In English as well, women were said to be in an interesting state or interesting situation. Cf. Charles Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby (1838): “Mrs. Lenville (who, as has been before hinted, was in an interesting state),” ed. with an introduction and notes by Michael Slater (New York: Penguin Books, 1978), 458.

6

According to Slavic mythology, “when a maiden drowned––either by accident or on purpose, she became a Rusalka.” See New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology, ed. Felix Guirand, trans. from the French Richard Aldington and Delano Ames (New York: Crescent Books, 1989), 292–93.





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Again and he’ll consent to leave the forest And come to live with us. . . .7

The Prince’s monologue is interrupted by the emergence of the little girl on the shore, and the astonished Prince exclaims: “What’s this I see! Say, pretty child, whence came you?” (“Что я вижу! / откуда ты, прекрасное дитя?”). Here the drama ends abruptly, the Prince’s question hanging in the air. In his drafts of The Water-Nymph, Pushkin planned to conclude the play with a scene titled “Hunters” but did not follow through on his plan.8 The unfinished drama was published in 1837, after Pushkin’s death, without a conclusion and with its title suggested by the editors. The drama’s open-endedness has always intrigued readers. In 1846, Vissarion Belinsky expressed bitter regret that Pushkin left his work unfinished, noting that the next turn of events would be easy to predict: “The Prince must perish, taken by the WaterNymphs to the bottom of the Dnieper River.”9 Later, several Russian literati attempted to finish the drama. Thus, A. F. Veltman, a successful Russian prose writer of the 1830s and 1840s, worked on its continuation but left it unfinished as well.10 There were other attempts—by A. I. Shtukenberg (in 1866) and A. F. Bogdanova (in 1877)—providing different versions of the little Water-Nymph’s answer to the Prince’s question. Dmitry Zuev’s conclusion, written in 1897, which he tried to pass off as the real ending planned by

7

A. S. Pushkin, “The Water-Nymph,” in Selected Works in Two Volumes, trans. Avril Pyman (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1974), 1:182–83. All further quotations from the drama will be taken from this edition. Page numbers are given in the text, in parentheses.

8

See Aleksandr Pushkin, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 16 vols. (Leningrad: Izd. Akademii Nauk SSSR, 1937–59), 7:336.

9

V. G. Belinskii, “Sochineniia Aleksandra Pushkina,” in Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 13 vols. (Moscow: Izdatel'stvo Akademii Nauk SSSR, 1955), 7:568.





10



See S. Dolgov, A. F. Vel'tman i ego plan okonchaniia “Rusalki” Pushkina (Moscow, 1897).

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Pushkin, created the uproar in literary circles that led to polemics in The Russian Archive.11 In 1898 the noted literary scholar Fyodor Korsh, believing that Zuev’s ending was authentic, wrote a detailed analysis of this forgery and published it in Izvestiia otdeleniia russkogo iazyka i slovesnosti Akademii nauk.

Nineteenth-century attempts to find an ending for Pushkin’s drama were so numerous that they spawned a collection of articles titled Forgeries of Pushkin’s Water-Nymph, published by A. S. Suvorin in 1900.12 By now, these literary experiments and debates are forgotten. The only nineteenth-century continuation of Pushkin’s drama that survived to the present day is not a literary work but a musical one—Aleksandr Dargomyzhsky’s opera Mermaid, premiered in 1856 in Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater. Making slight changes to Pushkin’s text, Dargomyzhsky shortened the Prince’s final monologue to a few lines: Unwillingly to these sad banks I come Drawn by some unknown power—I know not why. . . . What’s this I see! Say, pretty child, whence came you?

After this monologue, as if following Pushkin’s plan to conclude the drama with the scene titled “Hunters,” Dargomyzhsky added a final scene, in which the Prince appears on the river’s shore surrounded by hunters. Having recognized the Prince, the Miller attempts to strangle him. His attempt fails; the Prince is rescued by hunters but is soon lured by the Mermaid’s daughter to the bottom of the Dnieper, where his body is carried to the feet of the Mermaid. Three decades later, Dargomyzhsky’s musical adaptation of Pushkin’s Water-Nymph made its way back to Russian literature, appearing in Chekhov’s story “The Nervous Breakdown” (“Припадок,” 1888) as a framing device. The story elaborates

11



Russkii arkhiv, bk. 1, ser. 3 (1897), 341.

12



See Poddelka “Rusalki” Pushkina: Sbornik statei i zametok, ed. A. S. Suvorin (St. Petersburg: Izdanie A. S. Suvorina, 1900).

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on fallen women, a theme popular in the Russian and European (especially Victorian) literature of the time. It narrates the story of three young men––a medical student, an art student, and a law student––visiting a brothel. On their way to the house of sin, two of them hum the Prince’s aria from Dargomyzhsky’s Mermaid (Act III, Scene 2): “Against my will an unknown force . . . has led me to these mournful shores. Behold the mill . . . in ruins now. . . . Here in old days when I was free, Love, free, unfettered, greeted me.”13 The two young men sing it again on their way back from the brothel. The third one, Vassilyev, does not join in their singing, at first because he does not share his companions’ cheerful mood and later because he feels disgust and compassion for the women he has met in the brothel. The motif of drowning used in Pushkin’s drama and Dargomyzhsky’s opera enters Chekhov’s story. Thinking about ways to rescue the wretched women, and realizing the impossibility of this enterprise, Vassilyev eventually collapses and almost drowns himself: “Then he bent down over the rail of the bridge and looked down in the black, yeasty Yauza, and he longed to plunge down head-foremost; not from loathing for life, not for the sake of suicide, but in order to bruise himself at least, and by one pain to ease the other. But the black water, the darkness, the deserted banks covered with snow were terrifying.”14 The aria from “Mermaid” thus sets off the issue of responsibility in Chekhov’s story. By alluding to Dargomyzhsky’s opera, Chekhov reinterprets the theme of “free, unfettered love.” Unlike in Karamzin’s “Poor Liza,” in “The Nervous Breakdown” sex is devoid of sentimental value; and unlike in The Water-Nymph, it has no romantic aura. Vassilyev’s expectation of finding a mysterious darkness and silence in the brothel is not realized: “Everything was prosaic, ordinary and uninteresting.” Yet, although he is disgusted by the vulgar style of the brothel’s interior decoration and the

13



Anton Chekhov, “A Nervous Breakdown,” in his The Schoolmistress and Other Stories, trans. Constance Garnett (1921; repr., New York: Ecco Press, 1986), 20–21.

14



Ibid., 48.

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women’s appearance, he feels their pain. Toward the end of the story, it becomes clear that the protagonist’s nervous breakdown results from his capacity for empathy, He possessed an extraordinarily fine, delicate scent for pain in general. As a good actor reflects in himself the movements and voice of others, so Vassilyev could reflect in his soul the sufferings of others. When he saw tears, he wept; beside a sick man, he felt sick himself and moaned; if he saw an act of violence, he felt as though he himself were the victim of it; he was frightened as a child and in his fright ran to help. The pain of others worked on his nerves, excited him, roused him to a state of frenzy, and so on.15

We learn that the young man’s nervous breakdown is not so much a medical condition as the state of his soul, which cannot be cured; the doctor is unable to relieve this type of ailment. As often happens in Chekhov, the ending of the story leaves the reader wondering what will happen next to his characters. Vladimir Nabokov’s continuation of The Water-Nymph, which came out in 1942 in the Russian émigré literary magazine Novyi Zhurnal (The New Review), published in New York, provides evidence that Pushkin’s plot continued to intrigue the Russian writers well into the twentieth century. Na b ok ov a nd P u sh k i n’s Wa t e r - N y m p h Like in the nineteenth-century versions of the endings, in Nabokov’s three-page “final scene” for Pushkin’s drama the Water-Nymph’s little daughter lures her mischievous father, the Prince, into the waters of the Dnieper. But unlike most of the conclusions to Pushkin’s plot, Nabokov’s “final scene” remains incomplete, ending enigmatically: “They disappear. Pushkin shrugs his shoulders.” A very similar setting is found in Nabokov’s earlier work––his poem “Lilith” (1928), which begins by portraying a maiden coming out of the water naked. Sensuous and seductive, she resembles

15



Ibid., 44–45.

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a nymph. The white lily in her hair pinpoints her residence in the water kingdom, the more so since one of the names of the water lily is “Nymphaea.” The nymph’s emergence from the water brings to the narrator’s mind an episode where, as a boy, he accidentally saw the daughter of a miller coming out from the water nude.16 Sergey Fomichev notes that for the young Nabokov, this setting, besides reminding him of Pushkin, had personal meaning: it was associated with the writer’s childhood and youth, which he spent in his family estate, Rozhdestveno, on the Oredezh River.17 The setting of Nabokov’s poem “Lilith” reappears in Lolita. Humbert’s first encounter with Lolita is stamped with “watermarks”: “A blue sea-wave swelled under my heart and, from a mat in a pool of sun, half-naked, kneeling, turning about on her knees, there was my Riviera love peering at me over dark glasses. It was the same child” (39). The word “child,” rendered in the Russian translation of Lolita as “дитя” (more poetic than the word “ребенок”), echoes the Prince’s question, “Откуда ты, прекрасное дитя?” (Say, pretty child, whence came you?) Being the last word in the drama, the word “дитя” acquires a special emphasis. When Humbert sees Lolita, he feels as if he has been lured into the water: “My knees were like reflections of knees in rippling water, and my lips were like sand” (40). The girl pulls Humbert into the pool of sun and water. The idea of an incomplete metamorphosis determining the duality of the mermaid’s image acquires special meaning in Lolita, throwing light on the term “nymphet,” a word invented by Nabokov. If the mermaid is half woman, half fish, the nymphet is half woman, half child. Like its Russian diminutive form––русалочка––the term

16



Enchanted by this new vision, he yields to Lilith’s seduction, but then comes a dramatic point—noticing that they are being observed, Lilith retreats. The act of love remains unfulfilled: “И полон сил, на полпути к блаженству, я ни с чем остался” (And full of vigor, halfway to the bliss, I was left with nothing). See Vladimir Nabokov, Stikhi (Ann Arbor, MI: Ardis, 1979), 206–8.

17



S. A. Fomichev, “Nabokov—soavtor Pushkina (Zakliuchitel'naia stsena ‘Rusalki’),” in A. S. Pushkin i V. V. Nabokov: Sbornik dokladov mezhdunarodnoi konferentsii 15–18 aprelia 1999, ed. V. P. Stark (St. Petersburg: Dorn, 1999).

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“nymphet,” containing the diminutive suffix -et, morphologically suggests halfness and incompleteness. The nymphet is no longer a child, but not yet a woman. According to Humbert’s theory, “nymphage is a transitional stage between childhood and sexual maturity. Between the age limits of nine and fourteen there occur maidens who, to certain bewitched travelers, twice or many times older than they, reveal their true nature which is not human, but nymphic (that is, demoniac); and these chosen creatures I propose to designate as ‘nymphets.’” Humbert maintains, “It will be marked that I substitute time terms for spatial ones. In fact, I would have the reader see ‘nine’ and ‘fourteen’ as the boundaries––the mirrory beaches and rosy rocks––of an enchanted island haunted by those nymphets of mine and surrounded by a vast, misty sea.”18 In Pushkin’s drama, the Water-Nymph’s daughter (русалочка) is seven years old. In Dargomyzhsky’s opera, she is twelve, just as Lolita is at the beginning of Nabokov’s novel. Evidently, the composer changed the age of Pushkin’s heroine for a practical reason—the singer performing the part of the little Water-Nymph had to be professional and not too young. If Nabokov was familiar with the opera (which is possible: it was performed in Europe in the 1930s, with Fyodor Shalyapin as the Miller), this detail must not have escaped his attention.19 Lolita’s mother, Charlotte, is associated with an adult WaterNymph. In the scene on Hourglass Lake, Humbert intends to get

18



Vladimir Nabokov, The Annotated Lolita, ed. with a preface, introduction, and notes by Alfred Appel Jr. (New York: Vintage Books, 1991), 16. All quotations from the English version of Lolita are from this edition. Page numbers are given in parentheses in the text.

19



Nora Buks argues that, contrary to a widespread opinion, Nabokov knew music well. He disliked opera librettos because he thought they distorted the original literary texts, especially the librettos of the operas based on Pushkin’s texts. Buks maintains that in Nabokov’s own works operas function as referential parodic texts for some characters. Specifically, she discusses the opera Queen of Spades in Nabokov’s works. N. Buks, “‘Opernye prizraki’ v romanakh V. Nabokova,” in V. V. Nabokov: Pro et contra, 2 vols., ed. D. A. Burlak (St. Petersburg: Izdatel'stvo russkogo khristianskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta, 2001), 2:341.

