Monday, June 02, 2008
Conversations with Satan and Other Ideas
"'you mean "everything is permitted"? Everything is permitted, is that right, is it?'"
--Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov--The Grand Inquisitor
I'm thinking of ideas for upperclassman/grad level classes at the moment and the James Hogg book is helping things along. It is, at times, typically a novel of the 1820s timeframe, and often much better than that typicality. It fits in quite well with timely discussions of religious radicalism. This from page 109:
"'Do you not perceive what mighty powers of mind [mysterious character Gil-Martin] is possessed of' said I, 'and also how clear and unhesitating he is on some of the most interesting points of divinity?'
'It is for his great mental faculties that I dread him,' said [Blanchard] ...He indeed pretends great strictness of orthodoxy regarding some of the points of doctrine embraced by the reformed church; but you do not seem to perceive that both you and he are carrying these points to a dangerous extremity. Religion is a sublime and glorious thing, the bonds of society on earth, and the connector of humanity with the Divine nature; but there is nothing so dangerous to man as the wresting of any of its principles, or forcing them beyond their due bounds: this is of all others the readiest way to destruction. Neither is there anything so easily done. There is not an error into which a man can fall which he may not press Scripture into his service as proof of the probity of...'"
More connections between novels. Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus has a civilized conversation with Satan at its heart, at the mathematical center of the novel. Brothers Karamazov has, technically, two, one at its center and one toward its end. Karamazov has a sort of boyish holy fool who intentionally throws himself down a flight of stairs. Gunter Grass's Tin Drum has a similar character who does the same thing to stay forever a boy. Tin Drum allows this character entree to a concrete hell, as does Mann's Faustus and we are back to the start of this circle. These, among others [Dostoevsky's Demons paired with Heimito von Doderer's Demons (unjustly forgotten); Durrell's Alexandria Quartet, with the first three volumes chronicling the same timeframe from different perspectives, with only the fourth volume as an actual sequel; large novels and structure--the linearity and gridwork of certain novels versus others: Anatole France's novels run in a line as if on rails, versus von Doderer's radial patterning of Demons versus the unfinished Man without Qualities which is a sweeping arch of a bridge into empty space. The open-ended angles of Andrei Bely's Petersburg.] Fodder for essays, maybe.