Novokuznetsk: A Love Story

by Carol Apollonio

The blog post below is cross-posted on Bloggers Karamazov from Chekhov’s Footprints, a travel blog by Carol Apollonio documenting her journey tracing Chekhov’s journey from European Russia to Sakhalin this fall. You can read the original post here.

The thing about exile is that it is far away.

Dostoevsky was sent to Semipalatinsk as a common soldier after his release from the Omsk fortress  on March 2, 1854. The city is now called “Semey,” and it is now in Kazakhstan.  Find Omsk in the map (under the “A” in “Russian Federation”) and slide down to the southeast until you see the second little red airplane. Like Omsk and other key locations on our journey, Semipalatinsk is on the Irtysh River.

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Outside Dostoevsky circles, Semipalatinsk is best-known as a nuclear weapons testing facility, and the location of the first Soviet nuclear bomb test in 1949. For us Dostoevsky fanatics, though, its key attraction is its Dostoevsky Museum. In normal circumstances (whatever that means), this would put the town squarely on my itinerary.  But not only do you need to veer wildly off the main route (whatever that is); you also have to get a visa to enter Kazakhstan. I am not proud of this, but I chickened out.

Instead, I decide to follow a love story.

This means a significant detour from the Trans-Siberian, also, I might say, not for the chicken-hearted, to the city of Novokuznetsk (formerly Stalinsk, and before that, Kuznetsk).  A nice straight line would take me from Novosibirsk to Krasnoyarsk. But down to Novokuznetsk it is quite the zig-zag: a night train from Novosibirsk, a few hours in Novokuznetsk, and then  back on the next night train to Novosibirsk. Seems arduous, but compared with Dostoevsky’s travel from Semipalatinsk to Kuznetsk by dusty horse carriage, it’s nothing.

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Your train arrives at 6:00 am.  Too early for breakfast. You’ve figured, OK, let’s get oriented and find the museum, then we can sit and have some coffee nearby for a couple of hours before our date with the muzeishchiki after the museum opens at 11:00.

There’s plenty of time, so why not walk? A half-hour on the hoof down a long, chilly, gray avenue makes it clear that Novokuznetsk is larger in reality than it seemed to be on the map.  So you subject your cell phone to a vicious beating, and then set to learning about public transit. It’s not that hard, really.

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Personally, I love transit systems that include conductors who take coins and can answer questions.

Eventually, after a very long spell of gazing out the window at the broad gray avenues of Novokuznetsk (a landscape ominously devoid of eating establishments), I am deposited near this church.  Turn your back to it and look across the street:

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Progress! Now for that coffee, a muffin, a dose of wi-fi, the New York Times on my iPad, a nice little dip into the WC….

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HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

There are some industrial facilities, a couple of storage lots, a bit of what could be called traffic at 7:30 a.m. (trucks, and and a couple of guys walking on the side of the road in weathered work clothes, carrying what appear to be lunch bags). A car or two. The barking of invisible dogs.

It dawns on me that there will not be coffee, or food. Nor will there be even a place to sit down, for it is muddy on Dostoevsky Street. I try not to think about what I must look like to the natives, train-disheveled, bespectacled, bewildered, scowling at my cell phone.

One good thing; my (OK, all right, our) navigation is good:

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Looks pretty closed up–after all, it is 8:00 on a Saturday morning.  Three hours to opening. I could kind of lean on the wall for a couple of those hours, I guess. Or do a Dmitry Karamazov.

I choose the latter. Right about where you see my big-city gray bag hanging on the palings, I make my move. A person of my age and dignity level really shouldn’t be clambering, but after some huffing and puffing and a couple of snags, it works. I’m in!

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I dust myself off, neaten things up on my person, prowl the yard, and reconnoiter.

Footsteps…

A man walks through the gate. It was not locked.

It is Alexander Evgenievich. Alexander Evgenievich is the night guard.  He does not shoot me. Instead he gently walks me into the (unlocked) door of the museum and introduces me to Olga, who is sitting quietly there behind the reception desk. He says to Olga, “feed her.”

Olga doesn’t seem to notice my bedraggled state, nor the fact that I have just broken into the Dostoevsky Museum. She takes me by the hand and walks me to her cozy house down the street. Oladi, fresh ham, vegetables, and hot tea magically appear. I have fallen down the rabbit hole. Time, which 15 minutes ago was a terrible burden, opens up infinite possibilities at the place Russia does best: the kitchen table.

Once calm has been restored, and we have shared life experiences, and I have savored this sublime breakfast, Olga walks me back to the Museum.

selo-stepanchikovo-dress--300x225There she hands me over tenderly to the museum’s Deputy Director for Research Elena Dmitrievna Trukhan, who takes me through a couple of special exhibits in the main building. One of these displays artifacts and photographs of theatrical productions of Dostoevsky’s work done here by visiting directors. I am lucky to catch the exhibit, which is to be taken down TODAY. vl.semyonovich-with-camera-676x901Even better, I meet the photographer, Vladimir Semyonovich Pilipenko, a kind and very alert observer who has traveled all over Russia taking pictures. He’s not about to stop today. Indeed, Vladimir Semyonovich’s photos will soon appear in a report about our day together with Elena Dmitrievna at the museum.

The other exhibit is a charming collection of children’s art inspired by the great children’s writer and poet Kornei Chukovsky. The children have done collages and paper sculptures of Chukovsky characters.

Here, as elsewhere on my travels, I’m deeply impressed with the Russian emphasis on arts education, and with the ways museums are reaching out to children, not just as places where they can learn about famous people, places and events, but where they can interact with history and literature, and, importantly, create art themselves.

