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Dostoyevski and the religion of suffering 4.

By Eugène-Melchior de Vogüé

Part Four.
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Ron Arad's plex-boxed limited edition of The Idiot (2006).

AFTER THIS BOOK HIS talents rose no higher. He gave a few more strokes of his mighty wings, but always in a circle among the mists of a darkening sky – like a huge bat in the twilight. The Idiot and The Possessed, and especially The Brothers Karamazoff, are spun out to intolerable lengths, and the “play” in each is not more than a pleasing embroidery which lends itself to all the author’s theories, and into which he stitches all the types previously treated or imagined in the hell of his fantasy. It is a Temptation of St. Anthony painted [sic] by Callot. The reader is annoyed by a crowd of “shadow pictures” rushing about through the plot; big, cunning, chattering, inquisitive children perpetually occupied in criticizing other people’s consciences. The entire novel is no more than a dialogue between two tub-thumpers or “brain-pickers” who with the craftiness of a Red Indian try to get at each other’s secrets.

These generally relate to a plot for committing some crime or to a love affair. The conversations recall the proceedings of the Inquisition under Ivan the Terrible or Peter the Great; it is the same mingling of terror, duplicity and loyalty still remaining in the race. At other times, the disputants try to penetrate the maze of their philosophic and religious beliefs, and, like two doctors of divinity at the Sorbonne, assail each other with dialectics, at times subtle, or rude. Some of the words spoken also call to mind the dialogues between Hamlet and his mother, or with Ophelia and Polonius. For two hundred years socialists have been discussing the question as to whether Hamlet was really made when he spoke as he did, but whichever way the question is answered, the reply in either case is applicable to Dostoyevsky’s heroes. It has often been said that the author and the characters who reflect him were simply as mad as Hamlet.

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