Prof. Dr. Horst-Jürgen Gerigk
Prof. Dr. Horst-Jürgen Gerigk

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Osteuropa, 63. Jahrgang, Heft 10, Oktober 2013

 

Predrag Cicovacki, Maria Granik, Hg.: Dostoevsky's „Brothers Karamazov". Art, Creativity, and Spirituality. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter 2010 (Beiträge zur slavischen Philologie, Bd. 16). 232 S. 35,- €


Selbst Spezialisten sind heute kaum noch imstande, die Literatur zu Dostoevskijs Roman Die Brüder Karamazov zu überblicken. Der langen Liste von Publikationen, die besonders die auf diesem Feld seit Jahrzehnten tonangebende US-Forschung hervorgebracht hat, haben Predrag Cicovackij und Maria Granik nun einen weiteren Titel hinzugefügt. Mit Beiträgen so renommierter Do-stoevskij-Experten wie Robert Belknap, Jacques Catteau, Horst-Jürgen Gerigk und Robin Feuer Miller verspricht der Sammelband neue Erkenntnisse zur Poetik, Ästhetik und Ethik von Dostoevskijs Meisterwerk. Dass das vorliegende Buch Fragen der Weltanschauung und Spiritualität besondere Bedeutung zumisst, dürfte dem Umstand geschuldet sein, dass es die Referate einer Konferenz versammelt, die 2009 am Holy-Cross-College, einer Jesuiten-Hochschule in Massachusetts, stattfand. Diese Konstellation ist nicht frei von Pikanterie, gehörte die Societas Jesu doch zu Dostoevskijs bevorzugten Feindbildern. .Jesuitismus" war für ihn gleichbedeutend mit taktischer Rede, Sophistik und Kasuistik. Ein gerüttelt Maß Kasuistik hat allerdings auch der Beitrag Paul Continos über Dostoevskijs „incarnational realism". Aleša Karamazovs Versuch, seinen Bruder Dmitrij nach dessen Verurteilung zur Flucht nach Amerika zu überreden, deutet der Autor als eine positive Spielart der Kasuistik, die aus der christlichen Kardinaltugend der Phronesis herzuleiten sei. Continos These, dass Dmitrij gut daran getan hätte, Alešas Empfehlung zu folgen und sich nach Amerika abzusetzen, widerspricht der Logik des Romans zu offensichtlich, um ernst genommen zu werden, und wird vernehmbar mit US-patriotischem Pedal gespielt.
Die Beiträge über genuin christliche Themen wie Gnade (Ruben Apresjan), Liebe (Evgenija Čerkasova), Selbstentäußerung bzw. „Keno-sis" (Predrag Cicovacki) oder Inkarnation (Deborah Martinsen, Paul Contino), die mitunter predigthafte Züge annehmen, haben dem Forschungsstand nichts Neues hinzuzufügen. Eine Ausnahme macht Maria Granik, die ein Vergleich der auf den ersten Blick so gegensätzlichen, bei näherem Hinsehen aber teilweise konvergenten Utopien des Mönchs Zosima und des Großinquisitors zu der Erkenntnis fuhrt, dass Dostoevskijs universelles Liebesgebot als Grundlage für politisches Handeln wenig taugt, da es die Kluft zwischen privater und öffentlicher Sphäre ignoriert. Gegen den Mainstream der Dostoevskij-Forschung schwimmt auch Jacques Catteau. Der aus Dostoevskijs Texten oft herausgelesenen Idealisierung von Kindheit und Unschuld setzt Catteau die These entgegen, dass auch Kinder in Dostoevskijs fiktionaler Welt keineswegs frei sind von Sünde, sondern in eine existentielle Freiheit und jene offene Zukunft geworfen werden, in die das Roman-finale sie schließlich entlässt.