Yes, science is important. Art is equally important, and you need it for your soul.

marias-house-number-225x300Dostoevsky made three trips to (pre Novo-) Kuznetsk, spending a total of 22 days here, all in pursuit, and finally conquest, of Maria Dmitrievna Isaeva, whom he married in Kuznetsk in February of 1857. He had met her previously in Semipalatinsk, before her husband was transferred here. Then her husband died here….

1st visit: 2 days in June 1856: during this first visit to Kuznetsk, Dostoevsky learned that he had a rival for her hand (Nikolai Vergunov);

2nd visit: 5 days in November 1856: having received his promotion to the rank of ensign (praporshchik)– he came to make an official proposal of marriage to Maria Dmitrevna;

3d visit: 15 days in January-February 1857: during this visit he married Maria Dmitrievna in the Odigitrievskaya Church, and spent the first days of his married life before returning with her and her son to Semipalatinsk.

Just down Dostoevsky Street from the museum’s main building, you can visit the house of the tailor Dmitriev, where Maria and her first husband Alexander Isaev rented a room.  Wonder what she would have thought if she could have known her house was going to be on Dostoevsky Street? Wonder if anyone thought of naming it Maria Dmitrievna Street?

After posing this question, I received a fascinating answer from Elena Dmitrievna. Turns out, since the house technically did not belong to Dostoevsky, for years officials refused to allow a museum to be opened here. Only with the devoted efforts of local enthusiasts, with the support of the Dostoevsky Museum in Moscow, not to mention the sheer force of historical memory, did the museum finally open in 1980. The curious can read the full story here:

«Додумались» (в плохом смысле) чиновники, работающие в культуре. Очень долгое время они не давали открыть музей Достоевского в Новокузнецке, всячески препятствовали этому, называя дом не «Домиком Достоевского», как зовут сейчас его жители Новокузнецка, а Домом Исаевой, Домом портного Дмитриева. Их аргумент был «железным» и непробиваемым: «Не в каждом доме, где у писателя случился роман, надо открывать музеи».

Такой узкий краеведческий подход к событию (без культурного и литературного контекста) сделал своё грустное дело: открыть музей в Новокузнецке удалось только в 1980 году – то есть спустя 130 лет (!!!) после событий в Кузнецке.   Вообще удивительно, как это удалось сделать! Если бы не помощь руководства музея Достоевского в Москве, если бы не местные энтузиасты-краеведы Новокузнецка, если бы не человеческая память, этого бы вовсе не случилось.   И тогда еще одно место, связанное с жизнью Достоевского в Сибири, навсегда было утрачено.

Anyway, the house–the museum–is beautiful.

-и-кэрол-4-e1570074333229-249x300Elena takes me through the house.

It is not an ordinary museum; rather it offers a kind of adventure, a three-dimensional experience or even performance that loops in the story of Dostoevsky’s courtship of Maria with the larger story of the way his time with her influenced his writing. Novokuznetsk is a Dostoevsky city because of Maria’s story.

Elena tells me this story, leading me from room to room. Vladimir Semyonovich is with us.

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The diorama shows what Kuznetsk looked like when Maria lived here. The different rooms each offer a part of her story, display documents and artifacts related to her relationship with Dostoevsky, and offer connections to his works.

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Here, for example, are copies of documents registering witnesses to their wedding ceremony, and Dostoevsky’s own scrawled lists of wedding expenses he had to cover. Elena is an active scholar herself, and works in archives to fill out the pictures relating to these years. For example, she found a document recording that Maria Dmitrievna had served as godmother of a baby (of the local citizen Petr Sapozhnikov) during her time in Kuznetsk. And, it turns out (as other scholars discovered), Maria Dmitrievna served as godmother to another child in that family AFTER her marriage. So the question stands; did Maria Dmitrievna and her husband (?!) make another visit to Kuznetsk?! The research continues.

The displays remind us of the ways Dostoevsky drew upon Maria Dmitrievna’s personality when creating characters such as Crime and Punishment‘s Katerina Ivanovna Marmeladova, and even Nastasia Filippovna of The Idiot. I take a quiet minute to ponder what it is, anyway, that writers do with life experience… Back in the museum, Dostoevsky’s famous meditation on the impossibilty of shedding the ego–written by his wife’s deathbed–“Masha is lying on the table,” is exhibited here on the wall.

One emerges from the museum full of impressions and thoughts about what life was like for Maria, and about why this person, time, and place were so formative for Dostoevsky’s life and works.

Elena then walks me around Novokuznetsk, to buildings that were standing during Dostoevsky’s time,

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and to the town’s major attraction, the hilltop fortress, which in addition to its historical value, offers a beautiful view over Novokuznetsk:

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We visit a newly renovated church (glimpsed in the photo above), and a newly built chapel by the train station.

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Tolstoy fans will appreciate the fact that Valentin Bulgakov, the writer’s secretary during the last year of his life, was from Kuznetsk. The name is familiar to anyone who saw the recent movie about Tolstoy’s last year, The Last Station, which draws on Bulgakov’s memoirs. On a longer visit I’d definitely visit the district school where Bulgakov’s father served as inspector–now a branch of the Novokuznetsk Ethnography Museum. Elena shows me the monument to him and Tolstoy: “Teacher and Student” (Учитель и ученик).