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rid of her by drowning her, and Charlotte becomes a mermaid in his fancy: “So there was Charlotte swimming on with dutiful awkwardness (she was a very mediocre mermaid), but not without a certain solemn pleasure (for was not her merman by her side?); and as I watched . . . the glossy whiteness of her wet face . . . I knew that all I had to do was to drop back, take a deep breath, then grab her by the ankle and rapidly dive with my captive corpse” (86). Feeling that he is unable to murder his wife, Humbert sighs with relief when his plan fails: “Oh, my poor Charlotte, do not hate me in your eternal heaven among an eternal alchemy of asphalt and rubber and metal and stone––but thank God, not water, not water” (88). If his malicious plan had been realized, Humbert would have been unable to conceal the crime, for back on the beach (as he learns later), Charlotte’s friend Jean was carefully watching him and his spouse. While drawing a picture of the lake, Jean sees everything in detail and remarks that Humbert did not take off his watch before going into the water. It is significant that the watch, as Charlotte says, is waterproof. According to Nabokov, “Charlotte saying ‘waterproof’” is one of the “nerves,” one of the “secret points” of the novel (316).20 The word itself is emblematic, for waterproofness refers not only to Humbert’s wristwatch (a gift from his wife) but also to Charlotte herself, unaffected by the water. The scene on the lake explains why, after her real death in a car accident, Charlotte appears in Humbert’s dream as “a mermaid in a greenish tank.” Vladimir Alexandrov remarks that “Charlotte’s association with the sea and a Mermaid can thus be read in several ways: as ironic, because Humbert describes her in the scene of the lake as ‘a very mediocre Mermaid’ and ‘a clumsy seal,’ as Charlotte’s being linked to the theme of Annabel, which she clearly is through her daughter; and, what is most intriguing, as a suggestion that Charlotte may be at home in water” (179).21 Though Alexandrov’s

20



In his commentaries, Alfred Appel suggests that the mention of this name is “a central clue to Quilty’s identity.” See Nabokov, The Annotated Lolita, 373.

21



Vladimir Alexandrov, Nabokov’s Otherworld (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 179.

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remark is convincing, the scene is also linked to Pushkin’s drama, in which the drowned woman turns into a mermaid. If Charlotte is a water-nymph (русалка), and Lolita is a little nymphet (русалочка), Humbert’s “fatherhood” to Lolita renders him a combination of both male characters, in Pushkin’s WaterNymph––the Prince and the Miller. At the end of the novel, Humbert begins writing his confession in a psychiatric ward—thus, Nabokov maintains his protagonist’s affinity with the Miller, who loses his mind. Nabokov picks up the hunting theme adumbrated in Pushkin’s plans for the continuation of The Water-Nymph, and developed in Dargomyzhsky’s opera. The theme is treated in the chase of Humbert’s double, Claire Quilty. This character mysteriously appears in the hotel Enchanted Hunters, where Humbert spends his first night with Lolita. Quilty authors the school play Hunted Enchanters, in which Lolita participates. The married Lolita lives on Hunter Road. In his commentaries on Lolita, Alfred Appel points out that the expression “enchanted hunter” alludes to Humbert, Quilty, and, “in another sense, the author.”22 By making Humbert follow his double’s footsteps in the final chapters of the book, Nabokov invites his reader to join in the hunt. All these hunting allusions remind us of Pushkin’s plan to conclude The Water-Nymph with a scene titled “Hunters.” L ol it a’s Di s a pp e a r a nc e a nd t he Nove l ’s Op e n-E nde d ne s s On the day Humbert receives a letter from the married Lolita, he is planning to write the final chapters of his confession. Significantly, on that day he ponders the stability of literary characters’ fate in the reader’s mind. An expert in English and French literature, Humbert illustrates this idea by referring to Shakespeare’s and Flaubert’s works:

22



Nabokov, The Annotated Lolita, 375.

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I have often noticed that we are inclined to endow our friends with the stability of type that literary characters acquire in the reader’s mind. No matter how many times we reopen “King Lear,” never shall we find the good king banging his tankard in high revelry, all woes forgotten, at a jolly reunion with all three daughters and their lapdogs. Never will Emma rally, revived by the sympathetic salts in Flaubert’s father’s timely tear. Whatever evolution this or that popular character has gone through between the book covers, his fate is fixed in our minds. (265)

The Russian version of the novel contains a curious addition to this passage: “Никогда не уедет с Онегиным в Италию княгиня Н.” (“The countess N. will never go to Italy with Onegin”). In this phrase, the well-read Humbert seems to confuse two literary fates: Pushkin’s Tatyana Larina, who chooses to be faithful to her husband, and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, who travels to Italy with her lover.23 Humbert is saying that the fates of literary characters are fixed in our minds. However, his “mistake” signals the opposite—the fate of a literary character is not always fixed in our minds. Characteristically, Humbert is not alone in thinking that Anna Karenina’s fate can be viewed as a continuation of Tatyana Larina’s fate; this observation was also made by Boris Eikhenbaum.24 In other words, Humbert’s mistake is meaningful, for it raises the question of whether the fate of the characters in Lolita is fixed in the readers' minds.25 Toward the end of his confession, Humbert suggests that Lolita had run away from the hospital in Elfinstone with her kidnapper, though he does not name him. Neither is his name revealed later

23



24



25



Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita, in Sobranie sochinenii amerikanskogo perioda, 5 vols., trans. into Russian by the author, ed. S. B. Il'in and A. K. Kononov (St. Petersburg: Simpozium, 2003), 2:325. Boris Eikhenbaum, Lev Tolstoi: Semidesiatye gody (Leningrad: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1974), 154–55. A specialist in English literature, Humbert must also have been aware of Nahum Tate’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear, which does have a happy ending.

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in the novel, when Humbert visits the married Lolita and implores her to tell him her kidnapper’s name. Lolita gives Humbert just a hint: “And softly, confidentially, arching her thin eyebrows and puckering her parched lips, she emitted a little mockingly, somewhat fastidiously, not untenderly, in a kind of muted whistle, the name that the astute reader has guessed long ago. Waterproof. Why did a flash from Hourglass Lake cross my consciousness?” (271). The remark about the astute reader is undoubtedly ironic. In order to figure out the name of the kidnapper, one has to go back to the beginning of the novel, to the lake scene, where the name Quilty is mentioned right after Charlotte utters the word “waterproof.” In his commentaries on Lolita, Alfred Appel offers a solution to this puzzle: “This teasing exercise in ratiocination . . . is the detective trap, another parody of the reader’s assumptions and expectations, as though even the most astute reader could ever fully discover the identity of Quilty, Humbert, or of himself.”26 To identify Lolita’s seducer and to find his traces, the reader is forced to restart the novel. Rereading the novel discloses the presence of this enigmatic character in the novel. The chapter titled “In Quest of Quimby-QuizQuilty” from Carl R. Proffer’s book Keys to “Lolita,” which traces all appearances of Quilty in the novel, offers a “second reading” of Lolita, which shows the fate of the characters in a totally different light, bringing the reader to the conclusion that Quilty is “real.”27 Furthermore, absorbed by the chase of this shadowy character, one has yet to face the question of how to classify facts or statements that undermine the factuality of Quilty’s existence, such as Humbert’s following assertion: “All those identical detectives in prismatically changing cars were figments of my persecution mania, recurrent images based on coincidence and chance resemblance” (238). Hence, the reader is prompted to become involved in yet a “third reading” to verify the justifications of Quilty’s existence.

26



Nabokov, The Annotated Lolita, lxiv.

27



See Proffer, Keys to “Lolita,” 57–78.

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Indeed, several scholars have claimed that this character is nothing but a product of Humbert’s inflamed imagination, and they consider the murder of his rival as a symbolic act of murdering his double, his selfishness, and his crime. Thus, Julia Bader suggests: “It is not until Humbert decides to kill Quilty that the playwright actually begins to exist.”28 Elizabeth Bruss argues that Quilty is nothing but the personification of Humbert’s guilt, that Humbert simply imagines killing him, that this murder is a metaphor for destroying his other self.29 Juxtaposing the dates of the novel’s events, she argues that the very last events––Humbert’s visit to the married Lolita and his murder of Quilty—“in reality” did not exist, that these episodes are “fictitious.” This claim was later supported and developed by several Nabokov scholars: Christina Tekiner, Leona Toker, Aleksandr Dolinin, and Julian Connolly.30 A. Luxemburg’s commentaries to the novel Lolita in Nabokov’s Complete Works contain the same claim.31 28



Julia Bader, Crystal Land: Artifice in Nabokov’s English Novels (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), 77.

29



Elizabeth Bruss, Autobiographical Acts: The Changing Structure of a Literary Genre (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), 145–46.

30



See Christina Tekiner, “Time in Lolita,” Modern Fiction Studies 25 (1979): 463–69; Leona Toker, Nabokov: The Mystery of Literary Structures (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989), 198–227, esp. 208–11; Aleksandr Dolinin, “Nabokov’s Time Doubling: From The Gift to Lolita,” Nabokov Studies 2 (1995): 3–40. Julian Connolly focused on the moral issue of such an outcome in his “Nature’s Reality or Humbert’s ‘Fancy’? Scenes of Reunion and Murder in Lolita,” Nabokov Studies 2 (1995): 41–61. The main argument that the last chapters are illusionary is as follows: At the end of his confession, Humbert reports that he began writing Lolita fifty-six days ago. The earliest day that he could have started working on his book is September 25; therefore, he could not have worked on it longer than fifty-three days. For the refutation of this argument (though not very convincing), see Brian Boyd, “Lolita: Scene and Unseen,” in Stalking Nabokov: Selected Essays (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 288–96. Boyd’s major argument is that while calculating the days, Nabokov could have made a mistake. Be that as it may, Humbert’s mistakes are telling: as I have noted earlier, his “mistake” concerning the fates of Tatyana Larina and Anna Karenina is semantically charged.

31



Nabokov, Lolita, in Sobranie sochinenii amerikanskogo perioda, 2:642.

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The assertion that Quilty is nothing but Humbert’s fantasy, hallucination, and a symptom of jealousy is supported by much textual evidence, but it leads to the question regarding Lolita’s disappearance. Does she really flee from Humbert? Or it is Humbert who flees from his grown-up nymphet? The answer to the question of what happens to Lolita when she approaches the threshold to adulthood depends on our reading of the novel. The text suggests at least two possible resolutions of her final fate. While traveling with Lolita across America and meditating on his future, Humbert considers two possibilities–– marrying or abandoning the object of his passion. He imagines that when Lolita’s “magic nymphage (has) evaporated,” he will marry her and produce with her a new nymphet or will “get rid somehow of a difficult adolescent” (174). Humbert does not marry Lolita. At certain point, he misleads the reader by hinting at the possibility of murdering her. This possibility is in his allusions to Prosper Mérimée’s story “Carmen,” which ends with Carmen’s death.32 Although at the end of his confession Humbert tells us that Lolita abandoned him when she escaped from the hospital with the help of a kidnapper, the novel contains textual evidence of the opposite—that it is Humbert who abandoned Lolita as she ceased to be a nymphet. Consider some of these clues: at the very beginning of his confession, Humbert writes that the age boundaries of nymphets are nine and fourteen. On June 25, 1947, several days after Humbert first meets the twelve-and-a-half-year old Lolita, he foresees what will happen in two years: “I knew I had fallen in love with Lolita forever; but I also knew she would not be forever Lolita. She would be thirteen on January 1. In two years or so she would cease being a nymphet and would turn into a ‘young girl,’ and then, into a ‘college girl’––that horror of horrors. The word ‘forever’ referred only to my own passion, to the eternal Lolita as reflected in my blood” (65). In precisely two years, in the last days of June 1949, Lolita “disappears.”

32



See Nabokov, The Annotated Lolita, 614.

