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Early in the morning on 28 January, 1881, Dostoevsky woke his wife and told her of his clear conviction that he would die that day. He had been coughing blood for two days and had had several haemorrhages; now, opening the Bible at random to the third chapter of Matthew, he read Christ's admonition to John the Baptist: "Do not restrain me, for so it is fitting that we fulfil all righteousness." "You hear," Dostoevsky said to Anna Grigoryevna, "do not restrain me, this means I am going to die." (1) He was right: that evening, as the end approached, Dostoevsky called his son and daughter to his side and asked Anna to read the Parable of the Prodigal Son to them. (2) It was of course a story that had fascinated the writer for many years.

Dostoevsky's lifelong writerly interest in the Parable marks one of the most important and extensive returns to Christ's story in the history of the novel, but it is of course only part of a greater novelistic engagement with parabolic narrative in the modern period. In what follows, I wish to consider some attempts to rewrite the Parable within a tradition of modern Russian literature, from the unnamed author of the seventeenth-century Tale of Misery and III Fortune leading up to the Dostoevsky of The Karamazov Brothers (1879-80). (3) These reinterpretations are fascinating in their own right, but they also serve as a backdrop to the most prominent fictional envisioning of Dostoevsky's creative process and the final work that this essay addresses: J. M. Coetzee's own extended engagement with the prodigal motif in The Master of Petersburg (1994). (4) Dostoevsky, or an imagined Dostoevsky, is thus at the heart of this essay in multiple senses.

As the inclusion of a South African (now Australian) novelist makes clear, these texts are not only selected with attention to national tradition. Nor is this essay primarily a survey of authorial reinterpretation and re-reading--though of course Dostoevsky drew on Turgenev, and Coetzee's text is, among other things, a reimagining of works by both authors. (5) Rather, I wish to consider how the Parable's persistence in the modern era and specifically into the non-Christian or even post-Christian context of Coetzee's writing might impact, albeit obliquely, on a larger narrative about the novel's development and the emergence of modern culture, and how that culture understands novelistic meaning.

The narrative I have in mind is a familiar one; it was first told by Ian Watt in The Rise of the Novel though it was sustained and broadened by his many inheritors including Michael McKeon, Franco Moretti, and Jack Goody. In this account, the novel's genesis and eventual cultural predominance are inseparable from the rise of secularism and more specifically what Vincent Pecora has forcefully critiqued as the "secularization narrative": the argument, Weberian in tenor, that the demise of religious thought was as inevitable and irreversible as the progress of modernization itself. As Pecora points out, it is now the contention of Martha Nussbaum and Lynn Hunt that Watt's narrative of secular root and novelistic branch might effectively be inverted: modern secular society, they suggest, is itself largely the product of the novel (4).

From Watt onward, readings of the novel that evolved in tandem with the view of a triumphant secularism naturally read the form as allied with secular history itself. Defoe's narrative revolution was the "total subordination of plot to the pattern of the autobiographical memoir" (privileging this narrative over, say, an emphasis on spiritual autobiography, as in accounts of Defoe by J. Paul Hunter and George Starr) (Watt 15; my emphasis). The "modern sense of time" (24) on which the novel's truth is based, in other words--that of the "individual apprehension of reality" articulated in the philosophy of, for example, Descartes and Locke--replaces the "a-historical vision" governing older narrative forms (epic, allegory, romance): "the classical world's view of reality as subsisting in timeless universals" (23). "Life by values," as E. M. Forster put it, is pushed aside for "life in time." (6) Watt approvingly cites Northrop Frye's claim that this is the defining characteristic of the novel: "the alliance of time and Western man" (Watt 22; Frye 596.)

In the post-war period the allegiances between many humanist scholars and the left was also a factor in this insistence on the novel's secular temporality. It was not only Watt and his inheritors but the Marxist Lukacs (The Historical Novel) and the Marxist Sartre (What is Literature?)--and the tradition, in its many forms, which followed them in search of the "committed" novel--that contributed to an Anglo-American adherence to the novel's emergence from and contribution to the logic of secular history. And such history is of course also the history of the nation-state. Jack Goody's argument that the modern novel "was essentially a secular tale" where, if the hand of God were to appear, it would do so "through 'natural' sequences" is only strengthened by claims, like Benedict Anderson's, for the novel's part in the evolution of the "secular, historically clocked, imagined community" (Goody 21; Anderson 35). The nation-state could only emerge via imagined linkages between events (wrought by the "calendrical coincidence" that unites the phenomena that make up the news) (Anderson 33). Clock time necessarily displaced the charged moments and enduring values on which the literature of symbol, allegory, or figura rely.

