Drakopoulos, Pan: Dostoyevsky
On the Tracks of the Person
In 1321, a short time before his death, Dante Alighieri accomplished his work “The Divine Comedy” offering us the essence of the Medieval mind. In fact, a semeiology of behavior patterns. Man, says the great Florentine, is a behavioral being par excellence, whose activities and attitudes are not hemmed in the present. Man is defined by the uncertain span of his behavior -an uncertainty that is unaware of an end or death, and constitutes the dimensions and functions of the visible and invisible hierarchy of beings.
On April 23, 1564 William Shakespeare saw the daylight for the first time. Being an authentic child of the Renaissance, and its crowning child at that, Shakespeare teaches us how to look at the Comedy of History. He tears at the veil of the world and reveals the sneering and bloody teeth of history. He shows us that Man drags himself on history’s thorny cog-wheel while, at the same time, Man is a thorn of the wheel. He also shows us that all actions of Man serve that cog-wheel whether he agrees or disagrees with it. He has no alternative, not even in a dream since history has already been a phantom.
Shakespeare is the first one who tells us that “message is the meaning;” because no passage or transmission of a message can be through a meaning: the stage of the theater has already been a play within a play. The reading of the world, the probing deeply into reality is a third play within the two others already in action, and so on. It is a mirror mirrored in a mirror reflecting the same reflection always in a never-ending series. Woe to the mirror that thinks itself “real”, or that the real is mirrored in it. What is indeed real is the reflection of the mirror.
Honore de Balzak, a genuine child of the French Revolution, has produced “The Human Comedy”. Here Man is a prisoner of social conditions and relations. His existence depends on his milieu, his social environment: forefathers, family, birth-place, residence-place, date of birth, job, the architecture of the place he lives at, the existing technology, the installed principles, furniture, clothing, physiognomic traits and such like are the elements which dictate the behavior and define the destiny of each man. The environment create the soul of Man, this is what “The Human Comedy” tells us (and Marx could not but applaud it).
On November 11, 1821 Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky was born. All his novels we can collectively call the comedy of Person, and it is in them he points out, and through them he shows us the absolute differentiation of each person. It is a differentiation that cannot be further reduced to a formulation of general operation. We will never find a pattern of thought which would properly explain “The Brothers Kaamazov”, no matter how much we may try. There is no Law able to comprise Miskin, Raskolnikov, Stavrogin, or starets Zosima. There is no generalization to explain Marmeladov, Verhovensky, Varvara Alexeevna, and this is not accidental. He wrote once to his brother Michael: “I am aiming at analysis and not at synthesis… and analyzing one individual I find within it all human beings”. And this is not psychology, it certainly is not. He refused this characterization himself saying: “They call me a psychologist, this is not true”. What he really works on is how to reveal each individual Person in all its dimensions. And it is from that revelation that inevitably derive psychology, and philosophy, and sociology, and political theory because all of them are parts of Person. The pursuit of Person is not theoretical. It is not the product of a method created in Faustian workshops. It is a claim of the soul. Dostoyevsky neither interrogates his heroes nor puts them on a psychoanalytical couch, nor examines his suffering. He just loves all of them. He considers them more important and precious than himself, therefore he doesn’t beautifies them. Raskolnicov’s face is not powdered like Jean Valjean’s. The faces of Dostoyevsky’s heroes are plain, dirty, inelegant, distorted – nevertheless are not less divine. Dostoyevsky’s novels are a series of horrifying confessions. Certainly, their justification does not derive from their actions; Marmeladov is lying while is crying. It is that liar, that rascal whom Jesus loves, and it is that love Marmeladov’s only greatness which Dostoyevsky all shattered worships.