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Dostoevsky (2) - Henri Troyat
Troyat, H. (1985). Dostoevsky (2). Barcelona, Spain. Salvat Publishers.
DOSTOYEVSKY (Volume Two) SALVAT LIBRARY OF GREAT BIOGRAPHIES DOSTOEVSKY (Volume Two) HENRITROYAT SALVAT Version of the original French work: Dostoevsky. published by Artheme Fayard, Paris. Translated from French by Irene Andresco, provided by Ediciones Destino. The illustrations whose source is not indicated come from the Salva! Archive. © Salvo! Editores, S.A.. Barcelona. 1985. © Artheme Fayard, Paris. © Ediciones Destino, Barcelona. ISBN: 84-345-8145-0 (complete work). ISBN: 84-345-8175-2. Legal deposit: NA-131-1985 (2) Published by Salvat Editores, S.A., Mallorca 41-49 - Barcelona. Printed by Gráficas Estella. Estella (Navarra), 1985. Printed in Spain Index Page THIRD PART 9. The Return 193 10. The disappointing Europe 204 11. Memories of the subsoil 219 12. Crime and punishment 230 13. Anna Grigorievna 240 14. The passion for the game 248 15. The Idiot 265 16. The Possessed 275 FOURTH PART 17. The teenager 305 18. Diary of a writer 318 19. The Brothers Karamazov 328 20. The celebrations in honor of Pushkin 337 21. The end 346 22. Post mortem 353 Chronology 367 Testimonials 371 Bibliography 373 Part Three 9. The return A New World welcomes Dostoevsky on his arrival in St. Petersburg. The Russia of Alexander 11 has very little to do with the Russia of Nicholas l. The emperor has declared to the representatives of the Muscovite nobility that it is better to approach from above the suppression of the service, than to wait for it to begin to dissolve itself from aba- jo. In 1860, the manumission of the serfs is only a matter of months. A Central Committee, under the presidency of the sovereign, studies the modalities of a liberation without ransom premiums to the lords, and with the possibility for the peasants to acquire in absolute ownership the bonds they have cultivated. Other major liberal reforms are also being studied. The press is once again relatively independent. Censorship is relaxed. Corporal punishment is reproached. There is talk of giving a totally public character to the sessions of the courts. These hasty reforms, after centuries of social immobility, inflamed public opinion. The nobility, stripped of their privileges, was clearly hostile to government initiatives. But the progressive media supported only that the courageous work of Alexander 11. This unexpected realization of their own program only satisfied them half-heartedly. The dropper policy stoked his im- patience. Having awakened the thirst for humanitarian progress, the empress could not quench it without renouncing his own prerogatives. Every month, the demands of the radicals exceeded the intentions of the central power. Since they touched the old building of the tsars, it was so possible to destroy it at once. Everyone believed themselves called to discuss and resolve matters of domestic policy. And everyone needed quick and reliable reports. There was no time to think anymore. They swallowed the news of the day `raw`. They caught up in the same way that a hungry man is satiated... In this heated climate, the press played a prominent role. It was no longer just a means of distraction, but of information. Progressive periodicals - The Contemporary, The Russian Word and, in Lon- dres, Herzen`s leaf, The Bell - denounced the abuses of the same regime and called for a comprehensive political change. That is why, far from apa- it supposes a series of reforms, not copied from those of Occi- dente but taken from the old Russian historical background. The Slavic people possess an ingrained originality that is of careful interest to serve. Reactionary Slavophiles are more Muscovite than Russians. Progressive liberals are more European than Russian. Between these two extreme positions, an intermediate one is the only good one. And Dostoevsky wants to place himself in it. However, they do not understand him, they do not want to understand him. For the students, Dostoevsky is the former prisoner, the martyr of the li- bertad. Later, when he is asked to read in literary evenings some passages of Memories of the House of the Dead, it is not the writer who will be applauded, but the supporter. The fame they create is based on a misunderstanding. Dostoevsky is not his own. And he suffers because he is loved for ideas he has never had, for an ideal he has never defended. To Strajov he will go so far as to say how much he was disgusted to read aloud certain passages from Memories of the House of the Dead: `...As if I were always complaining to the public! As if I always complained!... That`s not right!...!