But let us not get distracted. Check out the Novokuznetsk Dostoevsky Museum’s website and many activities, including a virtual tour of an earlier iteration of the museum. And recently specialists in 3D graphics have produced a new virtual visit to the museum’s permanent exhibit, “A Guide to Novokuznetsk”: read about it here.

Here’s the actual tour: http://vrkuzbass.ru/muz/nvkz/fmd/

And more! Check them out:

Take my word for it, Novokuznetsk has a lot to offer, and not just to Dostoevsky fanatics like me.

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I am nurtured, mind, body and soul. But I cannot stay….there is a train to catch.


Carol Apollonio is the President of the International Dostoevsky Society and a Professor of the Practice of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at Duke University. Her publications include Dostoevsky’s Secrets: Reading Against the Grain (2009) and The New Russian Dostoevsky: Readings for the Twenty-First Century (2010). 

Travel Tips with Fyodor Mikhailovich (a summer blog post about a winter exhibition)

by Vadim Shkolnikov

If you’re traveling this summer, and you’re stuck in an airport waiting for your delayed flight, annoyed because there aren’t enough places to charge your phone or because they won’t give you the entire can of soda… Imagine our sensitive, somewhat neurotic friend Fyodor Mikhailovich having to deal with the nineteenth-century Russian railway system!  As he wrote in Diary of a Writer in 1877: “So many stops, changing trains, at one station you have to wait three hours.  And all this on top of all the unpleasantness of the Russian railroads, the inconsiderate and almost condescending attitude of the conductors and ‘the authorities.’”

PuteshestvieA recent exhibit at the Russian Railways Museum in St. Petersburg, however, reminds us of the importance of train travel in Dostoevsky’s life—how it invariably influenced his view of the world and figured in his writings.  Fyodor Mikhailovich considered his time to be “the era of railroads.”  “Railroads,” as one of his characters proclaims, “have consumed all our capital and have covered Russia like a spider web.”  The fateful meeting between Prince Myshkin and Rogozhin in The Idiot, of course, took place on the train, and we cannot forget the hapless governor von Lembke from Demons, who obsessively constructed an entire railway station with a train out of paper: “People left the station with suitcases and bags, children and dogs, and got into the cars.  Conductors and porters walked about, the bell rang, the signal was given, and the train started on its way.”

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Train car housing the “Voyage with Dostoevsky” exhibit

The “Voyage with Dostoevsky” exhibit focused particularly on his travels abroad.  Fyodor Mikhailovich went abroad eight times, and in total spent five and a half years there.

His first two trips, in 1862 and 1863, were more traditionally touristy.  FM wanted to see Europe—“the land of holy wonders” (“страну святых чудес”)—for himself: to visit the cities he had known through literary works, to view the masterpieces of world culture, to try to understand how revolution had transformed the Western social order.

FM put a lot of effort into planning the itinerary for his first trip abroad, relying on Reinhardt’s popular travel guide.  In two and a half months he toured about 25 cities!

During his third trip in 1865, he conceived the idea for Crime and Punishment.  At this time he was gambling a lot, hoping that his winnings in roulette could help pay off the debts he took on after the death of his older brother. Not the best plan!

Things were even worse during his next trip abroad in 1867, which he had to make in order to escape his creditors. Without the financial means to return to Russia, Fyodor Mikhailovich ended up living in Europe for more than four years.  This is why the novels of this period, The Idiot and Demons, refer a lot to life abroad.

In the 1870s Dostoevsky made his final trips abroad, to the mineral springs of Bad Ems, for reasons of his health, as advised by his Petersburg doctors.

So now the moment we’ve been waiting for!  What travel tips does Fyodor Mikhailovich have for us?

But, first, a word from our sponsor (not really).  “Travel Tips with Fyodor Mikhailovich” is brought to you by Brothers Karamazov “Ivan” IPA!!


Brothers Karamazov “Ivan” IPA

Everything is permitted.


So where should we go, Fyodor Mikhailovich?

Apparently, not Geneva: “The weather is nasty, the city is boring… this is the most boring city in the world.”

dresden madonnaGermany in general did not make a great impression.

Berlin?  “Berlin resembles Petersburg so much its incredible.  The same cordoned streets, the same smells.  Was it worth tormenting myself for 48 hours in a train car to see the same thing?”

Köln?  “Not much grandeur.”

Dresden?  We know how Fyodor Mikhailovich loved the Dresden Madonna!  But the city itself… not so much: “I just went through Dresden, and I can’t remember what Dresden was like.”

But the casinos in Baden Baden definitely interested him: “There is something extraordinary in that feeling when you’re alone, in a foreign country, far from your home and your friends, you don’t know what you’ll be eating today, but you’ve just bet your last gulden, your very last one!”

1280px-Kristallpalast_Sydenham_1851_aussenShould we go to Paris?  London?  Here Fyodor Mikhailovich is a bit more cryptic in his assessment.

“Oh, Paris is a very boring city, and if it didn’t have so many truly remarkable things, then, really, you could die of boredom!”

On London: “Everything is so grandiose and extreme in its distinctiveness.”

(Of course, Fyodor Mikhailovich has a lot more to say in Winter Notes on Summer Impressions.)

It looks like Fyodor Mikhailovich liked Italy most of all!

venice“Rome astounded me.”

“In Florence it rains too much, but when it’s sunny—it’s almost like heaven.  You can’t imagine anything better than the experience of this sky, this air, this light.”

“Venice is such a delight!”

Well, I’d like to thank you, Fyodor Mikhailovich!  It really has been a long, strange trip!

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Not the train Fyodor Mikhailovich took!