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Let us now focus on the part of the novel that narrates the events of Lolita’s fifteenth year, the end of her “nymphage.” This section of the book contains many details that undermine the argument of her escape with a kidnapper and testify that Humbert himself, consciously or unconsciously, decided to “get rid somehow of a difficult adolescent,” as he had considered doing earlier. By 1949, despite Humbert’s suspicions and worries that Lolita might run away from him, he behaves inconsistently. On January 1, as she turns fourteen, Humbert buys her a bicycle for her birthday. Now Lolita has a means of transportation that she can use if she wants to escape. Nevertheless, she does not take advantage of it. Meanwhile, Lolita is gradually changing. In May 1949, Humbert, to his horror, notices how she has changed: I perceived all at once with a sickening qualm how much she had changed since I first met her two years ago. Or had this happened during those last two weeks? Tendresse? Surely that was an exploded myth. . . . Oh! she had changed! Her complexion was now that of any vulgar untidy high school girl who applied shared cosmetics with grubby fingers to an unwashed face and does not mind what soiled texture, what postulate epidermis comes in contact with her skin. (204)

On June 26, 1949, Lolita falls ill, and Humbert takes her to the hospital in Elfinstone. In the postscript to the American edition of the novel, Nabokov considers their last encounter in this hospital among the “nerves” and “secret points” of the book. While visiting Lolita on July 2, Humbert comes to her with a load of books, as well as wildflowers and leaves that he has gathered in the mountains. Lolita’s reaction is marked by anxiety. “What gruesome funeral flowers,” she says (243). Lolita has almost recovered and asks Humbert to bring “her things” to the hospital. The reader should not see anything suspicious in her request, taking into account that she was brought to the hospital naked, wrapped only in a lap robe. But the next day Humbert sends a suitcase and a trunk containing Lolita’s 123

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belongings to the hospital. This seems extremely strange, especially since Humbert could not hear what specific items Lolita asked him to bring––the door closed before she uttered her request, As I was leaving, leaving voluntarily, Dolorès Haze reminded me to bring her next morning . . . She did not remember where the various things she wanted were. . . . “Bring me,” she cried (out of sight already, door on the move, closing, closed), “the new gray suitcase and Mother’s trunk,” but by next morning I was shivering, and boozing, and dying in the motel bed she had used for just a few minutes, and the best I could do under the circular and dilating circumstances was to send the two bags over. (244)33

This passage suggests that Lolita’s request to bring her a suitcase and a trunk was a figment of Humbert’s inflamed imagination. Having returned to the motel in a delirium, Humbert spends the rest of that day in bed. He stays in bed the next two days as well. On July 4, at 1:55 p.m., he receives a telephone call from the hospital nurse inquiring if he plans to visit Lolita. Humbert answers incoherently: “I would stay in bed all day and would get into touch with my daughter sometime tomorrow if I felt probably Polynesian” (246). On that very day, right after 2:00 p.m., Lolita checks out of the hospital. All of these facts suggest that Lolita’s flight might have been caused by Humbert’s deceptive behavior. She disappears, which prompts Humbert to title the next few chapters of part 2 “Dolorès Disparus.” Appel notes that this is a reference to Marcel Proust’s next-to-last volume, Albertine disparue, later renamed as La Fugitive.34 The French connection may suggest that Lolita, just like her literary cousin Albertine, ran away from her beloved. The Russian connection, Pushkin’s Water-Nymph, suggests a different scenario, however—the story of the abandoned maid.

33



My italics.

34



Nabokov, The Annotated Lolita, 430.

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The symbolism of the date on which Lolita leaves the hospital, July 4th––Independence Day––has been frequently mentioned in Nabokov studies. Nevertheless, the day of Humbert’s last visit to Lolita in the hospital is imbued with no less significant symbolism: July 2 marks the very middle of Lolita’s fifteenth year, the year when nymphets, according to Humbert, completely lose their beauty and charm.35 Although most likely imaginary, as many scholars believe, the parting scene with the married Lolita also contains a detail that undermines the theory of her escape. Recalling their conversation, Humbert says: “I almost said––trying to find some casual remark– –‘I wonder sometimes what has become of the little McCoo girl, did she ever get better?’––but stopped in time lest she rejoin: ‘I wonder sometimes what has become of the little Haze girl’” (279). Apparently, Humbert fears this question because he does not know whether the little Haze girl, that is, Lolita, got better, as he did not see her fully recovered. Whether Lolita left the hospital by herself or with someone’s help, whether she did it because she wanted to escape from Humbert or because he wanted to get rid of her, the novel does not offer a single fixed outcome. It offers several versions of Lolita’s final fate. None of them is brought to its “logical” conclusion, including the one just proffered. Using Humbert’s terminology, we may say that, “the fate of Lolita is not fixed in the reader’s mind.” The possibility that Lolita left the hospital by herself supports critics’ suggestions that Quilty never existed. More importantly, such a possibility leads one to reconsider Humbert’s love for Lolita and his guilt. It is a common view in Nabokov studies that when the nymphet Lolita turns into a “down-to-brown-earth” woman, Humbert’s love for her becomes perfectly “human”––romantic and tragic. Alfred Appel writes,

35



In Russian lore, this day is called the “summit of the year” (“макушка года”).

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As Lolita turns from a girl into a woman, so H.H.’s lust becomes love. His sense of a “safely solipsized” Lolita is replaced by his awareness that she was his “own creation” with “no will, no consciousness––indeed, no life of her own,” that he did not know her, and that their sexual intimacy only isolated him more completely from the helpless girl. These “metamorphoses” enable H.H. to transform a “crime” into a redeeming work of art, and the reader watches the chrysalis come to life.36

This interpretation is based on the scene in which Humbert meets the pregnant Lolita and tells the reader that he still loves her. But how true is this admission, considering that this encounter might have never taken place? If one chooses to accept Humbert’s exposé of his separation from Lolita, one has to keep in mind the narrator’s self-interest in the way he presents the events, and his particular interest in the opinion of his audience. In other words, one has to take into account what prompts Humbert to tell his story: “When I started . . . to write Lolita, first in the psychopathic ward for observation, and then in this well-heated, albeit tombal, seclusion, I thought I would use these notes in toto at my trial, to save not my head, of course, but my soul” (308). Like the Prince in Pushkin’s The Water-Nymph, Humbert seems to feel sorry, but his guilt is not internalized; instead, it is personified by Quilty. We may conclude that just like the fate of Pushkin’s WaterNymph, Lolita’s is not fixed in the reader’s mind, her final fate not being brought to its “logical” conclusion. It seems that in creating the puzzle Lolita, the author did not want his reader to be certain of any outcome. Even Lolita’s death remains questionable, for Lolita’s “final” fate is conveyed beyond the frame of Humbert’s confession, in the foreword of the novel, by the fictitious editor John Ray: “For the benefit of old-fashioned readers who wish to follow the destinies of

36



Nabokov, The Annotated Lolita, 340. Also see Douglas Fowler, Reading Nabokov (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1974), 171, and Martin Green, “The Morality of Lolita,” Kenyon Review 28 (June 1966): 352–27.

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the ‘real’ people beyond the ‘true’ story, a few details may be given as received from Mr. ‘Windmuller,’ of ‘Ramsdale,’ who desires his identity suppressed.” In this foreword, the reader is informed of the death of a certain Mrs. Richard F. Schiller, without yet knowing that Mrs. Schiller is Lolita’s married name (this information becomes relevant only when one rereads the novel). This passage reminds us of Pushkin’s drama once again: the mention of Ramsdale’s lawyer, Mr. “Windmuller,” the father of Lolita’s classmate Louise, is an echo of Pushkin’s Miller and his daughter. Humbert’s story about Lolita ends on the penultimate page of the book, where, listening to the choir of children’s voices, he bitterly admits that Lolita has grown up and ceased to be a child: “I stood listening to that musical vibration from my lofty slope, to those flashes of separate cries with a kind of demure murmur for background, and then I knew that the hopelessly poignant thing was not Lolita’s absence from my side, but the absence of her voice from that concord. This then is my story. I have reread it” (308). Humbert searches for an escape from time, not so much for himself as for his nymphet. At the beginning of his confession, he states that he wishes to possess a forever-young nymphet: “Let them play around me forever. Never grow up” (21). Realizing that the laws of nature are inevitable and that Lolita has undergone a complete metamorphosis and turned into a woman, Humbert retreats into the realm of fantasy. In the very last sentence of his confession, he suggests that “the only immortality” he and Lolita may share lies within the “refuge of art.” He wants Lolita to be unaffected by time, to be “waterproof,” to be “time proof,” for he seems to long for her only insofar as she remains a nymphet. The myth represents the mermaid as forever young. Her youth lasts until the moment she has to die, but her mode of dying is as elusive as her mode of being––by disappearing, usually by dissolving in water. As in folklore, in literary works love between a man and a mermaid never has a happy end. When a mermaid turns into a woman, as happens in Andersen’s “Little Mermaid,” she is not given the chance to live happily ever after with her beloved. She eventually disappears, dissolving in the foam of the 127

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waves. Another example of this sudden disappearance is in Vassily Zhukovskii’s poem “Undina” (1837): Then from the boat (she) quickly slid into the river: Whether she was submerged in water, or turned into water herself, No one could discern in the boat; it was both, It was neither. Without leaving a trace, in the Danube She dissolved. (385)37

When the mermaid is not a fairy-tale creature and the designation is given to a woman metaphorically, the essence of the myth remains unchanged. Lermontov’s “Taman” ends enigmatically, with undine's disappearance. In his analysis of the motif of elusiveness in “Taman,” Aleksandr Zholkovsky observes that nothing in this story is brought to its end.38 Like Pushkin’s The Water-Nymph, Nabokov's Lolita has an open ending. Contrary to what Humbert says about the fate of literary characters, and in agreement with his “mistake” regarding the fate of Tatyana Larina and Anna Karenina, Lolita’s final fate lacks stability; it remains suspended, like the fates of other mermaids who live long lives, always remaining young, and then suddenly disappearing, dissipating in the air like Andersen’s Little Mermaid, or dissolving in water like Lermontov’s and Zhukovskii’s Undinas. 

Nabokov was fascinated with the idea that plots and characters may continue to live in a literary space. His “final scene” for Pushkin’s The Water-Nymph, written in 1942, was primarily conceived as an ending for the second part of his novel The Gift.39 The second part

37



Vasilii Zhukovskii, “Undina,” in Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 20 vols. (Moscow: Iazyki russkoi kul'tury, 1999–2009), 4:113–79.

38



A. K. Zholkovskii, “Semiotika ‘Tamani,’” in Bluzhdaiushchie sny i drugie raboty (Moscow: Nauka, 1994), 281.

39



Brian Boyd gives some details: “Nabokov planned to complete an unfin-

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of The Gift was never written. Yet the ending of this novel as we have it still contains a reference to Pushkin in the form of an Onegin stanza: Good-bye my book! Like mortal eyes, imagined once must close some day. Onegin from his knees will rise––but his creator strolls away. And yet the ear cannot right now part with the music and allow the tale to fade; the chords of fate itself continue to vibrate; and no obstruction for the sage exists where I have put The End: the shadows of my world extend beyond the skyline of the page, blue as tomorrow’s morning haze––nor does this terminate the phrase.40

Viktor Shklovsky was correct in saying that “Russian literature knows how not to create endings.” The fates of Pushkin’s characters “continue to vibrate” in Dargomyzhsky’s opera Mermaid, in Chekhov’s reference to this opera in his story “The Nervous Breakdown,” in Nabokov’s poetic exercise in the continuation of Pushkin’s text, and, finally, in the development of the drama’s plot in Nabokov’s mature novel Lolita. This gives evidence to the fact that, despite temporal borders, multiple generations of literary characters reside in one single artistic space, interacting with each other and testing the eternal themes of love, responsibility, and death.

ished Pushkin work as a means to a second ending-that-is-not-an-ending. Since the whole novel was to have been structured around Zina’s death, it is no accident that in the conclusion to Rusalka Nabokov has the Prince lured down through a watery death to meet the immortal spirit of the girl who died for love of him.” Brian Boyd, Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 516–17. 40



Vladimir Nabokov, The Gift, trans. Michael Scammell with the collaboration of the author (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1963), 378.

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The

vocal cycle Four Verses of Captain Lebyadkin (opus 146), set to the poems of a minor character from Dostoevsky’s novel Demons (1871–72), was written in 1974 and premiered on May 10, 1975, three months before the composer’s death, when he was already gravely ill. The opus received many negative reviews. In her analysis of Shostakovich’s late chamber vocal cycles, Tamara Levaia describes it as a “grotesque symbol of the disintegration of personality” and notes that this cycle served as an antithesis to the Michelangelo suite written in the same year.1 Another scholar, Tatyana Leie, observes that this work by a great master is composed in a “profane style.”2 She maintains that, unlike Shostakovich’s song settings of poems by Pushkin, Lermontov, Blok, Tsvetaeva, and Michelangelo on themes of creation, death, and immortality, this opus “lacks any philosophical principle”; it is “a simplified ‘reality’ reduced to its lowest point, serving as a terrible incarnation of universal evil.” According to Leie, the “negative energy” of this opus “seems to destroy everything accumulated and declared in (Shostakovich’s) three preceding works. It appears to be the reverse of what was created in the past, a reverse image of everything bright and sublime that the composer was trying to establish throughout his creative career.”3 1

T. N. Levaia, “Kontrasty vocal'nogo zhanra (o dvukh poslednikh vokal'nykh tsiklakh D. Shostakovicha),” Sovetskaia muzyka 11 (1975): 83.