` This false situation is unbearable. It was imperative to leave things at their point. Dostoevsky and his brother Mikhail decided to found a newspaper. Actually, the idea of the newspaper dates back to 1858, and its program of action was approved by censorship on October 31 of that year. But it was only in 1860-61 that, under the thrust of imperative moral necessities, the Dostoevsky brothers reconsidered their project and realized it. The newspaper, or rather the monthly magazine, is titled Vremia (The Time). The principal conductor is Mikhail Dostoevsky; it is responsible for all administrative and economic matters. Fyodor Dostoevsky is in charge of the artistic, literary and political direction of the new organ. It is he who drafts the manifesto of presentation, which is a clear defense of Russian libe- ralism: `We have finally understood that we too are a well-determined nation, original to the highest degree, and that our duty is to create for ourselves a new way of life, our special way of life, our own way of life, taken from our soil, from our soul and from our popular traditions.` -194- And in issue 1 of the magazine, which appeared in January 1861, the re- dactor specifies that the magazine cannot be assimilated either with those of the oc- cidentales or with those of the Slavophiles: `The public has understood that with the Westerners we insisted on putting on a disguise that did not go and that we were torn everywhere; and that with the Slavophiles we conceived the poetic dream of resurrecting Russia following the ideal conception of past customs...` Thanks to this courageous clarification, El Tiempo is exactly placed between two fires. Slavophiles and Westerners agree to attack it. However, readers flow and the circulation is increased, following a respectable pace. Dostoevsky obtained the collaboration of Turgenev, Ostrovsky, Nekrasov, the critic Apollon Grigoriev and the young philosopher Strajov. To attract the public, Fyodor Mikhailovich does not hesitate to publish The Crimes of Lacenaire and passages from the Memoirs of Casa- nova. Dostoevsky does considerable work. He writes fantastic stories, critical articles, commissions folletines, corrects them, composes his page eagerly... He works almost exclusively at night. Around eleven o`clock, in the silence of the house, he settles before an samovar, opens his icy sheets of paper and starts writing, drinking cold tea as concentrated as licorice juice. At five o`clock he goes to bed and sleeps until two o`clock in the afternoon. But this regime is above its strength. Three months after the publication of the first issue of El Tiempo, he falls ill. Of course it is replenished soon. But his epileptic seizures are becoming more frequent. One or two per week. Dostoevsky senses the proximity of the attacks. All their doubts, all their desires are reabsorbed into an impression of a higher alliance. It is tranquil, free from any worries, prepared for the brilliant joys of the afterlife. `But these radiant moments,` he writes in The Idiot, `were only the prelude to the second ending, the one to which the attack happened immediately. This second phase was undoubtedly indescribable... What does it matter that it is a disease if in that minute I have a feeling, unheard of and unsuspected until then, of fullness, mediation, appeasement and fusion with the beginning of a prayer, with the highest synthesis of life...` `For a few moments,` Fio said, `Mikhailovich told his friends, `I know a happiness that is impossible to conceive in a normal state, and that others do not even imagine. I experience a complete harmony between the world and me, and this feeling is so strong, so soft, that for a few minutes of this joy ten years, and perhaps even a lifetime, could be given.` When Fiador Mikhailovich reached the extreme of this mystical ecstasy, the spasm shook him, he fell to the ground howling and drooling. Strajov, who had attended an attack by Dostoevsky, describes it to us thus: `He stopped for a moment, as if looking for a word to express a pen- samiento. His mouth was open. I looked at him very carefully: I was sure that he would utter extraordinary words. Suddenly, a strange, prolonged, absurd sound came out of his half-open lips and fell unconsciously in the middle of the room.` -195- Sometimes he would get hurt when he fell. His face was marked with crowned plates. When he came to his senses, his muscles were tired from the cramps and his head was empty. He had the impression, according to his own account, that he was guilty of some terrible crime and that nothing in the world could redeem him from his guilt. Was it the death of his father, or that of the drunkard Isaiev, that tortured him like this? This thirst for punishment has dominated Dostoevsky`s entire intimate life. After his attacks, it was not uncommon for Fyodor Mikhailovich to lose his memory for a few days. He was in a bad mood. He wrote with difficulty. In his notebook, during the years 1862-63, the following indications of a dreadful laconism are