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Definitely not the train Fyodor Mikhailovich took!

But they have some pretty interesting stuff at the Russian Railways Museum


Vadim Shkolnikov is a dotsent in the Department of Comparative Literature and Linguistics at the Higher School of Economics in St Petersburg and a member of the North American Dostoevsky Society Readers Advisory Board.  He is currently writing on Dostoevsky and “the birth of the conscientious terrorist.”  He has lived in Zverkov’s house on Stolyarnyi pereulok (mentioned in Gogol’s “Diary of a Madman”)–a block away from Raskolnikov’s house!

A Virtual Visit to the Robarts Library, part 2

University of Toronto professor Kate Holland asked her SLA314 Dostoevsky undergraduate students to visit the Robarts Library exhibit Crime and Punishment at 150: Global Contexts and write up their reflections on one exhibit item. Their writing, collected here, reflects not only the global spread of Dostoevsky’s influence, but also the diversity of media used to engage with his 1866 novel. To learn more about the exhibit, read curator and Toronto PhD student Barnabas Kirk’s blog post from last month. To read the first group of students’ posts, see A Virtual Visit to the Robarts Library, part 1.


Pickpocket

Rory McCreight

pickpocketAfter checking out the 150th anniversary exhibit of Crime and Punishment at Robarts library, I was interested to see the film Pickpocket by Robert Bresson among the artifacts. I had seen two of the esteemed French director’s works: Au Hasard Balthazar and A Man Escaped, and thought his style would make for a unique take on Dostoevsky’s work. Stylistically, the two auteurs are quite different. Bresson’s works have a cold, muted feel, where characters interact dispassionately towards one another and emotions are buried deep behind blank expressions. On the other hand, Dostoevsky’s characters spark with life, and given Raskolnikov’s feverish internality, it seemed like a tough character to represent on screen.

That being said, the thematic undercurrent of Bresson’s and Dostoevsky’s works are highly spiritual, this reveals the common area Bresson sought to explore in Pickpocket. Raskolnikov’s counterpart in Pickpocket, Michel, is less obviously haunted by his crimes; in this case he is a serial pickpocket. However, he, his friends and family respect the moral corruption of the crime, but, like the murder, it was a crime somewhat brought about by poverty. Pickpocket is a lean 70 minute version of Dostoevsky’s novel and it cherry picks the ideas it wants. It leaves out a large part of the extra characters, keeping only Raskolnikov, Razumikhin, Sonya, and Porfiry, it also keeps Raskolnikov’s Napoleonic vision of crime as well as his final redemption in prison through Jeanne, Pickpocket’s Sonya surrogate.

Dostoevsky and Bresson’s fixation on spirituality meant that both artists wanted to include the controversial redemption epilogue in their works. Bresson’s may work better because the film has Michel fail once at becoming honest and finding redemption, but he falters and finds redemption in prisonthrough Jeanne’s forgiveness. He had earlier told her that he could quit stealing and her forgiveness of his faults redeems Michel, just as Sonya’s love redeemed Raskolnikov.

 


Max Burchartz’s lithographs

Brodie McLeod

burchartz_max-zu_raskolnikoff-om457300-10678_20140531_27449_1049When browsing the Crime and Punishment at 150: Global Contexts exhibit, Max Burchartz 1887-1961: Kunstler, Typograf, Padagoge (Berlini Jovis, 2010) stood out to me almost right away. The imagery portrays a distorted Raskolnikov along with some of the people in his life. I found this imagery to be an almost perfect symbol of how I imagined Raskolnikov’s mind to be while reading Crime and Punishment: a very active one caught up in its own distorted version of reality. Amid the intended chaos, the imagery draws attention to the characters’ faces, something I found particularly interesting. Amid the chaos of the lines, they all portray very strong and distinct expressions. With Raskolnikov specifically, one can see expressions ranging from distrustful annoyance, to panic, to what appears to be genuine remorse or sorrow. While likely unintentional and just a component of the medium, the lack of colour helped to highlight this.

On to the painter, Max Burchartz: he created the featured lithographs in 1919 upon his return from World War I. Following this, Burchartz went on to work in advertising, creating new methods of typography. He once again enlisted in the military in World War II. Following the end of the war, he went on to cement hisprominence in early modern art and design.

 


Sabine Meier’s Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov: Portrait of a Man

Matthew Reid

In the display case Sabine Meier’s Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov: Portrait of a Man, captures the eye in its sharp angles and vivid intensity. The face of Raskolnikov is entirely exposed as every angle is shown over two pages of a photograph in the book. This imposing portrait allows for nothing to be hidden on the face of Raskolnikov. In relation to the novel a clear connection between the many faces and many angles to the same face of Raskolnikov emerges from the display photograph. In the novel the reader as well as the characters in the novel never find out who Raskolnikov is in his entirety. The question of his motive to murder, his sanity, his faith, and love are covered by authorial silence or only brief glimpses into each of these facets of Raskolnikov’s life. Like the novel, this picture only shows small portions of Raskolnikov’s face at a single time. The viewer is forced to piece together the fragments in order to fully see his portrait. It is this schismatic representation of Raskolnikov that stays true to the novel even in a modern urban setting. Meier chose to use New York and le Havre as the setting of her photos[i]. A selection of Meier’s photos have been printed and are being displayed as an exhibit at the Knockdown Center in New York. The exhibit attempts to “capture the inner workings” of Raskolnikov. Meier’s use of dark colours and shadows in many of the images reflects the novel’s fixation on night time and darkness especially surrounding Raskolnikov’s ventures around Petersburg at night.