If the story of nationalism informed such accounts, the national categorization of literatures did, too, and it is noteworthy that, when writers like Dostoevsky were alluded to at all, the "Russian novel" was often positioned as the absence of or the antithesis to Western social and artistic conventions (for instance, in Auerbach and Levin). (7) Yet one must also remember that the arguably greatest European theorists of the novel, Rene Girard and the Lukacs of Theory of the Novel, centered their readings of the genre on Dostoevsky, and specifically on his most religious novel: The Karamazov Brothers. Lukacs proposed a biographical master-plot for the novel that charts individual becoming in time. Such a plot consequently fails to discover meaning in a world without transcendence, and it was this plot which Dostoevsky's novel, in Lukacs's account, ultimately refused. Girard claimed, rather, that the time that structures the novel is that of spiritual autobiography or confession, where the narrative culminates in a revelation whereby the individual ceases to change. As Michael Holquist put it, Girard in fact saw the novel as revealing "a transcendent presence that is free to abrogate becoming, that can give meaning to moments and make them ends outside the systemic confines" of biological life, historical time, or intellectual system (Holquist 169).

In what follows I do not seek to contend for one model of the novel's master-plot; rather I wish to take seriously a question posed by Dostoevsky's novels themselves--a question that reflects on the secular and the religious minds as complexly involved with one another: What might it mean for the search for such a plot to itself become a problem for the novel? The persistence of parable within the novel generates tensions between irreconcilable models of narrative temporality. In specific passages in this tradition, the historical and the atemporal, the linear and the cyclic, and the universal and the individual become impossible to separate wholly. We are no longer in a world securely ruled by "values"; but if we can also sense time shuddering on the tracks of history (threatening the apocalyptic instant, say), the novel's universe simultaneously becomes un-navigable in the manner that Watt and his followers have described: "a space and time that are at once familiar, lawful, and manageable" (Weinstein 165). The anxiety produced by such effects not only complicates accounts of the novel as the correlate or the wellspring of the age of triumphant secular individualism. We are forced to consider the novel as a form that, rather than reinforcing a sense of shared reality, might ultimately cast us back on the kind of crisis both parable and novel--with their competing accounts of how to navigate time--seem intended to resolve.

On Structure and Temporality in Parable

One assents that, in its "original" context, parable "creates simple, practical models of God's ways with man and teaches what are the right and wrong human responses: it is essentially an instrument of religious instruction" (Pascal 140). Yet clearly our response to this tradition, not least through its lamination within longer forms like the novel, makes any straightforward return to it complex. Below I make a few observations about parable in preparation for the novel readings that follow.

Christ's parables, like the tradition of oral storytelling from which they derive, are remarkable in their deployment of antithesis, and not merely at the level of character, but in their movement from one opposing state, place, or time to another. To note the obvious, within the Parable we find: younger/older brother; home/the "far country"; sonship/isolation; fidelity/rebellion, and so on. And if the antinomies in the story ultimately figure opposing comportments toward God, the larger structure of opposition that is constitutive of parabolic form is the matrix from which such meaning itself arises ([phrase omitted] "juxtaposition," "comparison"; a placing or casting side-by-side, the throwing of one beside another). (8) The narrative thus figures a larger story that has been understood with relation to individual, generational, and universal referents.

Augustine's transposition of the Parable as a structuring narrative in Confessions begins to suggest one way that this story often came to be deployed within longer narrative forms; like the pattern inevitably used in Christian hagiography, the Parable was co-opted by such texts in accord with a confessional temporality, where "the center of interest is neither at the beginning...nor at the end... but in the middle" of the story (Danielou 7). The defining moment in this structure is that of recognition and repentance: the son's revelation ("when he came to himself [Luke 15:17]) as he sits starving among the swine.