2

Ibid., 37.

3

T. E. Leie, Pozdnii Shostakovich: “Chetyre stikhotvoreniia Lebiadkina.” Issledovatel'skii ocherk (Moscow: Rossiiskaia Akademiia Muzyki imeni Gnesinykh, 2004), 49.



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Levon Akopian, the author of a monograph on Shostakovich, also is critical of the work: “In essence, this is an unimportant, insignificant work, of approximately the same quality as Satires to texts by Sasha Cherny. . . . The ‘sheer mockery’ (пустосмешество) of the first three poems is discredited by excessively primitive thematism (we all remember well that the means Shostakovich employs to portray the characters from The Nose, no less primitive than Lebyadkin, were complex and serious) and a few tasteless stylistic allusions and direct quotations.”4 Akopian notes that critics were indifferent to the premiere of Four Verses of Captain Lebyadkin. Nevertheless, the composer considered this work artistically successful. The bass Evgeny Nesterenko, for whom Shostakovich wrote this opus, notes that while listening to a performance of Lebyadkin’s songs at a rehearsal, the composer laughed, then turned serious and said: “Here, it seems, I was able to capture ‘Dostoevsky’s rough spirit’ (достоевщина). Lebyadkin, of course, is a buffoon, but the impression he produces is sometimes scary.”5 These negative assessments of Four Verses of Captain Lebyadkin seem to be related to the literary material that Shostakovich used. As the British musicologist Malcolm MacDonald keenly observes, “This little song-cycle is a veritable Chinese box of ambiguities and double meanings—most of them text-related—where nothing is quite what it appears.”6 Literary scholars and musicologists label Lebyadkin’s poems as “amateurish,” “tongue-tied,” “ridiculous,” “absurd,” “incoherent,” and “idiotically pretentious,” and indeed, this is what these poems are. Still, one has to keep in mind that these poems are created by two authors—Dostoevsky and his character’s clown mask. Lebyadkin’s poems constitute a multilayered text.

4

L. O. Akopian, Dmitrii Shostakovich: Opyt fenomenologii tvorchestva. Rossiiskaia akademiia nauk (St. Petersburg: Dmitrii Bulanin, 2004), 402.

5

Evgenii Nesterenko, “Schast'e tvorcheskogo obshcheniia,” in Muzykal'nye kadry, gazeta Leningradskoi konservatorii, September 30, 1976, 2–3.

6

Malcolm MacDonald, “Word and Music in Late Shostakovich,” in Shostakovich: The Man and His Music (Boston: Marion Boyars, 1982), 143.



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The first reviewer of Lebyadkin’s poems was the poet Vladislav Khodasevich. In 1931, while living in Paris, he dedicated a short essay to them, in which he noted Lebyadkin’s familiarity with Derzhavin’s poetry and pointed to the seemingly parodic but essentially tragic discrepancy between the high content of Lebyadkin’s poems and the low form this content is clothed in.7 In this chapter, I expand Khodasevich’s observation and demonstrate that Lebyadkin attempts to emulate eighteenth-century poets. An epigone of neoclassicism, Lebyadkin, in these poems, clumsily imitates Derzhavin, Krylov, Lomonosov, and Sumarokov as well as the whole range of genres—odes, fables, satires, and the “occasional verse” (poems written for special occasions). Lebyadkin has a literary predecessor. In 1867–68, when Dostoevsky began working on a novel centered on the Christlike figure of a “positively beautiful man,” later entitled The Idiot, he outlined the story of a certain Captain Kartuzov. The story’s summary was as follows: an admirer of Liza Karmazin (whose name is associated with that of the eighteenth-century writer Nikolai Karamzin and his story “Poor Liza,” 1793), Kartuzov writes love poems, dedicating them to the lady of his heart. The philosopher Konstantin Mochulsky, whose book on Dostoevsky has a separate section on Kartuzov, views this character as “Prince Myshkin’s

7



Vladislav Khodasevich, “Poeziia Ignata Lebiadkina,” in Sobranie sochinenii, 4 vols. (Moscow: Soglasie, 1996), 2:199. In 1977, Sergei Averintsev compared Lebyadkin’s style to a much earlier poetic tradition: the use of homeoteleuton (two lines of verse that end with words having the same ending) in ancient Greek rhetoric. Sergei Averintsev, “Traditsiia grecheskoi “dialektiki” i vozniknovenie rifmy,” Kontekst-76 (Moscow: Nauka, 1977), 82–83. More recently, Deborah Martinsen argued that Lebyadkin’s self-identification with eighteenth- and nineteenth-century poets and writers—Derzhavin, Krylov, Gogol, and Miatlev, as well as the biblical Job—rankеd him among a whole range of Dostoevsky’s liars. By becoming part of a larger scheme of exposure and shame, it contributed to Dostoevsky’s parodic play. See Deborah A. Martinsen, “Identity via Parody: Captain Lebyadkin, Poet-Cockroach,” in Against the Grain: Parody, Satire and Intertextuality in Russian Literature (Bloomington, IN: Slavica, 2002), 45–50, and Deborah A. Martinsen, Surprised by Shame: Dostoevsky’s Liars and Narrative Exposure (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2003), 170–75, 184–206.

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spiritual brother,” a foolish knight, a ridiculous provincial Don Quixote.”8 Though Dostoevsky developed his plot in great detail, the story never acquired the shape of an independent work. A few years later, he moved Captain Kartuzov’s poems from the drafts of The Idiot to the text of the novel Demons (1871–72), making some adjustments in the process. The noble knight, pure in heart, was turned into the grotesque buffoon Lebyadkin. Liza Karmazin was renamed Liza Tushin, and her previous last name was given to another character in the novel. Let us consider Lebyadkin’s poems in the order in which Shostakovich presents them, with the titles under which they appear in his vocal cycle: “The Love of Captain Lebyadkin,” “The Cockroach,” and “The Ball for the Benefit of Governesses.” I will not discuss the fourth poem of the cycle (“The Radiant Personality”), because it does not belong to Lebyadkin; written as a parody of Nikolai Ogarev’s poem “The Student” (1868), it actually belongs to the pen of another character in the novel—Petr Verkhovensky.9 “ T he L ove of C a pt a i n L e by a d k i n” The cycle of love poems dedicated to the heroine of the novel, Liza Tushin, opens with the following quatrain: Любви пылающей граната Лопнула в груди Игната. И вновь заплакал горькой мукой По Севастополю безрукий.10

8

Konstantin Mochulsky, “The Tale of Captain Kartuzov,” in Dostoevsky: His Life and Work, trans. with an introduction by Michael A. Minihan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967), 655.

9

Neither will I discuss Lebyadkin’s poems in which he imitates other poets, such as, for example, the poem by the nineteenth-century poet Afanasy Fet “Я пришел к тебе с приветом” (“I have come to thee with greetings,” 1843).





10



Fedor Dostoevskii, Besy, in Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v 30 tomakh, vol. 10 (Moscow: Nauka, 1974), 95. All quotations from Besy are from this edition.

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A cannonball with hot love loaded In Ignat’s noble breast exploded. Again with bitter torment groaned Sebastopol’s armless one.11 (117)

The poetry reading takes place in the evening, near the gate of Lebyadkin’s house: “Captain Lebyadkin, over six feet tall, fat, beefy, curly-haired, red, and extremely drunk, could barely stand up in front of me and had difficulty articulating” (117). Having finished the recitation of the poem, Lebyadkin explains that it is based on a poetical fancy rather than a true story: “Though I was never at Sebastopol, nor am I armless—but what rhymes!” (117). In fact, not only is Lebyadkin not armless, he is also not a captain. According to the text, Lebyadkin “later turned out to be a rather suspicious character and wasn’t even a retired captain at all, as he styled himself. He only knew how to twirl his mustache, drink, and spout the most uncouth nonsense imaginable” (32). Introducing himself as a captain in real life, Lebyadkin, in his poetry, presents himself as a warrior injured in combat. His heroic spirit contrasts with the lexical absurdities in his poem, such as “граната любви” (cannonball with hot love), “заплакал по Севастополю” (groaned Sevastopol), and “заплакал горькой мукой” (with bitter torment groaned). The discrepancy between the heroic subject and the trivial form of the poem suggests an imitation of the genre of travesty popular in the literature of Russian neoclassicism. More specifically, the theme of heroism and physical disability goes back to an eighteenth-century source— Aleksandr Sumarokov’s poem “The Legless Soldier” (“Безногий солдат,” 1759), from his collection of parables. The poem satirizes social injustice. It tells the story of a soldier who, having lost his legs in war, was sent to a monastery, but not being fed adequately there, left the monastery and began to “drag around the world”

11



Fyodor Dostoevsky, Demons: A Novel in Three Parts, trans. and annotated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994). All quotations from Demons are from this edition.

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begging for food and vodka, though wealthy people denied him alms. Despite its didactic purpose, the poem is full of colloquialisms and clumsy word combinations, seemingly intentional, such as “по миру таскаться” (to drag around the world), “ворчал перед окошком” (grumbled under the widow), and “защекотило ей его ворчанье в ухе” (his grumbling began to tickle her ear), showing a discrepancy between the subject and the style, and thus producing a comic effect. The motif of the loss of an extremity in battle, presented in a comic vein, was developed further in nineteenth-century Russian literature. In Gogol’s “Tale of Captain Kopeikin,” an integral part of his Dead Souls, the protagonist has lost an arm and a leg in the war with the French. Having no means of earning a livelihood, he tries to obtain help from the state. In The Idiot, Dostoevsky slightly modifies this motif in Lebedev’s account of a comic incident from the 1812 war, when a French chasseur aimed his cannon at him and shot his leg off, just for fun; that he picked the leg up and brought it home, and then buried it in the Vagankovsky Cemetery, saying that he put a tombstone over it with an inscription on one side: “Here lies the leg of Collegiate Secretary Lebedev.” And on the other: “Rest, dear dust, till the gladsome morning,” and, finally, . . . every year he has a panikhida served for it (which is a sacrilege), and . . . he goes to Moscow every year for that.12

The figure of a legless warrior later appears in the twentieth century, in Daniil Kharms’s short story “The Knight” (1934–36), which debunks pseudo-patriotism and pseudo-heroism. Speaking with someone named Lebedev, the protagonist of the story, Alexei Alexeyevich Alexeev, utters his favorite phrase––exuberant, meaningless, and reminiscent of Lebyadkin’s style: “Я пострадал за Родину и разбил свои чресла, но существую силой убеждения

12



Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, with an introduction by Richard Pevear (New York: Vintage Classics, 2003), 495.

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своего заднего подсознания” (I ​​have suffered for my country and broken my loins, but I exist by means of the power of persuasion of my rear subconscious).13 The examples from Sumarokov’s parable, Gogol’s “epic poem in prose,” Dostoevsky’s novel, and Kharms’s short story suggest that Lebyadkin’s awkward quatrain is part of a literary trend that began in the eighteenth century and continued until Shostakovich’s time. Characteristically, the characters’ last names—Lebyadkin and Kopeikin, Lebyadkin and Lebedev—sound similar. Sumarokov, Gogol, Dostoevsky, and Kharms lived in Petersburg for most of their lives, as did Shostakovich. This common biographical detail may be discarded as irrelevant, but it might well have something to do with a particular type of humor and absurdism characteristic of the Petersburg school of Russian literature. In Lebyadkin’s next love quatrain, we see a typical eighteenthcentury portrait of a young noblewoman on horseback, reminiscent of depictions of the Russian empresses Elizabeth and Catherine the Great, famous for their passion for such “masculine” activities as horseback riding: И порхает звезда на коне В хороводе других амазонок Улыбается с лошади мне Ари-сто-кратический ребенок. (95) A star on horseback she flies free In Amazonian round-dance wild And then from horseback smiles on me, The Aris-to-crat-ic child. (117–18)

The next poem can also be classified with the genre of panegyric odes (торжественная ода), specifically those eulogizing the empresses Elizabeth and Catherine. The poem’s dedication and form of address remind one of odes commemorating the excellence of Empress Elizabeth. Specifically, the poem echoes the line

13



Daniil Kharms, “Rytsar',” in Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 2:62.

