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Edward Wasiolek DOSTOEVSKY, CAMUS, AND FAULKNER: TRANSCENDENCE AND MUTILATION THERE ARE HISTORICAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL REASONS for bringing CamUS and Dostoevsky together. Camus admired Dostoevsky, read him, wrote about him, and argued against him. He adapted Dostoevsky's The Possessed to the stage and ranked it, with the Odyssey, War and Peace, and Don Çhiixote, as one of the world's great artistic works. He had portraits of two writers in his office: one of them was of Tolstoy and the other was of Dostoevsky. He argued explicitly for and against Dostoevsky in The Myth of Sisyphus, and one chapter of The Rebel is entitled "Trois Possédés" and another "Le Chigalévisme." When he first read Dostoevsky he was overwhelmed by him because Dostoevsky had revealed to him "La nature humaine." Twenty years later he was still overwhelmed because Dostoevsky had expressed "le plus profondément notre destin historique." ' Camus and Faulkner read each other and expressed admiration for each other's work. Camus called Faulkner the best of ambassadors for French readers, and, in response to a question from a student at the University of Virginia in 1950, Faulkner called Camus the best of living French writers. In response to another question on the same occasion, Faulkner explained why he thought so highly of Camus: "He is one man that has—is doing what I have tried always to do, which is to search, demand, ask always of one's own soul."2 The three writers came from different countries, different literary traditions, and Dostoevsky, from a different time. They spoke different languages, had different temperaments, and they wrote about different things. But they also wrote about some of the same things, and these were perhaps the most important. Each in his own way attempted to come to terms with the failure of humanism, the growth of nihilism, and the dehumanization and brutalization of man by society, war and contemporary life. Each confronted and represented in his creative work what he believed 131 132Philosophy and Literature to be a mutilated world. Camus saw the first half of the twentieth century ravaged by two wars, by massive upheavals of people, and the mutilation of more than seventy million people. He saw the cause of such mutilations in the idealisms and transcendences of our time. Dostoevsky's passion and anger were fueled by the mutilated world he saw in the making in the radical socialist views that were teeming in Russia at the time and specifically in the utopias that were then projected as the vision of the new man and the new society. He saw inthe saviorsof mankind, thedestroyers of mankind, inthe new freedom, an old slavery, and in the bright utopias, the universal ant hill. His revolt was to go far beyond the specific doctrines that first motivated his rage; his historical perspective was to grow into metaphysical perspectives, and the mutilations he saw in his opponents he was to discover in his own remedies. Faulkner's vision of the South of the early thirties—when the public vision was that of a peaceful and agrarian backwater of America—was as hallucinatory as Dostoevsky's vision of Russia: a land ravaged by hate and destruction and a people transfixed in time and condemned to repeat some ghasdy pantomime of true life. Each of these three writers was to root out the mutilating principle of the world he saw and represented and to work out dramatically its logic and dialectic, and each was to attempt to provide the correctives to the mutilating principle. Each saw the mutilating principle in a conception of human nature, raised above time and the contingencies of history. Though each formulated the principle and dramatized its operation and its consequences in a different way, each was revolting against an image of man elevated above what he was, against an image of man abstracted by reason and formulated into essence and end. Each in his own way, too, saw the saving principle as a descent from the elevations of reason and idealization to a real world of contingency and flux. Each was to immerse man in history. Because they were different men from different traditions, each...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 131-146
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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