 


Virginia Woolf and the Russian Point of View by Roberta Rubenstein

Kaitlan Sooknanan

220px-roger_fry_-_virginia_woolfThe item that I found most interesting within the Dostoevsky exhibit was Roberta Rubenstein’s Virginia Woolf and the Russian Point of View. Virginia Woolf has always been one of my favourite authors and so it was extremely interesting to discover that she was inspired by Dostoevsky and to connect her writing to the writing and ideas of the literature we have been working with in class. Before researching the actual book, I thought it would be helpful to verse myself first on the subject matter, and what I learned was that while the text was written about the way in which Russian authors influenced Virginia Woolf’s creative process and subsequent writing, Dostoevsky was the one who appealed most to her. She thought “Dostoevsky’s novels seem to have “permeated” the realms of both literature and psychology, and she viewed readers as having somehow internalized the significance of his novels.”[ii] That sentence show the profound effect Dostoevsky had on Woolf and it is analyzed in Rubenstein’s book, “It’s like peaking over the shoulder of a great writer reading.”[iii] The book shows the connecting themes of the two writers, and how they “sought to open up the world within.”[iv] The biggest take away the book gives is “prodding a reader to go back and reread Woolf in the company of these Russians,”[v] and that is what resonated most with me; to be able to go back and read her work with new significance, and to fully realize the scope of Dostoevsky’s influence.

 


“The Russian Messenger” (Русский Вестник)

Tara Subotic

I chose to write about the Русский Вестник item because I found it the most intriguing one. My main reason was because I wanted to know where Dostoevski first published his stories. I was always curious as to where famous writers initially started publishing their stories, and how it helped them gain recognition for their work. I found it interesting that not only did the Русский Вестник publish several stories of Dostoevski that are considered to be one of the most popular ones in today’s world, but also several other notable and famous work from Russian authors. I was surprised to see that the stories of Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Leskov were also published in the Русский Вестник in the 19th century. Some notable stories which I consider to be outstanding are Ana Karenina, War and Peace by Tolstoy, Fathers and Sons by Turgenev, At Daggers Drawn, and The Sealed Angel by Leskov, and of course Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, Demons, and The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevski. Another interesting fact is that the newspapers motto is ‘Кто любит Царя и Россию, тот любит Бога’, a motto I personally agree with and support. Some of the main topics that the Русский Вестник concerns itself with are the rebirth of Orthodoxy in Russian, Cossacks, the history, economics, health, science, school and education, army, and politics in Russia. One of the most interesting topics they also deal with is Slavic brotherhood, a theme I am personally interested in. A rather controversial topic they also dealt with were reunions with ‘Little Russia’ which would be Ukraine and Belarus, given the argument it would be a ‘legitimate union of unjustly separated people’. Since 1991 Русский Вестник is funded by a charity foundation called “International Fund for Slavic Literature and Culture”, and the editor in chief from 1991 to 2013 was Aleksei Senin. The current publisher is Oleg Platonov who resides in Moscow. The original location of Русский Вестник was St. Petersburg, the hometown of Dostoevski, however now the journal has moved to Moscow.

 

 


C&P-RasCrime and Punishment at 150: Global Contexts was on display at the Robarts Library in Toronto in the fall of 2016. It was co-curated by Ksenya Kiebuzinski, Barnabas Kirk, and Kate Holland. The exhibit was part of the 2016 global outreach program Crime and Punishment at 150. For more information, visit the CP150 project website.

 

 


Notes:

[i]  There’s an explanation of the exhibit here.

[ii] Ashley Dolan. “The Influence of Fyodor Dostoevsky on E. M Forster and Virginia Woolf” (Masters Thesis, University of Missouri- Columbia, 2011), p. 35.

[iii] Jane Costlow. “Virginia Woolf and the Russian Point of View by Roberta Rubenstein.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, Vol. 29, No. 2, 2010, p. 482.

[iv] Claire Davidson-Pegon. “Virginia Woolf and the Russian Point of View.” Woolf Studies Annual, 18. 2012, p. 158.

[v] Costlow, p. 484.

A Virtual Visit to the Robarts Library, part 1

University of Toronto professor Kate Holland asked her SLA314 Dostoevsky undergraduate students to visit the Robarts Library exhibit Crime and Punishment at 150: Global Contexts and write up their reflections on one exhibit item. Their writing, collected here, reflects not only the global spread of Dostoevsky’s influence, but also the diversity of media used to engage with his 1866 novel. To learn more about the exhibit, read curator and Toronto PhD student Barnabas Kirk’s blog post from last month.


Piotr Dumala’s Zbrodnia i Kara

Jennifer Batler

Zbrodnia i Kara, the short animated film released by Polish filmmaker Piotr Dumala in 2000, is a provocative contribution to the canon of artistic works inspired by Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Avoiding a linear retelling of the novel, the plaster-scratch animation instead enhances specific themes from the story, all drenched in the sinister atmosphere created so masterfully by Dumala through his unique artistic process. Hazy pictures fading into darkness, cloud-muffled visions of the city, and faces marked by shining feverish eyes do an excellent job of portraying the world seen through Raskolnikov’s tortured mental state. The detective story takes on an aspect of horror through the eerie piano score, grotesque images of insects, grubs and flies that fester under ground and behind walls. There is the mysterious figure of the old man who peers out of windows and through keyholes, who, according to one’s interpretation, could be Svidrigailov, the malicious Luzhin, or Dostoevsky himself, spying on his characters actions. The redemptive relationship between Sonia and Raskolnikov is whittled down to the offer of an extended hand and the smile on Sonia’s beautiful, understanding face.