It is clear why, transposed into the novel, the Parable will present us with a pointed challenge as to the kind of temporality through which we understand meaning to emerge. If we read the novel as governed by a historico-biographical sequentiality--by "empty" calendric, causal time--the story's meaning can only be glimpsed in its ultimate moment, for there is no transcendence in its world: as Walter Benjamin puts it, "The novelist...cannot hope to take the smallest step beyond that limit at which he invites the reader to a divinatory realization of the meaning of life by writing 'Finis'" (100). But if the novel takes its structure not from the line of history but the "radial" pattern of the confession ("the truly great novels are all born of that [final askesis] and return to it the way a church radiates from the chancel and returns to it" [Girard 310]), then all moves toward the instant--somewhere after the beginning and before the ending--when the protagonist becomes "himself." But what happens if the novel sets mode and meaning at odds, for instance by staging the Parable (with its ahistorical, transindividual truths) as a form of historical allegory (as in Turgenev)?

A further point might be made about the focalization of novelistic narrative and its insistence, as Watt puts it, on the particular. If the novel is indeed the chosen fictional form of modern individualism, it is perhaps unsurprising that even those novelistic narratives that purport to judge the adventurous impulses of an errant son (whose wanderings, in other words, teach him the error of his ways) manifest the protagonist's dread of subsumption within a larger whole. In fact, especially in those novels where the "right lessons are the lessons of home"--which preach "a morality of obedience"--such dread becomes all but irrepressible (Zweig 128, 124). One need only think of Crusoe's principal terror of being consumed--his fear of cannibals, his horror of being "buried" in the "body" of the sea (Defoe 34)--and his corresponding obsessions with walling himself in, stockpiling weapons, and finally circumscribing himself within his eponymous narrative to see what I mean. Crusoe's initial resistance to the life-plan offered by his father and his dread of being devoured, are not unconnected. In this sense, Crusoe's story is typical: as the narrative perspectives in the Parable's retellings shift toward the experience of the sons, its drama of reincorporation is explored as a form of annihilation.

Christ's story has often been titled The Parable of the Loving Father. Yet as in one of Rilke's reworkings of the Parable (in The Notebooks of Make Laurids Brigge [1910]), the sons who re-people this narrative in modernity overwhelmingly reject this love and the community on offer, for they fear its price. (9) Better to endure the solitude of eternal exile or, like Kafka's son in "Homecoming," to linger (forever) in the courtyard than to sleep under the father's roof again. There are darker revisions than these. In The Master of Petersburg, Coetzee's fictional Dostoevsky watches as his own fatherly "love [is] turned inside out like a glove to reveal its ugly stitching" (125). It is a chilling moment that takes its cue from an inverted reading of Christ's tale by one of the real Dostoevsky's son-protagonists in The Karamazov Brothers: in the story of the father who falls on his son with kisses, Ivan Karamazov reads the legend of Cronos.

Tale of Misery and III Fortune: Reading Mode and Meaning

The dynamics I will address in the novel might be better introduced through another, shorter (hybrid) text that forms one of the earliest transmutations of the Parable within Russian literature: the mid-seventeenth-century Tale of Misery and III Fortune. This complex poem blends morality tale, parable, Slavic mythology, and folklore to tell the tale of a naive youth who ignores the admonitions of his doting parents and is impoverished twice over in debauchery. In a striking twist, when the youth tries to repent and return to his parents (after losing his worldly goods for the second time, along with his new wife), his way is blocked by the demon Misery. After recognizing Misery's power, the hero is clothed in peasants' garb by "the good people" who counsel him to seek his parents' blessing (qtd. in Zenkovsky 418). But "in the open field" where his father might have spied him, he is instead confronted by his tormentor (418). Misery crows that he will never abandon the Youth, but the demon's power is finally broken when the erring son enters a monastery: "and Misery stopped at the holy gates--no longer clung to the youth" (422).

If the Tale's meaning has proven difficult to grasp this is in part because the problem of how to read its literary mode(s) remains unresolved. The ending, in particular, as well as the significance of the demon, have puzzled commentators. On one hand, the youth's desperation in turning to the monastic life has been read as a sign of the times: as Serge Zenkovsky noted, "the problem of religious regeneration" was acute during the period of the Tale's composition, which included the Great Schism (409). If Russia in the mid-seventeenth century regarded increasing westernization as an existential threat (as did Dostoevsky's Russia of the late nineteenth), the poem seems to suggest that the only sure or acceptable path is finally one of radical retreat into a spiritual order whose hold on the culture was already eroding. The pull toward considering the Tale as conservative allegory is strong if we take such a line.