found: «Epileptic seizures: »April 1 - violent, »August 1 - weak, »November 7 - medium, »January 7 - violent, »March 2 - medium.» In these deplorable conditions Dostoevsky wrote his first great novel after the prison, Humiliated and Offended, and finished the Memories of the House of the Dead. The publication of Humiliated and Offended began in January 1861, in the first issue of El Tiempo. This book is a curious mix of novelistic artifices in the style of Eugene Sue and personal observations. It is a disguised confession and, at the same time, a social follie novel. Ivan Pietrovich (Vania) is in love with Natacha Ijmieniev. She loves Aliocha, the son of Prince Valkorski, but a displeasureThe procedure separates the two families. It doesn`t matter: Natacha decides to donate her father`s home and `live her life` with the young and fickle Aliocha. So far, the novel is developed according to the lamentable style of the sentimental novels for fashion newspapers. But it is enough for Dostoevsky to touch on a theme so that it becomes attractive to us, suddenly, like a confession that is torn from him. Vania, natacha`s wretched lover, is a young writer whose first book has a great outlet. And this first book resembles, to the point of confusing us, Poor People. `I staged a modest official, a wretched, even a little foolish...`, vania declares in Humiliated and Offended. (Isn`t this Makar Dievuchkin`s portrait of Poor People?) `Why has this young man died of tuberculosis?` asks little Nelly. (Isn`t it the student Pokrovski, from Poor People?) Finally, Vania`s manuscript falls into the hands of `critic B.`, who has `enjoyed it like a child`, just as Bie-linski once enjoyed with the reading of Poor People. The resemblance between Vania and Dosto-yevsky is noticeable from the first pages of the book. But there`s more. Vania, upon learning of Natacha`s passion for Alio-cha, helps her beloved flee with the young prince and is in charge of protecting their union. She will bring news of Natacha to her parents. It will help -196- Mikhail Mikhailovich Dostoevsky. to the young couple in all difficult circumstances. He will be a benevolent guardian angel. This benevolence of the suitor defeated by his rival is uniquely reminiscent of the attitude of Fiador Mikhailovich towards Maria Dimitrievna and master Viergunov. `I confess that all these gentlemen, who take their greatness of soul to the extreme of embracing their girlfriend`s lover and being her recadero, I do not like at all. Either they have not loved, or they have only loved with the ca- beza, and only writers more familiar with cerebral love than with the heart have been able to invent them...` This is the opinion of the sharp critic Dobroliubov on Vania`s complacency. This episode seems to him a purely literary invention of the author; however, Dos-toyevsky has never been more sincere than transcribing it. `Üs I`ll fix everything, everything, appointments and everything... I will transmit your letters to you. Why wouldn`t I?` exclaims Vania. Natacha replies: `I have betrayed you and you have forgiven me and you only think about my happiness... I would have been happy with you, my friend... I love Aliocha with a foolish love, but I think I love you even more as a friend. I would not know how to live without you, you are necessary to me, and I also need your heart of gold!....` It seems that elms Maria Dimitrievna thanking Dostoevsky for his self-denial and begging him not to abandon her, but refusing at the same time to leave Viergunov, lamenting, sobbing like a hysterical in some furnished room of Kuznietsz. -197 - Be that as it may, this book points to an undoubted setback in Dostoevsky`s work. The novel vacillates between two poorly welded intrigues: Natacha`s and Nelly`s. Situations are forced. The characters don`t live. Vania, who tells the story of Humiliated and Offended, has the unstable, comfortable and blurred character of the `typical narrator`. Na-tacha is a Dostoevsky-style lover -first epoch-. He loves Aliocha, who only loves her half-heartedly, but also loves Vania, and suffers because it makes her suffer, being at the same time unable to give up the secret pleasure of making her suf.rir, etc. She is the spiritual sister of the Va- rienka of Poor People and the Nastienk of the village of Stepanchiko- vo, all of them intelligent, sensitive and completely colorless girls. Aliocha`s father - Prince Valkorski - is a traitor of me-lodrama taken to the extreme to the absurd. Aliocha, on the other hand, reveals itself more interesting. This character of ato- londrado, always at fault and always forgiven, irritates and retains the attention of the reader. Aliocha is a kind of unconscious and well-educated scoundrel. He recognizes his mistakes and regrets it, but that repentance does not cure him. He is indecisive. It`s lightweight. It completely lacks weight: `What do you want? He tells Natacha talking about another girl. When I am with you I have the desire to talk about her, and with her, to talk about you...