Insgesamt sind die mehr textorientierten Beiträge des Buches ergiebiger als die theologisch und moralphilosophisch ausgerichteten. Robert Belknap vergleicht die Dramaturgie des Prozesses gegen Mitja Karamazov mit dem Prozess gegen Orest in den Eumeni-den des Aischylos und konzentriert sich auf die in beiden Werken eingesetzte Technik der Spannungserzeugung durch die letztlich prozessentscheidenden „imitativen Gefühle" des fiktiven Publikums. Robin Feuer Miller stellt Ivans Erzählung von der barmherzigen Gottesmutter die ihr zugrunde liegende altrussische Legende gegenüber und legt dabei das Bild eines Gottes frei, der „mit sich reden lässt". Die Dialogbereitschaft und die Täuschungsanfälligkeit dieser Gottvaterfigur unterscheiden sich auffallend von jenem allwissenden, allmächtigen und allliebenden Gott, den die positiven Charaktere des Romans preisen und gegen den Ivan aufbegehrt. Julian Conolly untersucht die Beichtdiskurse in Dostoevskijs Roman und stellt fest, dass deren Authentizität desto brüchiger wird, je mehr der Beichtende an rhetorisch-literarischem Aufwand betreibt. Horst-Jürgen Gerigks exzellenter Beitrag über Dialoge und Pseudodialoge schließt hier direkt an. Gerigk zeigt, dass der an Dmitrij begangene „Justizirrtum", in dem das Sprachspiel des Pseudodialogs vorherrscht, den Leser zunächst in die Falle der gleichen „imitativen Gefühle" des fiktiven Prozesspublikums lockt, die Belknap bei Aischylos und Dostoevskij registriert: Der Leser soll Dmitrij zunächst als Opfer eines Justizirrtums sehen, bei der Relektüre des Kapitels jedoch feststellen, dass hinter dem Justizirrtum, gleichsam als „hidden hand", die gerechte Hand Gottes wirkt. Zwar wird Dmitrij vom weltlichen Gericht für den Wunsch bestraft, den Vater zu töten, doch liegt in dieser Strafe zugleich seine moralische Rettung. Den Band beschließt ein Interview Predrag Cicovackis mit dem greisen Joseph Frank, der hier noch einmal Gelegenheit bekam, eine beeindruckende Bilanz seiner jahrzehntelangen Beschäftigung mit Leben und Werk Dostoevskijs zu ziehen. Die fünfbändige Dostoevskij-Biographie des im März 2013 in Palo Alto im Alter von 94 Jahren verstorbenen Frank zählt zu den monumentalen Leistungen der internationalen Osteuropa-Forschung. Für die New York Times ist sie „das beste Buch aus der Feder eines amerikanischen Autors über die literarische Kultur Russlands im 19. Jahrhundert".