But is modern history really the key to the poem's meaning or is its message actually the reiteration of an essentially medieval injunction? For Joseph Zbilut, each element of the story should be read as a figure for a religious or mythic element drawn from the Russian past and its folkoric foundations. The poem's meaning would therefore be that "the man who fails to heed the instructions of mythic and Christian religion, as handed down through tradition, is destined to have the cosmic order wage a relentless struggle with him until he repents" (Zbilut 221). It is true that, especially once the youth leaves home for the "distant, unknown land" (Zenkovsky 414), the Tale begins to resemble what Angus Fletcher calls allegorical travelogue: its events and figures seem the expressions of a fixed, medieval cosmology that joins pagan and Christian elements (Fletcher 36-37). The demon in this second reading is thus the expression of an abstract principle of justice; he is the product of folk genre as well as Christian sermonizing, a type familiar to the universe of the morality play.

Through Misery's mocking speeches, however, a very different type of text also seems to emerge--one that appears inherently worldly. Based on these passages, Norman Ingham has suggested that the poet's message is in fact not spiritual at all but ironic throughout: "young men who disobey their parents and squander their fortune suffer hunger and humiliation and end up in an early grave or a monastery" (345). Being overly trusting (the youth's misplaced trust in his scurrilous companions) and being overly spiritual (his retreat into the monastery) alike lead to forms of death. In fact, while Ingham's reading is concerned with the poem's style, the poem's ironic relation to form should be made explicit. Misery's speeches not only serve as an appropriate strategy for the communication of the message that one ought not to be naive; if the Tale's counsel is essentially worldly, its irony is also directed against the poem's own ur-text: Jesus's message of a metaphysical accounting (the Father's love) trumping an earthly one (the elder brother's measure of the situation) would here be inverted. When we consider the possibility of the Tale's deployment of both modes--the cosmic/allegorical, the pragmatic/ironic--within a modified version of a narrative extracted from Christ's story, a basic truth about the incorporation of parable within more extensive narrative forms begins to flicker into view.

Because of its longevity and its formal compactness (the two are surely related), parable can serve as a robust vehicle for new content. In this case, the story of the prodigal and the pedagogic tradition behind it often become indistinguishable from folkloric or Slavic mythic elements (which may map similar narrative arcs, such as the journey and return). Yet both biblical and folkloric narratives--which may also resemble one another in their essentially ahistorical vision--in turn become elements of a historical admonition, if only because these archaic narratives are themselves summoned in resistance to historical change. Quite simply, parable becomes an element of the new work's significance in ways that might ironically undermine while simultaneously drawing force from the parable's original "meaning" and symbolic referent, as well as the authority represented by the parable's own form (because it represents an ancient and religious pedagogic tradition).

Works that adopt parable as a mode among others re-compose a literary technique that pointedly requires us to identify a referent ("Who is the son and, most important for Christ's purpose, who is the elder brother?"). Within extended narrative forms, parable thus becomes a question asked of a form that asks a question. No reading of the referents within the Tale's retelling of the Parable can be performed before we engage the question of what "parable" itself means within the Tale. Positioned within a novel or a long poem, parable can thereby generate multiple and oppositional meanings that vex the problem of interpreting the (non-parabolic) work precisely through complicating the mechanism by which parabolic meaning emerges.

The Parable challenges us to reconsider the value we place on apparent virtue and obedience (the elder brother) versus the divine and unquantifiable love for the lost (the father). In the Tale this message becomes a part of "tradition" (the province of "the fathers"). Does the Tale then counsel us to recall the Parable's injunctions (yet in the interests of a resistance to historical change), or to promote a worldly pragmatism which is their opposite? Or does it ask us to somehow do both--to transfer the authority of the teaching accrued within the familiar arc of Christ's story onto truths which appear both complementary and oppositional to the Parable at the same time?

Fathers and Sons: Biography, Irony, Allegory

In Turgenev's novel we begin with a version of the homecoming scene: father Nikolai Petrovich anxiously awaiting his son Arkady's return. Yet the sons will remain "apart" for much of the narrative; they are embarrassed by their fathers, even as the fathers' affection for their progeny makes them less likeable than helpless and ridiculous. Nikolai Petrovich's efforts to stay "current" only appear pathetic (his literally studied attempts at communication with the younger generation; his exhilaration when, in Petersburg, he joins in the talk of the young men), as does Vasily Ivanovich's tiptoeing around Bazarov and his undisguised joy at Arkady's jejune praise of his comrade. But while Arkady rejoins the fathers' world of values and literally moves onto the estate, it is of course Bazarov, not his father, who pays for his "mistakes" with his life in this story.