` And his grief is so burning, so sympathetic, that you can`t hold a grudge against him for his rudeness. Did Dostoevsky want to paint under the features of Alyocha Valkors-ki to the master Viergunov, his soft and weeping rival of Kuznietz? Maybe. But the effigy of the seducer is treated here with a strange sympathy. As if Dostoevsky had already forgiven him! High above all these figures should be placed the enchanting silhouette of Nelly. It is the heart, the succulent almond of the book. But, to tell the truth, the adventure of this tuberculous girl that Va- nia welcomes into her home, and who turns out to be the natural daughter of Prince Valkors-ki, smells too much like a sentimental novel, one of those that continue in the next issue. But the very character of little Nelly is a masterpiece of delicacy and purity. Nelly is an orphan educated by screaming and slapping by an unbearable harpy. However, she is grateful to this woman who tortures her because she adopted her and had her at home. Nelly would like to pay him the favor that the other has done him. He would always like to pay, to pay with his person, with his back, with his love. When Vania tears her from the hands of old Bubnov and takes her home, cares for her and comforts her, Nelly feels true adoration for him. But, with stubborn pride, it is forbidden to confess his love to him. She is proud, wild, elusive like a gazelle. Her misfortunes have made her excessively brave: `What stubbornness of this devil! -exclaims the Bubnov-. To be beaten or left alone, will never open her mouth; as if I had it full of water.` And Nelly herself says, `They will quarrel with me and I will shut up on purpose; they will beat me and I will keep quiet. For nothing I will cry; and they will be even more enraged because I don`t cry!` It hates Natacha, just because Vania -198- actively deals with the intruder. However, when her `savior` tells her the misfortunes of the unfortunate young woman, Nelly, the tubercu- losa girl, she will set to work to give a feeling of happiness to which she has `suffered a lot`. Then, once her work is accomplished, she will die, exhausted, scorched by her love. The criticism was harsh for humiliated and offended. `Mr. Dostoevsky will not be bothered if I declare that his nove- la is, in a way, `below art criticism," Dobroliubov wrote. `The implausible can never produce an artistic effect,` Kucheliev-Bezborodko wrote. All this goes beyond the limits of the artificial... The greatest flaw of this novel is that the author has not described, painted or illuminated a single living figure, a single really true type...` `The most serious thing,` Zarin said, `is that nothing is found in this novel.and on which to rely. It feels like someone is groaning about something. But who? And why?...` Apolon Grigoriev, a critic for El Tiempo, says that the characters in Humiliated and Offended are `mannequins` and `walking books.` Dostoevsky replied to this censorship: `Since we needed a novel for the new magazine, whose success was inestimable to me, I proposed a work in four parts. I assured my brother that I had long had a plan in place, which was false... I recognize perfectly well that, in my novel, it is mannequins that act and not living beings; traveling books, and not characters animated by art. (For this I needed time to mature my ideas in my spirit and in my heart.) This has resulted in a `barbaric` work which, however, contains some fifty pages of which I am proud.` For the rest, the fulminating success of the Memories of the House of the Dead soon rescues the failure of Humiliated and Offended. The critics unanimously recognize this time the immense gifts of the writer. `It has been a long time since we had found in our literature a work as exciting to the reader as the Memories of the House of the Dead,` Milyukov writes. Dostoevsky is compared to Dante. The description of the baths is praised, where they are agitated, in a nauseating steam, naked deformed, full of scars. The episode of the show is cited in which the chained inmates represent a comedy before their companions, with shaved heads. And also the scenes of the hospital, of the flogging, of the departure... An official of the Censorship Committee initially believed that he should demand modifications to the text: `Will not unintelligent readers interpret the highly humanitarian action of the government in prison cases as a weakening of the punishment intended for very serious crimes?` writes this unknown bureaucrat. Dostoevsky had already prepared an insert to explain that the inmates were disgusted by rye bread - of deserved fame in the country - for the lack - 199 - of freedom. But on November 12, 1860, the Central Directorate of Censorship, ignoring the considerations of the Committee, authorized the publication of the Memories of the House of the Dead, `on the sole condition that certain decent expressions be suppressed.