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I don't agree with this. Dostoevsky's characters are philosophical archetypes, vehicles to express particular views or psychological states he wanted to explore. Tolstoy's characters are not such representations of ideas, but actual rounded human beings.

If you come away from reading The Idiot thinking "wow, what a tiresome, failed philosopher", with all of its multi-page mouthpiece rants from characters about how the Roman Catholic Church is evil or whatever, I can understand that. If you think the same after reading Anna Karenina, I don't really know what to say.
What exactly is a "failed philosopher" anyway? I could apply that label to any writer whose philosophical "baggage" I don't find very congenial. Camus, for example.

If you think the same after reading Anna Karenina, I don't really know what to say.
The problem with Anna Karenina is that it's dated. There are Annas and Vronskys everywhere you look now. And anyway Tolstoy isn't above creating characters that essentially mouth his own views. I think among writers Shakespeare is the only "chameleon" I've come across. You can't pin down what he really might have believed.
 

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I don't agree with this. Dostoevsky's characters are philosophical archetypes, vehicles to express particular views or psychological states he wanted to explore. Tolstoy's characters are not such representations of ideas, but actual rounded human beings.

If you come away from reading The Idiot thinking "wow, what a tiresome, failed philosopher", with all of its multi-page mouthpiece rants from characters about how the Roman Catholic Church is evil or whatever, I can understand that. If you think the same after reading Anna Karenina, I don't really know what to say.
You too have it backwards. That's exactly what I come away with from Anna Karenina, and also what his acolytes came away with. Constantine Levin is a tiresome cardboard cutout for Tolstoy's ideal agrarian aristocrat. Have you not heard of the Tolstoyan movement? Dostoyevsky doesn't have a comparable movement because, unlike Tolstoy, he wasn't an ideologue. And since you've brought up AK and The Idiot, compare Kitty Shcherbatsky with Natasha Filipovna and tell me which is a lifelike portrait. Do the same for Rogozhin and Vronsky. Who is more vivid? Dostoyevsky created characters obsessed with ideas but usually not his own ideas. Dostoyevsky's novels are renowned for the independence of his characters' voices and the indeterminacy of their motivations from an authorial perspective. I refer you to critics Philip Rhav, Leonid Grossman, and especially Mikhail Bakhtin on these points.

As for religious rants: You are aware that anti-papist, anti-RCC sentiments were widely held in Russia when Dostoyevsky was writing and it makes perfect sense that some of his characters took up these ideas, right? Ivan Karamazov's brilliant poetic essay, "The Grand Inquisitor," is a prime example. Even in that case it's not certain how invested Ivan really is in these ideas, let alone Dostoyevsky. The ideas are just aspects of characterization, not ideas the author is pushing.
 

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What exactly is a "failed philosopher" anyway? I could apply that label to any writer whose philosophical "baggage" I don't find very congenial. Camus, for example.
Not speaking for Gallus but when I used the term I simply meant it in regards to a novelist that seems more (or at least equally) interested in philosophical ideas rather than characters and narrative. I wasn't using it as a negative judgment on a novelist whose philosophy I disagree with.

The problem with Anna Karenina is that it's dated. There are Annas and Vronskys everywhere you look now. And anyway Tolstoy isn't above creating characters that essentially mouth his own views. I think among writers Shakespeare is the only "chameleon" I've come across. You can't pin down what he really might have believed.
If there are Annas and Vronskys "everywhere you look" that would seem to make it less dated than more. Either way, I'm not particularly concerned about novels dating: that's inevitable given that societies/cultures and the novels written in and about them inevitably change.

I wouldn't say Tolstoy is "above" this, but he rarely indulges in it. The multitude of characters in W&P mouth all kinds of views, some of them mouth no views at all, and none of them explicitly mouth any of the views Tolstoy discusses in his essays spread around the novel. Tolstoy might not be a chameleon to the extent Shakespeare is--if only because Tolstoy did write explicitly about his views both within and outside the novels--but nobody is. I'd still say Tolstoy is more so than most.
 

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Dostoyevsky created characters obsessed with ideas but usually not his own ideas.
Yes, that's the point, and he's as likely to spend as much time on the ideas as anything else. It's tiring, and frequently reads more like philosophy than fiction. There's more to character (not to mention narrative) than what ideas they're obsessed with.
 

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Yes, that's the point, and he's as likely to spend as much time on the ideas as anything else. It's tiring, and frequently reads more like philosophy than fiction. There's more to character (not to mention narrative) than what ideas they're obsessed with.
He doesn't spend time on the ideas, the characters do. There's a difference. Some people don't like characters obsessed with ideas. Yes, they can be annoying and dangerous, like Stavrogin and Verkhovensky in Devils. But all of them have much more to their character than the ideas they espouse or struggle with.

About War and Peace — I agree it isn't ideologically overbearing in the way I claim AK to be (unless one takes Tolstoy's historiography re Borodino, Kutuzov, and Napoleon too seriously). Perhaps historical novels are less prone to that?
 

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He doesn't spend time on the ideas, the characters do. There's a difference. Some people don't like characters obsessed with ideas. Yes, they can be annoying and dangerous, like Stavrogin and Verkhovensky in Devils. But all of them have much more to their character than the ideas they espouse or struggle with.

About War and Peace — I agree it isn't ideologically overbearing in the way I claim AK to be (unless one takes Tolstoy's historiography re Borodino, Kutuzov, and Napoleon too seriously). Perhaps historical novels are less prone to that?
There's a difference, sure, but not for the purpose of my criticism. Dosto writes characters obsessed with ideas because he's obsessed with ideas. I don't mind characters obsessed with ideas, but an author doesn't need to spend a philosophy book's worth of pages discussing them. A character who only ever has ideas on their mind is a shallow character indeed, and take that from someone who frequently reads philosophy and thinks about ideas!

Funnily enough I would think more would think W&P more ideologically overbearing than AK if only because W&P does have those infrequent essays that Tolstoy decided to insert. I remember reading that he didn't even want to call W&P a novel because of their inclusion.
 

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What exactly is a "failed philosopher" anyway?
I don't know. It wasn't my phrase.

Do the same for Rogozhin and Vronsky. Who is more vivid?
Err, Vronsky obviously? Rogozhin is a crazed murderer who I will grant is compelling in what he represents as an antithesis to Myshkin's saintly renunciation of passion, but not really a three dimensional character like Vronsky is from the very opening pages.
 

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To suggest Tchaikovsky was second rate is absurd. That means every other writer of classical ballet music is third rate -- since his are the best. That means every classical romantic violin concerto, of which his is among the best, is third rate. That means most romantic symphonies comparable to Tchaikovsky 4-6 are third rate. It means every other romantic piano concerto, aside from his Concerto No. 1, is third rate. He also wrote operas that are in the standard repertory. If Tchaikovsky is second rate it leaves only 3-4 composers in history who were first rate.
 

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To suggest Tchaikovsky was second rate is absurd. That means every other writer of classical ballet music is third rate -- since his are the best. That means every classical romantic violin concerto, of which his is among the best, is third rate. [...] It means every other romantic piano concerto, aside from his Concerto No. 1, is third rate.
I don't think Tchaikovsky was second rate but I don't think it is inconsistent to think so.
Lots of ballet music beyond Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Prokofiev is third rate. And so are many of the romantic concertos unearthed by hyperion or other labels.
 
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