11.29.2007

DDDP - Day 29, pgs. 257-458 + 682-714

DDDP - Day 29, pgs. 257-458 + 682-714
Finally made my way to the end of Part 2. The extra pages noted in the title comprise the Appendix which was, according to the foreword, originally intended to be the last chapter of Part 2. Having read it, I'm fairly amazed that it wasn't kept in the original printing.

Part 2 is a large step up from Part 1 in sheer entertainment value, though some may consider that to be damning with faint praise. The game is afoot, as it were, with plots and manipulations forming. The focus shifts to Pyotr Stepanovich Verkhovensky and Nikolai Vsevolodovich Stavrogin (the fact that I could type those names without referring to the text is indicative of how frequently they come up within it), and theirs is an interesting relationship that seems to be half antagonism and half comradeship. Stepan himself has receded almost entirely to the background following a brief scene with Varvara Petrovna and she, too, has been silent for some time now.

The highlight for me, personally, was chapter 7, titled "With Our People", in which Nikolai and Pyotr attend a meeting of the local revolutionaries. From my limited experience with left-leaning activist groups it was spot on in lampooning the general sense of passion and lefter-than-thou sniping which prevails. That Dostoevsky was prescient of murderous "socialist" tyrants like Stalin, Mao and others with his character of Shigalyov was interesting to me. The revelation which follows soon after that Pyotr is in no way a socialist but rather a bloodthirsty seeker after power leads me to believe that ol' Fyodor had probably encountered a few people just like him in his day. While Demons is supposedly a condemnation of revolutionary thought, it so far seems that what he is damning is the tendency for authoritarians to adopt any guise or superficial ideology necessary in order to conquer their fellow men.

Especially intriguing to me was the mention of Proudhon by the unnamed lame teacher present at the gathering who suggests that the "despotic and fantastic pre-resolutions of the problem" ('the problem' being what to do with the hopelessly irredeemable masses... Shigalyov suggests slavery while others suggest wholesale slaughter) that Shigalyov suggests are shared by Proudhon. Proudhon was one of the early anarchist writers and the theorist who split the International Working Men's Association between his ideas and those of Karl Marx primarily over the problem of the source of revolution. Marx expected a revolution of the working class to be led by the intelligentsia, academics, and other middle-to-upper-class (and maybe beyond) socialists while Proudhon believed firmly that only the working class could lead itself in rebellion (unless I'm conflating my memories of his writing with those of Bakunin... they were similar, regardless). He also believed in peaceful revolution, which is what raised my eyebrow relative to his theoretical association with Shigalyov. For those of you who are unfamiliar with him, I highly recommend reading Proudhon as he was among the original proponents and theoreticians of anarchism and the basic ideas and concepts have yet, I believe, to be better distilled and described.

Finally, the appendix. The missing last chapter. I said I was amazed that it had been left out of the original printing, and I certainly am. That chapter goes a long way to filling in pretty much every gap there is in the picture of Nikolai Stavrogin's character and I'm curious to see what might be revealed in Part 3 that made the publisher feel it was unnecessary.

Onward.