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In its visual form, the story is stripped of much of its philosophical discussion of man, God, and morality, leaving instead the impression of three characters alone and unable to connect. Despite the fact that together they occupy the claustrophobic and hostile environs of the city depicted in the film, each is restricted to their own solitary struggle; Raskolnikov and his schismatic need for greatness but also for love; Sonia’s tightrope existence of a pure soul consigned to prostitution; the old man’s attraction to both life and oblivion through suicide. By distilling the much broader scope of Crime and Punishment down to these essences, Dumala manages to tie the great ideological struggle of Dostoevsky’s characters to that central problem of humankind; needing, but never achieving, perfect understanding and connection to another.

 


Mikhail Chemiakin’s Illustrations of Crime and Punishment

Molly Dawe

Chemiakin’s illustrations captivated me foremost because of their unique, discomforting style, and further because of the parallels between Chemiakin’s and Dostoevsky’s lives. Both artists were political exiles who rebelled against the Russian intelligentsia of their respective eras. Chemiakin refused to conform to socialist realism, the official artistic doctrine of the USSR that went virtually unchallenged until Stalin’s death in 1953.[i] Instead, he created his own philosophy, metaphysical synthesism, “dedicated to the creation of a new form of icon painting based on the study of religious art of all ages and peoples.”[ii] His emphasis on religious iconography and symbolism is apparent in the first illustration of the exhibit. Crosses placed in the windowpanes, as well as a skull and axe reflected in water, juxtapose traditional Christian symbols of redemption with murder. In the second illustration, Porfiry’s interrogation of Raskolnikov is depicted, and features a large question mark in the foreground. This overt symbol recalls the second-guessing of each character’s motives, Raskolnikov’s own propensity to self-scrutinise, as well as the main interpretive crux of the novel, that is, the motivation for committing the murder. Chemiakin’s use of colour is also symbolic, mirroring Dostoevsky. The viewer is drawn toward the centre of the first image, as it is rendered in colour rather than the dull grey surrounding it. Raskolnikov’s room is a sickly yellow, and in the bottom right corner is Sonia, cleverly linked with Raskolnikov via the top of her blonde head, and at a direct diagonal with his gaze. The yellow marks each as contaminated with sin, but also implicates them in a shared spiritual destiny; conversely, the green space in the uppermost corner is the distant possibility of redemption.

 


Crime and Punishment in the ‘Graphic Canon’ by Kako and edited by Russ Kick

Christian Dungca

Crime and Punishment in the ‘Graphic Canon’ is a visually mesmerizing piece in its depiction of Raskolnikov’s violent murder of Alyona Ivanovna. What I found most interesting about the piece is that Kako offers a unique twist on the Dostoevskian classic with his inserts of the horse slaughtered senselessly in Raskolnikov’s dream during the act of murder. So not only does Kako convey Raskolnikov’s intense subjectivity through thought bubbles but with a visual accompaniment of the slaughtered horse that articulates Raskolnikov’s unstable dream state. Readers of Dostoevsky understand that fantasy has a massive influence in developing Raskolnikov’s drive towards murder. But as the inserts of the horse suggest, Raskolnikov goes through with the murder in a frantic, desperate manner as opposed to the well-executed, clean manner that he envisioned. In his rich interplay of fantasy and reality, Kako demonstrates that he is well-informed about Crime and Punishment and successfully offers a dynamic interpretation of the Dostoevskian classic.

Kako’s piece on Crime and Punishment is found within Volume Two of the ‘Graphic Canon’ series. The ‘Graphic Canon’ series is a set of graphic interpretations of other classic literary works across various time periods and locations, spanning three volumes. The series as a whole emphasizes a dynamic re-imagination of classic literary works as opposed to “a literal interpretation of the text in the pictures.”[iii] The ‘Graphic Canon’ project serves as a confirmation to the lasting influence of Crime and Punishment, not only through literature but also in alternative forms of media like comics, movies, and music. Crime and Punishment can be appreciated by individuals of varying statuses, hence the universal appeal. Simply put, Crime and Punishment transcends literature and its interpretations spread across all kinds of art.

 


Batman and Crime and Punishment

Mitzchie Espedido

10426548_844175225646789_9115372522862382_nRobert Sikoryak’s adaptation of Crime and Punishment (C&P) is perhaps the most interesting item in the exhibit. It is a parody of Dostoevsky’s work which is a fitting concept since Dostoevsky himself parodied various works. Sikoryak cleverly connects Batman and C&P in two ways. First, he bridges the characters on an artistic level by illustrating Raskol as a hybrid between Batman, the masked hero, and Raskolnikov, the axe murderer. Alyona also looks strikingly similar to the the Joker.[iv]

On a narrative level, Batman and Raskolnikov are quite similar. For instance, both are suffering from an ethical dilemma due to their utilitarian view of life. Specifically, they contemplate who gets to die for the sake of everyone. In this case, Batman is conflicted about whether or not he should kill the Joker whereas Raskolnikov finds justifications to murder Alyona. Furthermore, both characters are ordinary humans; they have limitations and dilemmas which Superman is immune to.[v] Despite their similarities, Batman is unable to kill his enemies, claiming that doing so would bring him to a level of a murderer.[vi] Ultimately, the synthesis between the two allows the parallel novels to intersect into one literary work.