Andreas Guski

Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov. Art, Creativity, and Spirituality. Edited by Predrag Cicovacki and Maria Granik. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter 2010 (= Beiträge zur Slavischen Philologie, Band 16). 232 pp.

 

The publication of this very attractively bound book by the well-known Publishing House Universitätsverlag Winter in Heidelberg was sponsored by the American Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, MA (USA). An icon of the Mother of God aptly adorns its front cover. The twelve essays include papers of a Conference dedicated to Dostoevsky's last novel, which was organized in 2008 at the College of the Holy Cross by P. Cicovacki. The book includes an index. The editors have also appended 11 pages of an interview with Joseph Frank.

Three excellent essays should be singled out as deserving special praise. This is Jacques Catteau's study of the Grand Inquisitor "From the Great Sinner to the Grand Inquisitor" which continues his earlier study in the well-known miscellany Dostoevsky. New Perspectives (ed. R. L. Jackson, 1984, 243-254). In his essay at Holy Cross Catteau establishes a link between Ivan's powerful accusations addressed to God - culminating in the suffering of innocent children - and the concluding pages of the novel referring to Alyosha and the group of boys. I quote from the last page of Catteau's essay: "Ivan and the Grand Inquisitor's mad and deadly, dream of bringing men down to the level of a colony of child-slaves is followed by Alyosha's thrilling hope of hoisting the children up to the status of free men, reinvested with their freedom, along with its responsibilities, which was first given to them by Christ." Equally impressive is Horst-Jürgen Gerigk's essay "Dialogue and Pseudo-Dialogue" in which he applies his insights presented at the Budapest Symposium of the International Dostoevsky Society (2007) to an analysis of the dialogues in Dostoevsky's last novel. Gerigk outlines the concept of pseudo-dialogues, going back to Hans-Georg Gadamer, briefly examines Dostoevsky's earlier novels and then applies the two forms of dialogue to various dialogues in the Brothers Karamazov, concentrating on Book V which includes Ivan's rebellion against God and his Legend (or Poem) of the Grand Inquisitor. His conclusion is that genuine dialogue has its centre in the personality of Zosima, pseudo-dialogue mainly in the prosecutor. The true message of Ivan's poem according to Gerigk is that the "State" (pseudo-dialogue) has to become "Church" (genuine dialogue). Julian W. Connolly's essay "Confession in The Brothers Karamazov'' provides readers with a useful survey of the multitude of confessional dialogues which can be found in the novel, something unsuspected by the average reader, ranging from miniature confessions by minor characters to the well-known confessions of the Karamazov brothers. As Connolly rightly observes, "This is a rich topic that will merit further investigation." Dostoevsky scholars, no doubt, will be grateful to the author for having broken new ground demanding further detailed investigations. These necessarily brief characterizations of the three essays need to be supplemented by the readers who will find in these essays many more facets deepening our understanding of Dostoevsky's art, insights that may, indeed, stimulate further research.

Apart from these papers I should like to mention three more essays which should attract special attention by the readers of this volume. Robin Feuer Miller's essay bears the enigmatic title "Divine Conversations". As the author points out, she uses the word "God" frequently, - "some sixty five times", i. e. about four times on every page. However, this should not turn away prospective readers. Feuer Miller analyzes "conversations in which one partner of the dialogue is God himself, as in "Mary's conversations with God" (= "The Wanderings of Our Lady through Hell"). Her essay is thought-provoking and well researched. Her conclusion is: "God... appears or wishes to appear malleable, persuadable, changeable.... [God] is occasionally somewhat less attractive, seeming mercurial and occasionally seeming to act according to whim." Feuer Miller ends her essay with a pointed question: "How then do we reconcile the theological, philosophical, intimate, personal and loving God of this novel... with his appearances to us as a character, in the inserted narratives of Ivan, Zosima, and Grushenka?" Predrag Cicovacki's essay "Dostoevsky's Uncommon Worldview: An Alternative Ethics, or an Alternative to Ethics?" remains at a certain, one might say philosophical, distance to the text of the novel, discussing primarily the "Lebensphilosophie", i. e. the power of "vitality" and love of "life" that the author perceives in Dostoevsky's worldview which he relates to Dostoevsky's spirituality. The German term is used by Evgeniia Cherkasova in her essay "Poetics of Life Affirmation" (p. 175), which precedes Cicovackis essay, pointing the way, as it were, to Cicovacki's more philosophically oriented reflections. Two minor matters in Cicovacki's essay: It is not clear why he inserts a quotation from E. Thurneysen's booklet Dostojewski (originally a lecture before students), in a weak English translation of 1964 (Thurneysen's "Zauber" ought to be translated with "enchantment" rather than "magic", etc.), that transports the readers who know the German author back to the panegyrical worship enjoyed by Dostoevsky in Germany in 1921, the date of publication of the original German text. Another point: Cicovacki claims that "he [= Ivan] cannot love." This is not really confirmed by the novel. To the contrary, Ivan's rebellion is obviously motivated by love (Ivan: "I dearly love little children.")! Last, but not least, Deborah Martinsen's essay "The Devil Incarnate" is a very well researched study of Dostoevsky's, or more appropriately, Ivan's Devil, his role in the novel and the psychology behind it. Martinson has collected an impressive amount of background material from secondary sources, well organized and presented.

