Saturday, June 21, 2008

Visions for the Brothers Karamazov

It is troubling that Smerdyakov is cast as being beyond conflict; does this grant him some sort of redemption by being , oxymoron intended, a depraved innocent?

The other Brothers Karamazov all get a vision. Alyosha sees the wedding at Cana. Mitya sees the babe of the steppe. Ivan's vision. . . Well, does he get a vision? How appropriate that his vision is so disappointing both to himself and to me as a reader. Whether it's all himself talking to himself or Satan talking to him, or as suggested, some other demon pretending to be Satan and thereby mocking Ivan, or Satan pretending to be Ivan's thoughts . . . The vision is absurd, wearying, and tedious. But there is in the vision at least one comprehensible assessment and one comprehensible hope.

The assessment: when the "gentleman" says "You are for ever angry, all you care about is intelligence . . ."

The hope: When Ivan defends: "I forbid you to speak of 'The Grand Inquisitor.'" He says this "crimson with shame." Why? Perhaps the "poem," as he calls it, is his vision, as far as he is able to receive one (only through the medium of his own tenacious, hermetic intellect)? The poem itself is perhaps his kiss from a silenced God.

Pinapple Compote

In Brothers Karamazov, Lise confesses to Alyosha how she fantasizes about eating "pineapple compote" while watching another human being suffer. While she thinks this reveals her depravity (she's rather charmed by this), it may be her first step (maybe the 15th) toward compassion; an awareness of the disjunction between gratifying the flesh while flesh is suffering (e.g. popcorn at a horror movie) reveals sensitivity that can prompt to compassion.