One personal critique however, is Sikoryak’s failure to illustrate the window scene during the murder. The scene is quite significant because of the great contrast Dostoevsky depicts: the darkness of Alyona’s room versus the bright outside. This suggests the importance of setting and the restricting and isolating effects of a room. However, it seems that Sikoryak compensates for this by superimposing the murder scene with a target background. Alyona’s head is just outside the bull’s eye, suggesting that Raskol’s carefully planned murder is not going to work out. This is evident as Raskolnikov murders Lizaveta and ends up feeling guilty for his crime. While Sikoryak’s version has less depth than C&P, it nonetheless provides a great step to introducing Dostoevsky to people because it combines pulp fiction with high art, similar to what Dostoevsky depicted in Poor Folk.

 


Prestuplenie i Nakazanie by Edison Denisov

Joanna Gorska-Kochanowiz

edisondenisovDostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment has inspired many authors and artists over the last century and a half, with numerous plays, movies and novels commemorating this renowned work of literature. Dostoyevsky’s presence in music, however, is far more scarce, thus making Edison Denisov’s Prestuplenie i Nakazanie an interesting work of art to analyse. Denisov, a famous Soviet composer wrote the first musical adaptation of Crime and Punishment in 1977, which was meant to accompany Yuri P. Lyubimov’s theatrical production at the Taganka Theater. While maintaining a close relationship to the novel and musically reflecting key plot elements, Denisov’s Prestuplenie i Nakazanie is a prime example of post-Shostakovich Soviet music. The combination of rhythmic ambiguity, jarring dissonance and brief passages of classical tonality make this composition a noteworthy example of the aforementioned genre, as opposed to being a mere theatrical accompaniment.[vii]

The piece itself is split into seven movements, and composed for mixed choir, celesta and percussion. Denisov favoured musical freedom above all compositional styles, and despite his piece being riddled with atonality, he rejected the twelve-tone row technique promulgated by the Second Viennese School of music, opting for a disjointed series of notes that were not subjugated to any rules of repetition.[viii] This technique gives Denisov’s work a sense of suspended fragmentation, alluding to Raskolnikov’s frenzied state of mind throughout the novel. This sense of disunity is found mainly in the movements featuring solo celesta with percussion accompaniment. The remaining four movements feature the choir, which sings tonal harmonies set to Eastern Orthodox liturgy. This measured shift from dissonance to more traditional tonality represents Raskolnikov’s gradual spiritual transition. The final movement was meant to embody Sonia, Raskolnikov’s confessor, and has the female choir sing Oh Gladsome Light, an ancient Christian hymn directly referencing God’s grace as a redeemer.[ix] Denisov’s work is highly teleological in nature; the harmonies, melodies, phrasing and textual setting all lead to the symbolic and triumphant seventh movement that ends in C major, a key considered to represent simplicity and purity, thus demonstrating Raskolnikov’s redemption.

 

The virtual exhibit continues with a second group of students’ posts here: A Virtual Visit to the Robarts Library, part 2.


C&P-RasCrime and Punishment at 150: Global Contexts was on display at the Robarts Library in Toronto in the fall of 2016. It was co-curated by Ksenya Kiebuzinski, Barnabas Kirk, and Kate Holland. The exhibit was part of the 2016 global outreach program Crime and Punishment at 150. For more information, visit the CP150 project website.

 


Notes:

[i] Elizabeth Rogers. “Socialist Realism.” The School of Russian and Asian Studies, 28 Feb. 2012 

[ii] Maria Gadas. “Mikhail Shemyakin: Royal, Religious, Artistic.” Journal Desillusionist.

[iii] Calvin Reid. “Graphic Canon: Comics Meet the Classics”. Publisher’s Weekly. Feb 3 2012. 

[iv] Richard Bruton. “Robert Sikoryak’s Aptly Named Masterpiece Comics.” Forbidden Planet Blog. Comics, Reviews, 02 Aug. 2013. 

[v] Peter Bebergal. “A Talk with Robert Arp and Mark D. White What Batman Teaches Us about Philosophy.” Boston.com. The New York Times, 13 July 2008. 

[vi] Steve Brie and William T. Rossiter. “Spandex Parables.” Literature and Ethics: From the Green Knight to the Dark Knight. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2010, p. 210.

[vii] Kholopov, Y. N. Edison Denisov: The Russian Voice in European New Music (Berlin: Kuhn, 2002), 154.

[viii] Kuprovskaia-Denisova, Ekaterina. Edison Denisov: Compositeur De La Lumière (Paris: Centre De Documentation Sur La Musique Contemporaine, 2011), 75.

[ix] Kholopov, Edison Denisov, 172.

 

Crime and Punishment at 150: Global Contexts

by Barnabas D. Kirk

2016 marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Dostoevsky’s seminal novel Crime and Punishment (1866). Originally, the novel was serialized over a period of 12 months on the pages of the literary journal Russian Messenger. It was hailed as a revelation for giving readers unprecedented insight into the human psyche that spoke of the individual’s role and responsibility within society. To commemorate the novel’s overwhelming success during the past 150 years, the Petro Jacyk Resource Centre, in collaboration with Professor Kate Holland of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto, organized a special exhibition on the 1st and 3rd floors of the John P. Robarts Library, running from October to November 2016. This event is part of an international outreach program that has brought together the Universities of Cambridge, Bristol, British Columbia and Toronto, as well as the North American Dostoevsky Society—all contributing to a year-long festival celebrating the novel’s legacy. The findings of the exhibition were presented at the “Crime and Punishment at 150” conference held at the University of British Columbia. A full exhibition guide can be found online through the University of Toronto Libraries (UTL).