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“Великий Петр нам дал блаженство, Елизавета совершенство” (The Great Peter gave us blessings, Elizabeth gave us perfection) from Lomonosov’s “Ode to the Arrival of Her Majesty the Great Empress Elizaveta Petrovna, from Moscow to Petersburg in 1742 on the Occasion of Her Coronation.” Совершенству девицы Тушиной Милостивая государыня Елизавета Николаевна! О как мила она, Елизавета Тушина, Когда с родственником на дамском седле летает, А локон ее с ветрами играет. Или когда с матерью в церкви падает ниц И зрится румянец благородных лиц! Тогда брачных и законных наслаждений желаю И вслед ей вместе с матерью, слезу посылаю. Составил неученый за спором. (106) To the Perfection of the Young Miss Tushin Dear lady, Elizaveta Nikolaevna! Oh, what a lovely vision Is Elizaveta Tushin. When she flies sidesaddle with her relation And her locks share the wind’s elation, Or when with her mother in church she bows And the blush of reverent faces shows, Then matrimonial and lawful delights I do desire, And after her, and her mother, send my tear. Composed by an unlearned man in an argument. (131)

The opening of the poem also contains features of the epistle, typical of neoclassicist poetry. Lebyadkin follows two main formal elements of this genre: a specific addressee and a valediction. In Dostoevsky’s time, when syllabo-tonic poetry was used widely, the poem did not make sense metrically. However, it resembles presyllabic and syllabic verses, popular in Russia in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The anonymous signature “Composed by an unlearned man in an argument” stands as a parody of the idea of authorship in the eighteenth-century canon; we may recall that 137

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Lomonosov composed his odes on behalf of the Academy of Science. Only after 1750 did he sign his odes with his name—“the most humble serf Mikhailo Lomonosov.”14 By the time the novel Demons was written, canonic genre of neoclassicism, the ode had sunken into oblivion, which also adds a comic flavor to Lebyadkin’s poems. The comic effect is maintained by the use of lexical nonsense, such as, for example, the expression “на дамском седле летает” (flies sidesaddle), as well as situational absurdity—Lebyadkin desires “matrimonial and lawful delights” (брачных и законных наслаждений) at moments when he sees the object of his love riding the horse with her relative and prostrating herself in church with her mother. The second part of Lebyadkin’s love letter (written in prose, but according to the authorial comment, meant “to be understood in verse”) is not set to music in Shostakovich’s cycle. Yet it is worth quoting at length, for despite its awkwardness and illiteracy, this letter contains numerous allusions to Derzhavin: Dear lady! I pity myself most of all for having not lost an arm at Sebastopol in the cause of glory, not having been there at all, but served the whole campaign managing vile provisions, considering it baseness. You are a goddess in antiquity, and I am nothing but have guessed about the boundlessness. Consider it as verse and no more, for verse is nonsense after all and justifies what is considered boldness in prose. Can the sun be angry at an infusorian if it composes from its drop of water where there is a multitude of them, as seen in a microscope? Even the very club of human kindness toward big cattle in Petersburg high society, rightly commiserating with the dog and the horse, scorns the brief infusorian, or mentioning it at all, because it has not grown big enough. I have not grown big enough either. The thought of marriage might seem killing; but soon I will possess a former two hundred souls through a hater of mankind whom you should scorn. I can tell much, and volunteer it according to documents—enough for Siberia.

14



M. L. Gasparov, “Stil' Lomonosova i stil' Sumarokova—nekotorye korrektivy,” Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie 59 (2003): 238.

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Do not scorn the offer. The letter from the infusorian is to be understood in verse. Captain Lebyadkin, a humble friend, with much free time to spend. (131–32)

The letter includes at least three references to Derzhavin’s poetry. Lebyadkin’s question “Can the sun be angry at an infusorian if it composes from its drop of water” echoes the line from Derzhavin’s famous ode “God” (1784)—“Как солнце в малой капле вод” (Like the sun in a small drop of water). The word “беспредельность” (here translated as “boundlessness”) hints at the cosmic landscape in that same ode: “О ты, пространством бесконечный” (Oh, you are boundless in space). Finally, the way Lebyadkin denigrates himself—“You are a goddess in antiquity, and I am nothing”—is reminiscent of the way Derzhavin speaks about himself and God: “А я перед тобой ничто” (And I am nothing against you). For Dostoevsky’s first readers, these bombastic, tongue-tied, and clumsy writings must have sounded funny not only because Lebyadkin’s imitation of Derzhavin was unsuccessful but also because in the nineteenth century Derzhavin’s style was already perceived as archaic. In a letter to Anton Delvig, written in 1825, Pushkin comments on it with a harsh critique.15 15



Pushkin writes, “After your departure I reread all Derzhavin and here is my final opinion. That strange man knew neither the Russian ABC’s nor the spirit of the Russian language (and this is why he is below Lomonosov). He had no understanding of either style or harmony—or even of the rules of versification. That is why he must infuriate every fastidious ear. He not only does not sustain an ode, but he cannot sustain even a stanza (with the exception of you know which ones). Here is what is in him: thoughts, pictures, and movements which are truly poetic; in reading him you seem to be reading a bad, free translation of some marvelous original. By golly, his genius thought in Tatar—and he did not know the Russia ABC’s from lack of leisure.” See A. S. Pushkin, “Letter to A. A. Delvig (no. 126),” dated between June 1 and 8, 1825, in The Letters of Alexander Pushkin, trans. with preface, intro., and notes by J. Thomas Shaw (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1967), 224–25. On “clumsiness” as an idiosyncrasy of Derzhavin’s style, see also Mikhail Epshtein, “Veshchee kosnoiazychie,” in Paradoksy novizny (Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel', 1988), 87–95, and Boris Uspensky, “La langue de Derjavine,” in Derjavine: Un poète russe dans l’Europe des Lumières (Paris: Institut d’Études Slaves, 1994), 99–116.

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The last poem of the Lebyadkin cycle picks up the theme of a broken limb, introduced earlier. Whereas the first poem tells about the lost arm of the admirer, this one recounts the story of the broken leg of the beloved: Краса красот сломала член И интересней вдвое стала И вдвое сделался влюблен, Влюбленный уж немало. (210) The beauty of beauties broke her member And twice more intriguing she became, And twice more burning was love’s ember In him who already felt the same. (266)

Like Lebyadkin’s other poems, this one originally belonged to the pen of Dostoevsky’s character Captain Kartuzov and had an erotic sequel.16 In this quatrain, Lebyadkin follows the neoclassical tradition of writing verses on the occasion (“на случай”) of a death or ascent to the throne. He plays with the word случай, which can mean “occasion,” “case,” “occurrence,” or “accident.” The Russian title

16



When Kartuzov learns that the lady of his heart, Liza Karmazina, has lost her leg and, as a consequence, was abandoned by her fiancé, he proposes marriage to her in the form of a letter and a poem. The translation of this poem can be found in Mochulsky, “The Tale of Captain Kartuzov,” 666–67: The ornament of beauty broke a limb And became three times more fascinating. And he three times over has grown enamored Who before was not untouched by love. Everything has disappeared! Buried is One of the young limbs, But I am captivated by what remains And even as though they had been not at all. Allow me then to pour out my love, Deign to accept my proposal, So as together in marriage to forget the lost limb, And with that remaining to experience legitimate pleasure.

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of the poem, “В случае если бы она сломала ногу” (“In Case She Broke Her Leg”), hints that it is written for the possible occasion of Liza’s breaking her leg. The theme of an accident links this quatrain with another eighteenth-century poetic genre, “ode to recovery.”17 The difference, however, is that Lebyadkin’s lyrics glorify not the recovery but the injury. Here the lack of logic (having broken her leg, the object of the poet’s love becomes even more beautiful) produces a comic effect. The absurdity is maintained on a lexical level, in the rhyme of “влюблен” (enamored) with “член” (member). In the nineteenth century, the ending “-en” in the word “влюблен” (rather than “влюблён”) was already perceived as archaic and indicative of a sublime poetic style, whereas the word “член” was considered a prosaicism, and in some contexts a vulgarism, as, for example, in Ivan Barkov’s poems. The theme of Liza’s “fall” develops on two levels in Demons: comic and dramatic. The first part of the novel ends with an episode in which Liza, observing a quarrel between Stavrogin and Shatov, collapses on the floor. The chronicler comments on Liza’s fall with dark humor: “To this day it is as if I can still hear the back of her head hit the carpet” (206). At the end of the novel, the motif of the fall acquires particularly sinister overtones on both the literal and metaphoric planes. Having found out that Liza spent the night at Stavrogin’s estate and thus ruined her reputation, an angry mob pounces on her: Suddenly I saw someone’s hand, above her head, from behind, raised and lowered; Liza fell. There came a terrible cry from Mavriky Nikolaevich, who tore to her aid and struck the man who was between him and Liza with all his strength. But at the same moment that tradesman seized him from

17



See, for example, Vasilii Maikov’s “Ode on the Recovery of the Crown Prince and the Sovereign Grand Duke Pavel Petrovich, the Heir of the Russian Throne” (1771); Denis Fonvizin’s “Word on the Recovery of His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince and the Sovereign Grand Duke Pavel Petrovich in 1771”; and Derzhavin’s “Ode on the Recovery of the Philanthropist” (1781).

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behind with both arms. For some time it was impossible to make anything out in the ensuing scuffle. It seems Liza got up, but fell again from another blow. Suddenly the crowd parted and a small empty circle formed around the prostrate Liza, with the bloody, crazed Mavriky Nikolaevich standing over her, shouting, weeping, and wringing his hands. (539)

In this way Lebyadkin’s poem, dedicated to the “Beauty of Beauties” falling from the horse and breaking her limb, foreshadows the tragic denouement of the novel’s love story. “The Cockroach” Another genre of neoclassicism Lebyadkin imitates is the fable: Жил на свете таракан, Таракан от детства, И потом попал в стакан, Полный мухоедства ... Место занял таракан, Мухи возроптали. “Полон очень наш стакан,”–– К Юпитеру закричали. Но пока у них шел крик, Подошел Никифoр Бла-го-роднейший старик. (141) ’Tis of a cockroach I will tell, And a fine cockroach was he But then into a glass he fell Full of Fly-phagy. . . . The cockroach took up so much room It made the flies murmur. “A crowded glass, is this our doom?” They cried to Jupiter. But as the flies did make their moan Along came Nikifor, A kind, old, no-o-oble man. (177)

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The action takes place in Varvara Petrovna’s living room. Lebyadkin introduces the fable with the following preamble: “Madame, a friend of mine—a most no-o-oble person—has written a Krylovian fable entitled ‘The Cockroach’—may I recite it?” The hostess is amazed: “You want to recite some fable of Krylov’s?” Lebyadkin explains: “No, it’s not Krylov’s fable I want to recite, it’s my fable, mine, I wrote it!” (176–77). Lebyadkin’s request to Varvara Petrovna for permission to recite a Krylovian fable written by his friend (obviously, the friend is mentioned out of exaggerated modesty, to avoid the use of the first-person pronoun) hints at the neoclassical idea of authorship. Lebyadkin’s remark indicates that he is familiar with the conventions of the genre: if La Fontaine can compose a fable by Aesop and Krylov can compose a fable by La Fontaine, there is no reason that Lebyadkin (or his friend) cannot compose a Krylovian fable. “The Cockroach” contains three features of the fable genre: a moral lesson (“the answer is at the bottom of this fable, in flaming letters”), an allegory (“As for Nikifor, he represents nature”), and a sequence of actions (first the cockroach just lived, then “into a glass he fell,” and then “along came Nikifor”).18 Formulated in Lebyadkin’s “plain words,” the moral lesson is taken to the point of absurdity: “Nikifor takes the glass and, in spite of their crying, dumps the whole comedy into the tub, both flies and cockroach, which should have been done long ago. But notice, madam, notice, the cockroach does not murmur!” (177). Like Lebyadkin’s other poems, the fable is characterized by lexical diversity: the high-style verb “возроптали” (repined) and the reference to Jupiter coexist with a colloquial neologism, “мухоедство” (fly-phagy). In her study of the fable genre, Lidiia Vindt notes: “The personality of the fabulist is determined by tradition. It is an eccentric, a reckless, lazy and absent-minded being. . . . Krylov obviously stylizes himself, creating of himself an artistic addendum

18



Lidiia Vindt, “Basnia kak literaturnyi zhanr,” in Poetika, sbornik statei (Leningrad: Academia, 1927), 3:92.