` The publication of Humiliated and Offended and the Memories of the House of the Dead in El Tiempo conquered new readers for the magazine. In 1861, the number of subscribers rose to 4,302. Mikhail had liquidated his cigarette business to devote himself to the magazine. The collaborators took from him and Fyodor Mikhailovich the general guidelines of their articles. A courage, a laudable faith, animated this group of young writers and critics. They worked for Russia. They worked for the world. However, around them the political events were precipitated. On February 19, the edict of Alexander 11 definitively freed the serfs of the empire. But the reform had taken a long time. Too much had been said about it so that it could already satisfy public opinion. And as Chelgunov says, `when there was only 200 left, Alexander JI`s social reform resulted in the emergence of the kulaks, or rich peasants. However, these were a minority, and social discontent continued. drafting the statutes of February 19, the company could think and in something else.` The radicals were impatient to act. Herzen, the exiled re-volutionary, writes in his London newspaper, La Cam- pana: `When the generals and officials began to apply the new law to the people, they realized that freedom was only given to them in words, but not in fact... A new state of servitude has been defined for the people` (July 1, 1861). · And, on November 1 of the same year, he wrote: `Listen: from every corner of our immense homeland, from the Don to the Ural, from the Volga to the Dnieper, the groan increases, the sublevation is prepared. It is the first roar of the wave that begins to boil and that will bring many storms after a depressing calm...` Herzen`s newspaper is banned by the government, but it penetrates clandestinely and circulates from hand to hand. The youth of the universities is in full effervescence. He wants a new order. Which one? She herself doesn`t know exactly. But this is of no importance. - 201 - In November 1861 the so-called `students` affair` breaks out. Liberal ideas had risen to the plate for college students. They read revolutionary sheets, held rallies, organized libraries of forbidden works, created social relief boxes, and edited liberal compilations. They even ended up serving a secret court to try their fellow men. This small `co- cina` outside of official politics distracted them from their studies. The an- fiteatros were places of discussion and not of teaching. Nothing is learned anymore. They no longer had anything to learn. The university authority requested from the emperor a decree prohibiting meetings and commissions. The students raised a strong protest against this measure. The police had to intervene to silence the street groups of rioters. They were detained and released two or three times a day. They were killed for locking the leaders in the peter and paul fortress. They loved this sudden celebrity. Naturally, the whole city only spoke of its value and a large crowd crowded into the prison at the times set to visit the detainees. Mi- jail Dostoyevsky sent the young people, on behalf of the magazine El Tiempo, a large roast beef, a jar of cognac and a bottle of wine. When those condemned to exile left the city, an escort of admirers accompanied them beyond the suburbs. Later, they closed the University `for reform`. But the teachers obtained permission to read his lectures in the duma. The students were in charge of organizing the courses and maintaining order. However, this new municipal Universi- dad was also banned, the day after the literary and musical evening of March 2, 1862. On that evening, Professor Pav-lov read an article that, like the rest of the program, had been de-cleared with a tone that completely transformed the meaning. When he came to the phrase: `Since he took power, the emperor, who so happily now reigns over us, found the cup full...`, he was not allowed to explain that Alexander 11 had thrown out of the cup `the few drops of bitterness due to the persistence of servitude`. An enthusiastic ovation cut him off. The next day it became known that the professor had been expelled from St. Petersburg. His colleagues stood in solidarity with him and suspended classes. To end the incident, the government banned public courses. Dostoevsky, who had taken part as a speaker at the March 2 session, will remember him describing the public reading in The Possessed: `The clamor of the public did not allow the last words to be heard... They howled, they applauded. Some ladies even shouted: `Enough! Stop it! It is better not to say it" (The Possessed: The Party). Despite the closure of the municipal university, the agitated revolutionaries continued their work tirelessly. Secret societies swarm. Chernichevski and Utin – collaborators of The Temporary Con – found, together with artillery colonel Lavror, the group Land and Freedom, `to fight against the imperial government, which is the -202 - worst enemy of the people`. Revolutionary proclamations are introduced under the doors of private homes and say: `Long live the Russian social and democratic republic!