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The main goal of the exhibition has been to celebrate the success of Crime and Punishment across the boundaries of national norms and cultural media. In doing so, it has been imperative to highlight the richness of our library collection. The University of Toronto Libraries hold more than 12 million print volumes in 341 languages, and support the scholarly needs of 700 undergraduate and 222 graduate degree programs. Keeping in mind the vast range of intellectual and personal interests, the exhibition’s design principle has been to appeal in some capacity to each individual visiting the University of Toronto’s largest library.

In order to make sense of this prodigious collection of materials, the celebration of Crime and Punishment’s legacy has been divided into five themes: translations; art and illustrations; literary adaptations; theatre, film, and music; and critical receptions. Through a collaborative process with UTL subject librarians and Dostoevsky scholars from across the world, we have assembled more than 50 items from 25 countries, each with an extended caption detailing the work and its author.

The five themes offer new perspectives on how Dostoevsky’s novel has been interpreted at different levels of cultural dissemination. The selected translations highlight the fascinating history of how a book is received and then globally propagated. Our earliest featured translation of Crime and Punishment is Victor Derély’s (1840- 1904) French translation of 1884, an early edition that is significant for its prominent role as international intermediary – it was Derély’s translation that was most widely used as a source text for translations into Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian, amongst other languages; and it was this French translation that made such a lasting impression on the English intellectual circles of the early 20th century through the Bloomsbury Group. With so few nations sharing the close relationship that France and Russia enjoyed, it fell to this early edition to act as the bridge between Russia and the world at large. It is interesting to note that the celebrated 2001 Brazilian-Portuguese translation by Paulo Bezerra (b.1940) is the first of its kind in Brazil to be translated directly from the original Russian, as opposed to existing French, Spanish, and English editions. It goes to show, that even after so many years and so many miles of separation, it is never too late for Raskolnikov’s chaotic steps in St. Petersburg to be retraced along the intricate pavements of Paulista Avenue in São Paulo.

Materials for the theme of art and illustration offer a highly-condensed and subjectively-distilled snapshot of key scenes from Crime and Punishment. Each artist featured was confronted with the dilemma of how to choose a scene that was the most striking to the reader, most resonant with the artist, and most illuminating to the novel. As the featured illustrations show, German-American illustrator Fritz Eichenberg (1901-1990) highlights the high sanctity of Sonia; Belarusian-born Benjamin Kopman (1887-1965) employs a much heavier mode of drawing to capture the troubles undercurrent of Raskolnikov’s confession; and Max Burchartz (1887-1961) embraces the novel’s darkness by distorting space and characters.

Literary adaptations provide rewarding examples of how a single novel can be received and assimilated into foreign cultures. Ten works are showcased from countries including South Korea, Israel, Macedonia, Brazil, China, France, USA, and Russia. The selection is made up of short stories, comic books, children’s literature, and full-length novels. These diverse stories all connect through their study and contemplation of the theme of schism – raskol. Just as in Dostoevsky’s novel the name Raskolnikov presupposes a split in the troubled mind of the antagonist, so do these adaptations that transpose this conflict into foreign, but recognizable settings. Robert Sikoryak’s (b.1964) chapter in Masterpiece Comics reimagines Raskolnikov leading a dual life as a Bob-Kane-style Batman. Yu Mu-Yong’s (1908-1960) Korean short story discusses divine and secular responsibilities – the protagonist is a Catholic priest. And, Brazilian author Clarice Lispector (1920-1977) uses the grotesque image of a severed cockroach to confront the question of one’s individual place and connection with the outside world.

A selection of materials from the exhibit showcasing Crime and Punishment’s global reach

The breadth of cultural appropriations of Crime and Punishment is further investigated in the fourth theme, which highlights the novel’s exemplary history across different cultural media. First performed on stage in 1888, the subsequent stream of productions featured in our exhibition illustrate how the novel’s ingenuity is by no means restricted to any particular genre of literature and mode of language. Gaston Baty’s (1885-1952) production of 1933 was praised for capturing the very height of popular interest in crime literature in early 20th-century France, and Andrzej Wajda’s (1926-2016) play of 1989 promoted the ongoing appreciation for the novel beyond national boundaries by touring Madrid, Berlin, Belgrade, Palermo, and Tel Aviv. Be they from Peru or the Philippines, films have engaged audiences throughout the age of cinema. Directors such as Robert Bresson (1901-1999) and Woody Allen (b. 1935) have attempted to further develop the enduring appeal of Dosteovsky’s novel.

The final theme, a gathering of critical receptions, brings us to the long-term significance of this exhibition. Featuring critical works from a diverse body of authors, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury and Norwegian scholars at a Slavic-Baltic symposium, the appeal and relevance of Crime and Punishment to society is demonstrably universal and contemporary. Recent works like Boris Akunin’s (b. 1956) post-modern novel F. M. (2006), the 2013 stage production by Chris Hannan (b.1958), and the 2014 English-language translation by Oliver Ready (b.1976) are proof that 150 years later Dostoevsky’s classic novel can still satisfy the cultural and intellectual demands of contemporary society.


This article originally appeared in PJRC Update, vol. 9 (Fall 2016) and appears here with the permission of the Petro Jacyk Resource Centre at the University of Toronto.

Barnabas D. Kirk is a PhD student in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto. In 2016 he co-curated the Crime and Punishment at 150: Global Contexts exhibit at the Robarts Library with Ksenya Kiebuzinski and Kate Holland.