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to his fables. He strenuously disseminates jokes about himself and in everyday life uses allegories.”19 While stylizing himself as a fabulist, Lebyadkin formulates his relationship with Krylov in a pompous style marked by clumsy syntax: “I am not uneducated and depraved to such an extent as not to realize that Russia possesses the great fable-writer Krylov, to whom the minister of education erected a monument in the Summer Garden for childhood playing” (177). As befits the fabulist, Lebyadkin tells all kinds of stories about himself. He declares his intention to bequeath his skeleton to the academy, so that a permanent label would be glued to his forehead with the words “repentant freethinker” (“раскаявшийся вольнодумец”), which again alludes to the eighteenth century (it was then that the calque вольнодумец appeared in Russia from the French libre penseur and German Freidenker).20 The expression “repentant freethinker” appears in the novel one more time—in an anonymous denunciation sent to Governor von Lembke, containing information on the impending assassination attempt on the life of generals in the fatherland. The signature at the bottom of the denunciation, “the repentant freethinker, incognito” (360), indicates Lebyadkin’s authorship. Obviously, the denunciation is written almost concurrently with the love poems and the Krylovian fable, thus creating a link between Lebyadkin’s poems and the political canvas of the novel. “ T he B a l l f or t he B e ne f it of t he G ove r ne s s e s ” Lebyadkin’s poem dedicated “to the fatherland’s governess” is recited on the day of a charity event divided into two parts, “a li-

19



Ibid.

20



Curiously, Lebyakin’s self-identification as a “repentant freethinker” relates to Dostoevsky himself, who in his youth was involved in socialist activities. After Dostoevsky was arrested together with other members of the Petrashevsky Circle, during his first interrogation, on May 6, 1849, he announced that he considered himself a “freethinker” (вольнодумец).

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terary matinée” and an allegorical ball called “The Quadrille of Literature.” The matinée begins with a tremendous crush of people at the entrance to the hall. Soon the music fades and the audience is seated, the diamonds sparkling. All are waiting for Governor von Lembke and his wife. Finally, the couple enters the hall. Suddenly, on the empty stage appears the plump figure of Captain Lebyadkin in a tailcoat and white tie. His “stupid red mug,” “broad dumb smile,” and “long, happy, rippling laughter” suggest that he is dead drunk. A minute later, Lebyadkin disappears and Liputin steps on the stage. After a bombastic introduction—“I have taken on myself the commission and the sincere, most respectful request of one of our local poets from these parts”—Liputin begins to recite Lebyadkin’s poem: Здравствуй, здравствуй, гувернантка! Веселись и торжествуй. Ретроградка иль Жорж-Зандка, Всё равно теперь ликуй! Учишь ты детей сопливых По-французски букварю И подмигивать готова, Чтобы взял, хоть понмарю! Но в наш век реформ великих Не возьмет и пономарь; Надо, барышня, “толиких,” Или снова за букварь. Но теперь, когда, пируя, Мы собрали капитал, И приданое, танцуя, Шлем тебе из этих зал, Ретроградка иль Жорж-Зандка, Всё равно, теперь ликуй! Ты с приданым гувернантка, Плюй на всё и торжествуй! (362–63)

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I give you greetings grand and grander, Governess! Be triumphant now, Retrograde or true George-Sander, Be exultant anyhow! You teach our snot-nosed children French From an alphabetic book, The beadle even, in a pinch, For marriage you won’t overlook! But now, when great reforms are flowering, Even a beadle’s hard to hook: Unless, young miss, you’ve got a “dowering,” It’s back to the alphabetic book. Today, however, with our hosting We have raised much capital, And while dancing here we’re posting A dowry to you from this hall. Retrograde or true George-Sander, Be exultant anyhow! Governess by dower grander, Spit on the rest and triumph now! (472–73)

This text resembles an ode intended for a solemn occasion (“торжественная ода по случаю праздника”). Before the recitation of the poem, Liputin tells the public, “I have the honor of warning you—that all the same this is not really the kind of ode that once used to be written for festive occasions; this is almost, so to speak, a joke, but combining indisputable feeling and playful gaiety, and with, so to speak, the real-most truth” (472). Liputin’s introduction suggests that the audience may expect a parody of the ode. The poem abounds with with the eighteenth-century lexicon: the verbs “ликовать” (to be exultant), “веселиться” (to rejoice), “пировать” (to feast), and “торжествовать” (to triumph). In the English translation of the poem, where the subtleties of the style occasionally get lost, the tribute to the high style of neoclassical poetry might not be apparent. It is, however, clear in the Russian original that the string of imperatives—“ликуй” (be exultant), 146

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“веселись” (rejoice), “пируй” (feast), “торжествуй” (be triumphant)—are characteristic of praise common in Lomonosov’s odes dedicated to Empress Elizabeth on the occasion of her birth on December 18, 1757, and her name day celebration on September 5, 1759. This string of exalted imperatives ends with the offensive imperative “плюй” (spit). As in the previous poems, we see a sharp stylistic shift. The archaic word “толикие” neighbors prosaicisms relevant to the political context of Demons: the words “жорж-зандка” (GeorgeSander), “ретроградка” (retrograde), “реформа” (reform), “капитал” (capital) and contrast with the vocabulary of everyday life: “подмигивать” (to wink), “букварь” (ABC), “приданое” (dowry), the vulgarisms “сопливый” (snotty) and “плюй” (spit). The summon “плюй на все и торжествуй” (spit on the rest and triumph) in the final line sounds particularly ominous. In the ideological context of Demons, this feverish call becomes a kind of revolutionary appeal made by a gang of “demons” who commit arson and murder and distribute leaflets calling for rebellion and revenge. In Demons, Dostoevsky attempted to demonstrate that political violence practiced by members of clandestine organizations in the 1860s, such as Sergei Nechaev’s terrorist activity, was an expected result of liberal ideas advanced in the 1840s by Russian Westernizers. Commenting on the ideological basis of the novel, Dostoevsky wrote: “Our Belinskys and Granovskys would not believe it if they were told they were Nechaev’s direct fathers. It is precisely that kinship and continuity of thought which has evolved from the father to the children that I wanted to express in my work.”21 One of Dostoevsky’s ideological adversaries in this camp was Ivan Turgenev, who had created a sympathetic portrayal of the nihilists in his novel Fathers and Sons (1862).

21



Dostoevsky’s letter to A. A. Romanov (no. 469) dated February 10, 1873, in Fyodor Dostoevsky, Complete Letters, 5 vols., trans. and ed. David A. Lowe and Ronald Meyer (Ann Arbor, MI: Ardis, 1987–91), 4:59.

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Dostoevsky’s portrayal of Turgenev reading his latest literary piece to the public and the declamation of Lebyadkin’s poems, both presented in Demons in a highly humorous manner, tie together the novel’s ideological and meta-literary layers. A parody of Turgenev, Karmazinov is portrayed as an arrogant and self-centered writer residing in Europe who has lost all sense of the political situation in Russia and the vital connections with its literary milieu. According to rumors spread by the inhabitants of the city, the very idea of the ball—an allegorical “Quadrille of Literature” in which literary publications would be presented with special costumes—belonged to Karmazinov, who, for the sake of fundraising, agreed to read his latest work dressed in the costume of the local governess. The literary piece “Merci” he reads to the public is a parody of Turgenev’s unfinished intimate autobiography “Enough,” written in a lyrical tone. Yet Karmazinov is more than the parody of a single literary figure. He is also a parody of the eighteenth-century writer Nikolai Karamzin, whose sentimental and pretentious literary style Dostoevsky is parodying in this otherwise dark novel. Like Karmazinov, Lebyadkin is more than a parody of a single literary persona. Rather, he is a literary mask with an arsenal of outdated conventions and an obsolete idea of authorship. The double and the antipode of the demonic Nikolai Stavrogin, Lebyadkin acts under a clownish mask, but the comic effect of his verses darkens when the chronicler informs the readers about the catastrophic events that happened outside the literary bacchanalia: the fire that engulfed the town and the murder of Captain Lebyadkin, his lame sister, Maria (Stavrogin’s wife), and their servant. The climaxes occur simultaneously in the ideological and metaliterary layers: the recital of Lebyadkin’s poems and Karmazinov’s prose coincides with the great commotion in the city and many people’s deaths. S ho s t a k ov ic h, L e by a d k i n, a nd OBE R I U Shostakovich was not the only twentieth-century Russian artist who was mesmerized by Lebyadkin’s poems. In the early 1930s, the name of this character was on the lips of many in Russian literary circles. In 1934, a member of the OBERIU circle, the poet Nikolai 148

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Oleinikov, used a slightly modified line from Lebyadkin’s poem— “Таракан попался в стакан” (A cockroach fell into a glass)— as an epigraph to his own poem “The Cockroach” (1934), which later prompted Joseph Brodsky to write that Dostoevsky was the first Russian absurdist.22 According to Lidiia Ginzburg’s memoirs, Anna Akhmatova noticed the affinity between Oleinikov’s and Lebyadkin’s styles in 1933, that is, before Oleinikov had written this poem.23 In the same years, another OBERIU poet—Nikolai Zabolotsky—was compared with Lebyadkin. According to Veniamin Kaverin, the poet Pavel Antokol'sky once said that Zabolotsky’s poems reminded him of Captain Lebyadkin’s poetry. Zabolotsky, not at all offended, replied that he valued Lebyadkin above many contemporary poets.24 Several scholars have commented on this affinity between Lebyadkin and the OBERIU poets. Ilya Serman notes that Lebyadkin’s poems, parodic in spirit, turned out to be a “necessary enzyme” in the literary ferment of the late 1920s. From the “errors” and “incompetence” of Lebyadkin’s poetry, one could extract a great deal that would help to create a conscious literary absurdism in poetry.25 Bella Ulanovskaia interprets this connection in a similar vein: just as Lebyadkin violated etiquette in nineteenth-century living rooms with his poems, so did the OBERIU poets violate the literary conventions of their time.26

22



Iosif Brodskii, “Posleslovie k ‘Kotlovanu’ A. Platonova,” in Sochineniia Iosifa Brodskogo, 4 vols. (Petersburg: Pushkinskii fond, 1998), 4:51.

23



See Lidiia Ginzburg, Chelovek za pis'mennym stolom (Leningrad: Sovetskii pisatel', 1984), 380.

24



See Veniamin Kaverin, Zdravstvui, brat, pisat' ochen' trudno (Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel', 1965), 71. In his memoirs, Pavel Antokol'sky also recounts this episode, stressing that Zabolotsky was not at all confused and admitted that this idea had struck him as well. Pavel Antokol'skii, Vospominaniia o Zabolotskom (Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel', 1984), 199.

25



See Il'ia Serman, “Stikhi kapitana Lebiadkina i poeziia XX veka,” Revue des études slaves 53, no. 4 (1981): 604.

26



Bella Ulanovskaia, “Mozhet li solntse rasserdit'sia na infuzoriiu,” Dostoevskii i mirovaia kul'tura 1 (1993): 71.

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It is quite possible that Shostakovich first had the idea of composing Lebyadkin’s song cycle while socializing with the OBERIU poets in the early 1930s and it was then that he conceived of the idea of the vocal cycles set to Lebyadkin’s poems. The young Shostakovich shared the audacious spirit of the OBERIU poets and had personal relationships with some of them. In 1928, he completed his work on the opera The Nose, based on Nikolai Gogol’s eponymous story, full of the absurd and the grotesque. In 1930 he was planning to write the opera Karas' with Oleinikov’s lyrics. In the cultural climate of the 1930s, the musical rendition of Lebyadkin’s poems would have been impossible. The OBERIU group was disbanded, and many of its associates were arrested. An enormous pressure was exerted on Shostakovich. His opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (1934) was attacked on January 28, 1936, in the newspaper Pravda editorial “Muddle Instead of Music!” followed by a fierce compaign of vilifications. Also, a partial ban was placed on Dostoevsky. Between the mid-1930s and mid-1950s, the novel Demons was silenced (it came out in 1935, and then was not published until 1956–58). It was the publication of the novel in 1974 in the thirty-volume collection of Dostoevsky’s Complete Works that eventually prompted Shostakovich to transpose Lebyadkin’s poems into music. The composer’s tribute to his youth, this cycle creates a link with the beginning of his musical career, when he was friends with the OBERIU poets. Most of them were arrested and died young during the Stalinist purges.