Several of the remaining contributions approach the "theophanic" or faith-based reading, popular in the USA (cf. "Dostoevsky Studies", v. 13, 2009), adding a touch of fundamentalism to the book. It is in this context that an unusual terminology surfaces occasionally. An example is Contino's essay "Incarnational Realism and the Case for Casuistry: Dmitry Karamazov's Escape," in which "beauty becomes salvific", Christ's suffering is "salvific", and freedom is characterized by "unfinalizability" (pp. 134-136). The author ends his essay by saying that he has been "blessed" that many of his students "have been transformed" by Dostoevsky's 'salvific image' of Christ, as expressed also by the Icon of Christ Pantocrator, which Contino has appended to his text (see p. 158), perhaps hoping for more 'transformations' among his readers?

The "Introduction" by the two editors of the volume needs a commentary. They stress that their book is "the first collection that crosses the too often too rigid lines between philosophy and literature. ... there have been no collaborative attempts like this one by philosophers, theologians, and literary critics, to tackle the varying aspects of Dostoevsky's fiction." Obviously the two editors are unaware of the International Symposia of IDS (International Dostoevsky Society, founded 1971). Fourteen (!) Symposia have been held so far between 1971 and 2010. From the very beginning IDS, which by the way, is not mentioned in the volume reviewed here, has invited not only theologians and philosophers, but also specialists in the fields of medicine and law, who participated and contributed to a deeper understanding of Dostoevsky's art and personality at the Symposia, often in a more exhaustive and penetrating manner than this is done in the collection under review. A brief look at the programs will show this clearly. The editors claim that their collection "articulates a new approach to Dostoevsky's novel", a claim that the reviewer considers to be a bit exaggerated. Nevertheless it should be emphasized that the volume contains many excellent papers, well worth reading. However, some minor points need to be clarified.

Diane Oenning Thompson's essay on "Islamic Motifs", which is mentioned by the editors in their "Introduction", needs a commentary. Thompson  discusses  the  "Turkish  atrocities"   in  the  Balkan  wars mentioned by Ivan Karamazov. However, nowhere in the novel does Dostoevsky/Ivan discuss Islam, one of the three great monotheistic religions. The accent in Ivan's rebellious speech clearly is not about Islamic religion. Ivan describes atrocities against children perpetrated by Turks as much as by Russians! Thompson seems to confuse two not necessarily connected terms! At least in the novel, Dostoevsky refrains from ascribing atrocities to Islam. We should beware of what might be interpreted as islamophobic!

Maria Granik, writing about "The Politics of Love", mentions Chekhov's story The New Villa which portrays, as she writes, "the very intense resistance people have to change." As an illustration, Granik quotes in a footnote a phrase by a "former member [?] of the Russian government": "We wanted the best, but it turned out as always." Why does she not name the politician? This was Viktor Chernomyrdin, Prime Minister under Yeltsin in the 1990's. Chernomyrdin, a close collaborator of Yeltsin, died in November 2010 at the age of 72. People associate him with the economic problems of his time. Finally, the reviewer is intrigued by Deborah Martinsen's footnote about the eminent Dostoevsky scholars Bakhtin and Jackson whom she calls "two of Dostoevsky's greatest readers". The reviewer is not sure who is a "great reader," - not to speak of the "greatest"? Martinsen presumably did not base her evaluation on the OECD's PISA criteria, but then on what else?

In summary, the book should stimulate further research of the topics discussed here. We know that "pros" and "contras" are usually indicative of an ongoing dialogue acting as a stimulus for further discussions and, in this case, proving that Dostoevsky's last novel is still offering many aspects to be further investigated. The reviewer wishes the collection many ('great'!) readers!

 

Rudolf Neuhäuser                                            Alpen-Adria Universität Klagenfurt

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