` And also: `We will only have one cry: `To the axes!` And, then, I kill the members of the imperial party, without pitying them any more than they do now; beat them in public squares, if these scoundrels have the audacity to be seen in them; beat them in their homes, beat them in the narrow alleys of small towns; beat them on the wide streets of big cities; beat them in the towns and villages.` And even more: `One hundred thousand people in Russia oppose the public good; let us flood the streets of the cities with blood and let us not leave a stone standing.` Dostoevsky finds, hooked on the doorknob of his door, one of these appeals `to the young Russia`. This saddens him. `And I, who for a long time had been at internal and affective disagreement with these people and with the spirit of their movement,` Dostoevsky cribe in a Writer`s Diary, suddenly felt sorry and almost ashamed of their clumsiness... This fact was an overwhelming proof: the appalling decline in the level of education and intelligence demonstrated by those proclamations.` Dostoevsky goes to the home of Chernichevsky, a collaborator of The Contemporary and a member of the Earth and Freedom circle, to beg him to bring the authors of the manifesto to their senses. `Perhaps this will not have an effect,` he replies, softly. And besides, these phenomena are inevitable as accessory events.` On May 16, mysterious fires broke out in St. Petersburg. Entire neighborhoods burn for two weeks, despite the efforts of police and firefighters. `I remember,` Strajov writes, `that Fyodor Mikhailovich and I had gone for a walk outside the city to distract ourselves. From the bridge of the ship could be seen in the distance clouds of smoke that rose in three or four points of the city. We disembarked, and ended up in a garden where an orchestra played and the zingaros sang.` The government could not discover the culprits, but suspicions fell on the nihilists of Tierra y Libertad. For this reason, the newspaper El Contemporáneo was suspended for eight days. Soon after, the revolutionary Cher-nichevsky was closed in the Peter and Paul fortress. As for Dostoevsky, exhausted by political events and exhausted by his work as editor-in-chief, he decided to take a trip abroad. Doctors had long advised him to go `to Europe>> to rest for a few months. The trip cost too much- do so that Maria Dimitrievna could accompany her husband. In addition, she did not want to leave her son Pavel, who was preparing an exam to enter the Institute, in St. Petersburg. Dostoevsky scored alone on June 7, 1862. -203- 1st. The disappointing Europa Dostoevsky arrives in Paris around mid-June, but she doesn`t know anyone in the capital, nor does anyone know him. It is not related to Victor Hugo, who published at that time 1-os miserables; neither with Flaubert, who publishes Salambd, nor with Théophile Gautier, who has just published Captain Fracasse; not with Renan, not with Saint-Beuve, not with Taine. He locks himself in a wild solitude. He misses Russia. And their nostalgia soon turns into a bad mood. `Paris is a terribly sad city,` he writes to Strajov. If there had not been such a large number of admirable monuments here, I would have died of boredom...` He was only in France for ten days; however, he already knew that `the Frenchman is calm, honest, courteous, but false and only loves money.` He quickly fled from France to England. In London, Fiador Mi-jailovich meets again the nihilistic Herzen and, although his political opinions are completely opposite, they come to understand each other. `Dostoyevs-ki was in my house yesterday,` Herzen writes to Ogariev. He is a naïve being, a little confused, but very nice. He has an en- tusiast confidence in the Russian people.` As for Dostoevsky, he is `quite tender` towards Her-zen during his visit, but, some years later, he will reproach him for betraying Russia: `Herzen has not emigrated. He was born an emigrant,` he says in a Writer`s Diary. Those who have separated from the village have naturally lost their god. It falls from its weight that Herzen was a socialist, carried only by the logic of ideas and the absence of any feeling towards the homeland... He disowned the family and was, it seems, a good father and a good husband. He reneged on the property, but in the meantime he knew how to take the ...
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