C a p t a i n L e b y a d k i n’ s P o e t r y i n S h o s t a k o v i c h a n d D o s t o e v s k y 

Shostakovich’s “humorous” works did not always receive high praise from reviewers. According to Isaak Glikman’s commentaries, “The dried-up pedants who had in their day attacked Zoshchenko were tut-tutting at Shostakovich for his frivolous and mischievous lapse into inadmissibly bad taste.”27 Glikman notes a recurring phenomenon: after Shostakovich created his dramatic works, the composer “felt the need to relax in a more lighthearted vein.”28 Thus, in the early forties, after finishing the Seventh Symphony, he began work on a comic opera based on Gogol’s Gamblers. In the mid-sixties, after the dramatic poem The Execution of Stepan Razin, he composed songs based on texts from the comic magazine Crocodile. This pattern elucidates Shostakovich’s turn to Lebyadkin’s poetry after completing the Fifteenth Quartet in 1974. But unlike Shostakovich’s early works with comic overtones, the Lebyadkin cycle is not lighthearted. It encompasses the humorous and the macabre, and this fusion of opposites creates an affinity between Shostakovich and Dostoevsky, whose idiosyncratic use of humor was noted as early as 1845 by the critic Belinsky: “the prevailing character of his talent is humor. . . . A deeply human and pathetic element merges with the humorous, constituting a special feature of his talent.”29 In our time, scholars also stress the inseparability of humorous and serious matters in the writer’s method: “Comedy in Dostoevsky’s work is based on and caused by disharmony, chaos, disorder, unattractive beings, and every type of dissonance and misunderstanding existing in relations between

27



Story of a Friendship: The Letters of Dmitry Shostakovich to Isaak Glikman, 1941– 1975, trans. Anthony Phillips (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001), 277 n46.

28



Ibid., 290 n165.

29



Vissarion Belinskii, “Peterburgskii sbornik,” in F. M. Dostoevskii v russkoi kritike (Moscow: Goslitizdat, 1956), 12.

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people; that is to say, the tragic and the comic in his artistic world have the same source.”30 In Demons, Dostoevsky ridicules the profanation of the high ideals of equality and social justice in the milieu of the Russian radicals of the 1860s. He also takes aim at this profanation on a literary plane—the vulgarization of poetic conventions by an illmannered scribbler named Lebyadkin, done in an aggressive and destructive way. Dostoevsky’s fusion of the high and the low, the sinister and the comic, produces a subversive effect. In the Lebyadkin vocal cycle, Shostakovich, too, combines opposites—sublime and profane, real and caricatured, absurd and tragic, monotonous and modulated. The composer’s use of twelve-tone rows puts these contrasts into high relief. A variety of incongruous genres—dance rhythms (a parody of a pompous waltz, various rhythmic pulsations), the solemn pathos of a dithyramb with a sublime coda, and a children’s counting rhyme—intensifies them even further.31 “The Love of Captain Lebyadkin” begins with octaves, which sound empty and angular, thus producing an impression of a drunkard’s hiccups. Numerous repetitions of the same syllables create a sense that Lebyadkin cannot utter a word (“Ари-сто-крати ... ари-сто-крати... ари-сто-кратический ребенок”). The songs are exaggeratedly emotional. They express the captain’s irritation, arrogance, and self-absorption. By creating the mask of an eccentric, tongue-tied, and drunken poet, Shostakovich translates Lebyadkin’s poems into the language of music.

30



Natalia Ashimbaeva, “Comedy between the Poles of Humour and Tragedy, Beauty and Ugliness,” in Reflective Laughter: Aspects of Humour in Russian Culture, ed. Lesley Milne (London: Anthem Press, 2004), 50. On humor in Dostoevsky, see also L. Rozenblium, “Istoriia literatury: Iumor Dostoevskogo,” Voprosy literatury 1 (1999), 141–88.

31



Leie, Pozdnii Shostakovich, 41–42.

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Index

abstraction, 38, 41, 42, 45, 52, 53; abstract (nonobjective) art, 35n5, 52, 53; of moral essences and inner truths, 52; perceptual, 34; “space-time relationship” and, 19 absurdism, 13, 79, 105; Dostoevsky as first Russian absurdist, 149; Imiaslavie and, 105; Petersburg literary school and, 136; “transe-sense” poetry and, 91 Akhmatova, Anna, 149 Akopian, Levon, 131 Alexander Column (Petersburg), 60, 66, 67, 68, 70; angel on top of, 72, 73; height of, 75 Alexandrov, Vladimir, 117–18 Altman, Nathan, 65, 66, 68 Andersen, Hans Christian, 94, 108, 127, 128 “Emperor’s New Clothes, The,” 94 “Little Mermaid, The,” 108, 127, 128 Annenkov, Yury, 69 Antokol’sky, Pavel, 149, 149n24 Antsiferov, Nikolai, 56–57, 57n5 “Dostoevsky’s Petersburg,” 56 “Soul of Petersburg, The,” 56–57 Apocalypse, in Book of Revelation, 26–27 apophatic (negative) theology, 85 Appel Jr., Alfred, 106, 116n18, 117n20, 118, 120, 124-125 Arnheim, Rudolf, 52n26 Ashimbaeva, Natalia, 152n30 authorship, 137, 143, 148 Averintsev, Sergei, 132n7 Bader, Julia, 121 Bakhtin, Mikhail, 14–15, 16

Balzac, Honoré de, 15 Barkov, Ivan, 141 Barlaam, 105, 105n54 Barton, Johnson D., 108n3 Bayley, John, 35n3 Beaumont, Matthew, 32 Belinsky, Vissarion, 21, 111, 147, 151 Bely, Andrei, 37n7 Benois, Aleksandr, 55, 65, 69, 72 Bethea, David, 16 Blok, Aleksandr, 59, 96, 130 Bogdanova, A. F., 111 Bogomolov, Nikolai, 80, 95n32 Boyd, Brian, 121n30, 128n39 Brodsky, Joseph, 149 Bruss, Elizabeth, 121 Brown, Clarence, 108n3 Bryusov, Valery, 106 Buddhism, 83–84, 85, 105 Buddhist Catechism, The, 82, 83, 84 Buks, Nora, 116n19 Bulatovich, Antony, 81, 94, 95, 96, 97, 97n35 Apology of Faith in the Name of God and the Name of Jesus, An, 97n35 Bulgakov, Sergei, 96, 97, 98, 98n35, 100, 105 Philosophy of the Name, 98 Camus, Albert, 79 “Myth of Sisyphus, The,” 79 Carrick, Neil, 78n1, 88n25 Catherine the Great, Empress, 55, 136 Chekhonin, Sergei, 65, 66 Chekhov, Anton, 112–14, 129 “Nervous Breakdown, The,” 112–14 chronotopes, 14, 15, 16, 33 Chukovsky, Kornei, 34

153

Index Connolly, Julian W., 107n2, 121, 121n30 constructivism, 72 Cornwell, Neil, 79n3, 92n29 cosmism, 74 Crimean War, 21n25 crime literature, 21 Dargomyzhsky, Alexander, 112–13, 116, 118, 129 Mermaid, 112–13, 116, 118, 129 Davydov, Sergei, 107n3 Delvig, Anton, 139 Derzhavin, Gavrila, 57n5, 132, 132n7, 138–39, 139n15, 141n17 “God,” 139 “Ode on the Recovery of the Philanthropist,” 141n17 Dickens, Charles, 110n5 Nicholas Nickleby, 110n5 Diment, Galya, 106n2 Dionysius, 89n26 Dobrotoliubie [Greek: Philokalia] (Hesychast texts), 85, 86 Dobrynin, N. P., 25 Dobuzhinsky, Mstislav, 7-8, 10-13, 54–77; on end of Petersburg, 60; exit from the Soviet Union, 71; monumental propaganda and, 65–71; “Devil” drawing (1920), 71–76 “The Face of Petersburg” (1943), 57, 58–59 Flying (1909), 63 Kiss, The (1916), 60, 61 From the Life of Petrograd in 1920, 70 “My Petersburg, Wounded and Deprived” (1920–21), 59 Opening of the Congress, The 70 Petersburg in 1921 (1922), 57–58, 76 Petrograd: At the Champ de Mars (1922) 70 Procession of Smolny (1922), 70 Sketch (1909), 63 Urban Dreams series, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64–65, 72 The Vegetable Garden on the Obvodnyi Canal (1922), 58 Dolinin, Aleksandr, 121 Domrachev, Ilarion, 95 On the Caucasus Mountains, 95 Dorzhiev, Agvan, 83, 84

154

Dostoevsky, Fyodor, 12-33, 54, 56, 62, 76-77, 94, 130-137, 139140, 144n20, 147-152; attitude toward railroads, 22–24; as “freethinker,” 144n20; fusion of comedy and tragedy in, 151–52; road chronotope and, 15, 33; Soviet partial ban on, 150 Crime and Punishment, 94 Demons, 13, 130-148, 150, 152 Idiot, The, 12-33, 94, 132-133, 135 Notes from the Underground, 16n9 “Petersburg Dreams in Verse and Prose,” 62 White Nights, 12, 54-55, 76-77 Winter Notes on Summer Impressions, 22-23 Writers Diary, 21, 23 Druskin, Iakov, 79, 80, 82, 86, 94n30, 100 Eikhenbaum, Boris, 15, 16n7, 119, 119n24 Elizabeth, Empress, 55, 136–37, 147 Ellis, Havelock, 83 Emerson, Caryl, 10n2, 15n1 Epshtein, Mikhail, 139n Erberg, Konstantin, 55 Evgeniia Ostroukhova, 80 Evreinov, Nikolai, 65 Storming of the Winter Palace, The, 65–66 fable genre, 142–44 Fedotov, Georgy, 59 Fet, Afanasy, 133n9 Fey, Laurel, 10n2 Flaubert, Gustave, 15, 118–19 Fleishman, Lazar, 91, 92n29 Florensky, Pavel, 83, 96–97, 97n35, 98, 100, 105 folk culture/religion, 37, 103, 127 Fomichev, Sergey, 115 Fonvizin, Denis, 141n17 “Word on the Recovery of His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince and the Sovereign Grand Duke Pavel Petrovich in 1771,” 141n117 Fowler, Douglas, 126n36 Freeman, Michael, 18, 18n12-13, 19, 21n23, 32n37

Index Gasparov, M. L., 138n14 Geldern, James von, 65–66 Ginzburg, Lidiia, 149 Glikman, Isaak, 151, 151n27 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 15 Gogol, Nikolai, 80, 132n7, 136; Dead Souls, 94, 135 Gamblers, 151 Nose, The, 150 Notes of a Madman, 106 “Tale of Captain Kopeikin,” 135 Golden Fleece (art/literary magazine), 72 Goldsmith, Oliver, 15 Goncharov, Ivan, 15 Gorky, Maxim, 57, 100 Greek novels, ancient, 15, 17 Gregory of Sinai, Saint, 90 Gumilev, Nikolai, 95 Gurko, Elena, 84n17, 85n18, 97n35, 98n35 Gusarova, A. P., 60, 60n11 Harrington, Ralph, 19n17 Hesychast prayer tradition, 84, 85, 88, 89, 105 Hollander, Robert, 26, 27n32 Holquist, Michael, 14n1 Huysmans, J.-K., 20, 20n21-22 À rebours, 20 Huyssen, Andreas, 20n22 Iampolskii, Mikhail, 78n1, 83n13, 104n52 icon painting, 38 Ilf, Ilya, 96 Twelve Chairs, The, 96 Imiaslavie [“name praising”] (Onomatodoxy), 81, 84–86, 94, 96, 103–105; motifs in Kharms’s 1931 poems, 87–91; persecution of, 99–102; Philosophy of the Name (Bulgakov) and, 97–99; role of Bulatovich in resurgence of, 95; Russian monasteries on Mount Athos and, 95–96 industrialization, 18, 21 Industrial Revolution, 18 “Influence of Railway Travelling on Public Health, The” (report, 1862), 32

