Order the summer edition here

"The individual must see it as their highest goal to live for others"

Dostoevsky in dialogue.
Forfatter: Peter Normann Waage
Forlag: Solum, 2016
Dostoevsky is at least as "contemporary" as many of our actual contemporaries.


Why don't Norwegian writers write about Dostoevsky anymore? I wondered a couple of years ago. Now a book on Dostoevsky has finally been published, written by Russia expert Peter Normann Waage.

For those wondering if Dostoevsky is a current writer, I would argue that Dostoevsky is at least as "contemporary" as many of our actual contemporaries. It has to do with his passionate depth drilling. And study the following content list: gambling addiction, terrorism, nihilism, the problem of evil and forgiveness, freedom and the meaning of suffering.

Understand Russia. Peter Normann Waage is obviously pocket famous in Dostoevsky's universe. He puts the Russian author in dialogue with Christ, Russia and the West, money, Socrates and Plato, Freud and psychoanalysis, Alfred Adler, the White Rose, Edgar Allan Poe, and perhaps surprisingly to some: Harry Potter. Finally, he puts Dostoevsky in dialogue with Norway – and finally: with himself.

The literary power of fascination based on Dostoevsky's books is enormous. To put exact words on what This consists of, perhaps, difficult. It's hard to explain how Dostoevsky has shaped one's life, but for many it certainly is has he. In addition, the books are written by a man who lived a pioneering life. Dostoevsky was a passionate man. One must state that the Russian laid himself on the pew bench to force grotesque confessions, and one can at times feel the pleasure of his self-pity. If you want to understand Russia and the "differentness" of the Russians, you should read Dostoevsky.

Philosophies. In this book, the Russian author is subject, among other things, to psychoanalysis. Waage writes: "In Freud's eyes, Dostoevsky was a mentally injured person who spread his illness and perversion in life and work." In any case, you are being punished, and is it not that I yearn for it, for being properly chastised for my desires and passions? ”And he says of Prince Myskjin, the protagonist of the novel Idioten: «And since Myskjin not only has epilepsy, but also gets mentally confused, I manage to punish myself sufficiently or whip myself, as my friend Kjellermennesket suggests for the sake of variety. You can only light a cigarette to get peace, whipping is not for you. I have to congratulate the neurologist. Here everything goes up… »

Here it is not Dostoevsky who gets the whip, but Sigmund Freud. And as Dostoevsky writes further, with clear allusions to Søren Kierkegaard: “You know, I have a kind of cousin. I didn't know him alive, but now, later, we have become really good friends. He should certainly also pay a visit. He is Danish, by the way, and once claimed that it was easy enough to understand what you say yourself. Worse is where you are i what they say. There the fly dropped out of the ear! Where is the master himself in his system? That's just what I was looking for, young friend. "

Study the following theme list: gambling addiction, terrorism, nihilism, the problem of evil and forgiveness, freedom and the meaning of suffering.

This is exactly the same criticism Kierkegaard brought to Hegel: The philosopher builds a system like a large and impenetrable fortress, but he himself lives in the small house next door.

Guilt, freedom, atonement. The problem of nihilism is linked to a particular era in Russia's history – the era when young, radical people revolted against the Tsar, and the influence of the West became stronger. Raskolnikov plans what he sees as a logical and rational murder, but already the fact that he will have to kill to humans, so that he becomes a double murderer, shows that the boundaries of rationality and reason are very fragile. The mortgage lender is, after all, a thief and a jerk, and as such a "superfluous individual". Why can't you just remove her?

Within the moral universe Dostoevsky's people live in, themes such as guilt, freedom and atonement are given an extremely personal presence. Like his spirit brother Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky defended life outside all systems. Kierkegaard wrote about "the individual," outside the logical system. Peter Normann Waage writes about Dostoevsky: "Dostoevsky has nothing left for the overall lawfulness of mathematics. To the extent that it is applied to man, the personality becomes lost, the most precious of human existence. In the world of natural laws, it is not possible "to neither string nor tongue in the pocket," as the cellar man puts it. Rather, he claims that the laws of mathematics are a mockery to man: "Twice two equals four is a lobe, where he stands with his hands in his pocket and spits for people."

Dostoevsky had a boundless, yes, groundbreaking belief in the meaning of suffering. "Suffering," says the cellar man, "is the only source of acknowledgment."

In Freud's eyes, Dostoevsky was a spiritually injured person who spread his illness and perversion in life and work.

God is not dead. What does it mean to believe that God is dead? Dostoevsky gives at least as passionate an answer to the question as Friedrich Nietzsche did. Ivan Karamasov i The Karamasov brothers Admittedly, does not insist that God is dead, but he turns God back, showing disgust to God. Is there an overall moral system that can judge man? It all depends on the passion you put into your work, and of course you can kill with passion! No one should accuse Ivan Karamasov or Raskolnikov of being unlovable in their philosophical killer work. But Dostoevsky wrote within a Christian moral universe. Raskolnikov cannot endure living with his wrongdoing, for God is not dead at all. Raskolnikov (meaning "the divided") probably believed it, but he was wrong. God has equipped man with free will, and has therefore given man the opportunity to choose between evil and good. God is thus neither evil nor good, he is fair. Ivan Karamasov accuses God of giving man freedom. He does not deny God, he simply distances him: "Return the ticket!" All this Peter Normann Waage writes about in his book.

Harry Potter. Perhaps the most surprising dialogue in Waage's book is the chapter "Harry Potter and Dostoevsky". Waage shows that Harry Potter's world is in fact an immensely rich world, and that JK Rowling and Dostoevsky's point of departure is not so different: peers, are wrong. They are both entertaining. Dostoevsky was also keen on his novels to catch on; like all writers, he wanted dedicated readers who willingly let themselves into his universe and thereby happily join the journey he is planning. "

Both, one might say, write and write literature within the framework of a spiritual realism. Both authors obviously offer very nefarious encounters with the world's evil.

Let's hope that more will be written about Dostoevsky in Norwegian in the future. That he lived a long time ago is no lasting excuse for not opening the door to this Russian mastodon.

Henning Næs
Henning Næss
Literary critic in MODERN TIMES.

You may also like