Monday, June 11, 2007

Stinking Zossima

In my wend through Brothers Karamazov, Zossima has just died and his untimely decomposition has caused criticism and alarm (saints were not supposed to decompose, and many considered Zossima en route to sainthood). Alyosha is most alarmed, but Ivan has prepared him for this crisis of faith, in a way, with the story of the Grand Inquisitor, in which Christ calls upon men to love him freely rather than on the basis of mystery, authority, and miracle. Does Alyosha realize this? Perhaps.

I read late to see Alyosha through his crisis of faith; I wanted to see him not give up, and I was not disappointed. It was wonderful to see how Dostoyevsky had Zossima's body perform a miracle by doing the "wrong thing," for it lead Alyosha to Grushenka (the prostitute) in desperation, but while there his grief and love saved him and, equally importantly, removed his aversion to/fear of Grushenka and found him seeing her authentically as a daughter of God despite her failings. In addition, she had a changed view of self, though not perhaps as profound as Alyosha's.

Brothers Karamazov is slow and rich reading, like poetry.


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