Iofan, Boris, 67–68 Jahn, Gary R., 16n7 James, William, 82-83 Varieties of Religious Experience, The, 82 Jean Paul (Jean Paul Richter), 15 Jesus Prayer, 84–85, 90 Joyce, James, 46 Kabbalah, 78, 105 Kalashnikov, Petr, 100, 102, 103 Karamzin, Nikolai, 109–10, 113, 132, 148 “Poor Liza,” 109–10, 113, 132 Katsis, L. F., 78n1, 83n13 Kaverin, Veniamin, 149 Kharms, Daniil: arrested for “mysticism,” 102–3; books on religious topics in archive of, 81–84; Imiaslavie doctrine and, 84–91, 100–101; pseudonyms used by, 104; spiritual interests of, 78–81, 105; “Certain Monk Was Standing in a Desert, A” 91–97 “Glory to the Joy,” 91 “I Am a Phenomenon Quite Out of the Ordinary” (notebooks/diaries of Kharms), 95n32 “Knight, The” 135–36 “Morning, Awakening of Elements,” 88n22 “Old Woman, The” 84 “One Day God Struck Me,” 91; “Prayer before Sleep, March 28, 1931, at 7 o’clock in the Evening,” 87–88, 91 Khlebnikov, Velimir, 104 Khodasevich, Vladislav, 132 Khoruzhii, Sergei, 97, 97n34, 103, 104, 104n49 Kobrinskii, Aleksandr, 80n7, 91n28, 103, 104n50 Korsh, Fyodor, 112 Krylov, Ivan, 132, 132n7, 143-144 Kustodiev, Boris, 66, 69 La Fontaine, Jean de, 143 Lancéray, Eugene, 55 Langer, Susanne K., 52 Lebedinsky I. F., 25

155

Index Why It Is Dangerous to Ride Russian Railroads, 25 Leie, Tatyana, 130 Lenin, Vladimir, 70 Leont’ev, Konstantin, 46–47 Lermontov, Mikhail, 108, 109n4, 128, 130 Hero of Our Time, The, 108–109, 128 Leskov, Nikolai, 21–22 Pearl Necklace, The, 22 Levaia, Tamara, 130 Lipavsky, Leonid, 100, 101 Lomonosov, Mikhail, 57n5, 132, 137138, 139n15, 147; “Ode to the Arrival of Her Majesty the Great Empress Elizaveta Petrovna, from Moscow to Petersburg in 1742 on the Occasion of Her Coronation,” 137 Lopukhina, Eudoxia, 54 Losev, Aleksei, 97-98, 98n35, 99, 99n37, 100, 104-105 Dialectics of Myth, The, 99 Philosophy of the Name, 98 Thing and Name, 98 Lossky, Nikolai, 100 Lotman, Yuri, 55n2 Lunarcharsky, Anatoly, 75 Luxemburg, A., 121 MacDonald, Malcolm, 131 Maikov, Vasilii, 141n17 “Ode on the Recovery of the Crown Prince and the Sovereign Grand Duke Pavel Petrovich, the Heir of the Russian Throne,” 141n17 Malevich, Kazimir, 9-12, 36-42, 53, 88 Laziness as a Real Truth of the Human Condition, 88 manifesto of Suprematism, 37 Painterly Realism: Boy with Knapsack— Color Masses in the Fourth Dimension, 39, 40 Red Square—Painterly Realism of a Peasant Woman in Two Dimensions, 36, 37, 38 Suprematist Painting: Rectangle and Circle, 42 Malich, Marina, 83

156

Mandelstam, Osip, 96 “Even Now on Athos, the Miracle Tree Grows,” 96 Marchenkov, Vladimir, 99n37 Marshak, Samuil, 101, 101n41 Martinsen, Deborah, 132n7 Marx, Karl, 19 Meier, Tamara, 101 Mérimée, Prosper, 122 “Carmen,” 122 Metropolitan Ilarion (Alfeev), 80n7, 84n17, 98n35 Metropolitan Sergii, 99 Meyendorff, John, 105n54 Meyer, Priscilla, 106n2, 108n3 Miatlev, Ivan, 132n7 Michelangelo, 130 Miller, Robin Feuer, 16n9 Milner-Gulland, Robin R., 79, 80n4 Mochulsky, Konstantin, 132, 133n8, 140n16 Moller-Sally, Betsy F., 62 Nabokov, Vladimir, 10, 13, 56n4, 106109, 114-129 Gift, The, 128-129 “Lilith,” 114–15 Lolita, 13, 106-109, 114-129; hunting theme, 118; Lolita’s disappearance and the novel’s open-endedness, 118–128; nymph and nymphet, 114–18 Nakhimovsky, Alice Stone, 78n1, 80 Napoleon I, 48, 93, 94 nature, 16n9, 18, 20, 34 Nechaev, Sergei, 147 Nekrasov, Nikolai, 22 “Railroad, The,” 22 neoclassicism, 132, 134, 146; in architecture, 75; epistle in, 137; fable genre and, 142; odes and, 138 Nesterenko, Evgeny, 131 New Athos Monastery, 99, 101, 102 New Life (newspaper), 66–67 nihilists, 147 Nijinsky, Vaslav, 72 Nikolaevskaya railroad, 21, 25 Nordau, Max, 32 Novyi Zhurnal (The New Review), 114

Index OBERIU (Association for Real Art), 81, 91, 100, 103; “Conversations” (1933–34), 101; Lebyadkin poems and, 148–150 October Revolution (1917), 12, 57, 60, 69 Ogarev, Nikolai, 133 “Student, The,” 133 OGPU (Soviet secret police), 81, 100, 102–103 Oleinikov, Nikolai, 149, 150 “Cockroach, The,” 149 Olesha, Yuri, 51–52n23 “Liompa,” 51–52n23 Orthodox Christianity, 52, 99, 105. See also Imiaslavie Orwin, Donna, 16n9 Ostroukhova, Evgeniia, 80, 104 Ostroumova-Lebedeva, Anna, 55 Palamas, Gregory, 85, 85n18, 97, 105 Panteleev, Leonid, 101n41 Parthé, Kathleen, 37n7 Petersburg (Petrograd, Leningrad): architecture of, 55; duality of Petersburg myth, 54; General Staff Building, 68; Mariinsky Theater, 72, 112; monumental propaganda in early Soviet period, 65–71, 68–69; as necropolis, 55–60; Palace Square, 64, 65, 69, 72; Peter and Paul Cathedral, 58, 73, 75; “Petersburg text of Russian literature,” 55; removal of monuments from, 65; urban dreams of emerging new city, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64–65; Winter Palace, 66, 67, 68. See also Alexander Column Peter the Great, 54, 55, 65, 67n22, 73, 137 Petrov, Yevgeny, 96 Twelve Chairs, The, 96 Petrov-Vodkin, Kuzma, 66, 67, 69 Pisemsky, Aleksey, 22 Plato, 85n18, 97-98 Platonov, Andrei, 149n22 Poe, Edgar Allan, 108 “Annabel Lee,” 108 point of view, 50–51

“Prayer of the Heart” tradition, 80, 95 Proffer, Carl, 106, 120 Proust, Marcel, 124 Fugitive, La [Albertine disparue], 124 Pugachev, Yemelyan, 69 Punin, Nikolai, 74, 75 Pushkin, Alexander, 55, 107, 130; Bronze Horseman, The, 54, 55, 57n5, 65 Eugene Onegin, 106 The Gypsies, 106 Water-Nymph, The, 13, 106–18, 124-29 Rabelais, François, 15 railroads: aggression and violence associated with, 17, 33; in Anna Karenina, 15–16; anxiety and fear triggered by, 17–20; controversial views of, 20–25; Dostoevsky’s attitude toward, 22–24; railroad chronotope, 16, 33; “space-time relationship” of, 19; Tolstoy’s antipathy toward, 24–25 Raphael, Sanzio, 53 Razin, Stenka, 69, 151 realism, 34, 53 Rembrandt, Harmenszoon van Rijn, 53 Resurrection (Voskresenie), philosophical circle, 100 Richter, Jean Paul, 15 romance, chivalric, 15 Roman novels, ancient, 15, 17 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 15, 16n9 Rubens, Paul, 53 Rublev, Andrei, 89n26 Rusakova, Esther, 91 Russian Archive, The, 112 Russo-Turkish War (1877), 21n25 Sazhin, Valery, 11, 81, 81n9-10, 101n40, 103n45 Seeker of Incessant Prayer, The (1904), 82, 84, 85, 88, 90 Seifrid, Thomas, 98n35 Seraphim of Sarov Brotherhood (Bratstvo Serafima Sarovskogo), 100 serfdom, abolition of (1861), 21 Serman, Ilya, 149 sex/sexual violence, 30, 31

157

Index Shakespeare, William, 118–19 Shalyapin, Fyodor, 116 Shapiro, Gavriel, 56n4 Shchuko, Vladimir, 69 Shklovsky, Viktor, 75, 106, 129 Shostakovich, Dmitrii, 13, 130-133, 136, 138, 148, 150-152 Execution of Stepan Razin, The, 151 Fifteenth Quartet, 151 Four Verses of Captain Lebyadkin, 13, 130-13; “The Ball for the Benefit of Governesses,” 133, 144–48; “The Cockroach,” 133, 142–44; “The Love of Captain Lebyadkin,” 133–142, 152; “The Radiant Personality,” 133 Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, 150 Nose, The, 131, 150 Seventh Symphony, 151 Suite on Verses by Michelangelo, 13, 130 Shtukenberg, A. I., 111 Shukurov, D. L., 80, 100 Somov, Konstantin, 55 space, 18, 30, 32, 33; interior spaces, 15; relativism of, 19; shaken stability of, 19; “space-time consciousness,” 19; time’s flow in, 14; time-space, 15, 17 Stalin, Joseph, 84, 86, 99, 150 Stanislavsky, K. S., 71-72 Stendhal, 15 Stravinsky, Igor, 72 Petrushka, 72 “stream of consciousness” technique, 46 Sumarokov, Aleksandr, 132, 134, 136, 138n14 “Legless Soldier, The,” 134 Suprematism, 37 Suvorin, A. S., 112 synergy, 90, 97 Takho-Godi, A. A., 98n36, 99 Tatlin, Vladimir, 74, 75, 74n30-31 Monument to the Third International (1920), 74–76 Tekiner, Christina, 121 Tenishev School, 100 Tennyson, Alfred, 20 “Locksley Hall,” 20

158

Theophan the Recluse, 86 Theophanes the Greek, 89n26 time, 18, 30, 32, 33; biographical time, 15; flow of, 14; shaken stability of, 19; time-space, 15, 17 Toker, Leona, 121 Tolstoy, Leo, 29, 32–33, 53; antipathy to railroads, 24–25; dreams and hallucinations in, 45-47; inner speech and vision of characters, 43–47; Malevich’s abstract images and, 34–38, 36, 39, 40, 42, ; open-air revelations (contemplation of sky) in, 48– 52; railroad theme in, 15; road chronotope and, 15; “stream of consciousness” technique and, 46; Anna Karenina, 15, 16n7, 24, 48, 119 Childhood, 16n9 Cossacks, The 48, 51n21 “Death of Ivan Ilych, The,” 49–50 “Devil, The,” 38 “Father Sergius,” 50 The Kreutzer Sonata, 12–33 “Lucerne,” 16n9 “Master and Man,” 50 “Memoirs of a Madman,” 35–36, 37n7, 38, 43 “Morning of the Landowner,” 48 War and Peace, 16n9, 38–49 What Is Art?, 31 Tolstoy, V. P., 66, 67n21 Toporkov, A. L., 78n1 Toporov, V. N., 73 “transe-sense” poetry, 91, 94, 102, 103 Tsarskosel’skaya railroad, 25 Tsvetaeva, Marina, 96, 130 “Your Name,” 96 Tufanov, Aleksandr, 102 Tugendhold, Yakov, 55 Turgenev, Ivan, 24, 147–48 Fathers and Sons, 147 Tyrsa, Nikolai, 67 Ulanovskaia, Bella, 149 “Unexpected Joy” (Mother of God icon), 89 Uspensky, Boris, 139n Varshavskaya railroad, 25

Index Veltman, A. F., 111 Vindt, Lidiia, 143–44 Vinogradov, Viktor, 45–46 Vishnevetskii, Igor, 104 Voronich, Nikolai, 102 Vvedensky, Aleksandr, 78n1, 83n13, 101–3 Westernizers, Russian, 147 Wolmar, Christian, 17–18 World of Art, 55, 57, 69, 72, 76 World War I, 40, 96 Wrangel, Nikolai, 55

Yasnaya Polyana, 16n9, 24–25 Yuvachev, Ivan Pavlovich, 83 Zabolotsky, Nikolai, 149, 149n24 Zamiatin, Evgenii, 37n7 Zholkovskii, Aleksandr, 128 Zhukovskii, Vassily, 128 “Undina,”128 Zoshchenko, Mikhail, 151 Zuev, Dmitry, 111-12 Zoshchenko, Mikhail, 151