What is perhaps most striking about Turgenev's ironic rewriting of the Parable's ending is the totalizing severity and suddenness of Bazarov's fate. I use the word "fate" deliberately: a powerful logic takes over once Bazarov falls in love that leads him to abdicate responsibility for his actions. One way of putting this would be to say that Bazarov's powers desert him once he is struck down by irrational desire and he henceforth cannot recover from his crushed ego. But the chain of events that then inexorably leads to his death perplexes no less than the ironic manner of that death. Frank Seeley cannot be far from the truth in calling the novel's ending the work of nemesis (231).

Outside the book, Turgenev tried to explain Bazarov's death as a historical necessity; like another of his heroes, Insarov, Bazarov had been born before his time. Coetzee sophisticates this answer when he argues that Bazarov's death is a double tragedy, one dimension of which is universal, the other political. In its depiction of a passionate, intelligent youth unjustly destroyed in his prime, Bazarov's death is a universal theme; at the same time this event performs a social-critical function against the novel's historical backdrop--Bazarov's demise is "Russian in that a certain chain of causality, a chain whose abstract links are Russian backwardness, Russian social stagnation, Russian political prejudice, leads to a country doctor cutting himself with an infected scalpel" (Stranger Shores 277). There is an additional level to Coetzee's reading: those commentators that read Bazarov as a purely historical figure failed to grasp the novel's greater structure of relationships--specifically, the transformation of sons into fathers, a cyclical, ahistorical narrative that is "profoundly anti-utopian" (277).

This last remark suggests what is missing is a reading that appreciates how different stories (the transformation of sons into fathers; the death of a Russian country doctor; the untimely destruction of youth) layer one another in ways that are not stable, but dependent on our perception of literary mode. In fact, when considered in the context of the novel's fascination with historical change, the ahistorical cycle of sons becoming fathers becomes political: "profoundly anti-utopian" (Stranger Shores 277). Yet read within the context of the powerful ironies of the ending, this cycle also appears to rehearse and invert yet another structure from which it draws considerable force--the ur-text of the Prodigal. What happens when we read the complex narrative of Fathers and Sons as one that plays with forms of double signification, not unlike parable?

In this regard, the novel's compound effects are not wholly dissimilar to those generated by the Tale; Fathers and Sons has what Edwin Honig calls an allegorical quality wherein an extended motif performs several distinct functions within the work which encloses it. The allegorical in Honig's sense manifests within a specific type of narrative: the "twice-told tale written in rhetorical, or figurative, language and expressing a vital belief (Honig 12). It is invoked when "a proverbial antecedent (old) story has become a pattern for another (the new) story," transforming the meaning and structure of the antecedent even as it musters the authority of the past (12).

In fact, both the historical and ahistorical "meanings" of Turgenev's story emerge from the "homecomings" at its end, which are ironic in multiple senses. Consider that the ending inverts the novel's own prior inversion of the Parable's generational positions: in Fathers and Sons's opening scene. (At the beginning it is the father, Nikolai Petrovich, who is ashamed of himself before his son, because of Fenechka; it is Arkady who "forgives" his father, and so on. As noted, however, Arkady eventually rejoins his father's life on the farm, reaffirming the Parable's narrative arc of reconciliation with authority.) Yet in the death of Bazarov, the novel's finish is ironic in that it reiterates even as it inverts the force of the Parable's scene of patriarchal reconciliation.

This irony is accentuated by a doubling of narrative mode. Bazarov is a figure defined by his resistance to "traditional" life, mores, "literature"--anything that involves the accumulated knowledge of the past and its guardians, the fathers. When this character is introduced to us in a modern scene that invokes the Parable, we might expect a transformation of the old story in a progressive spirit; the fathers will need to make way for the new manners of their children, just as the old (cyclical) story is upended for a (novelistic) linear narrative of individual and social transformation. Instead, Bazarov struggles against an irresistible "return home" for twenty-seven chapters: a return to the irrational drives of attraction (Odintsova), the rehearsal of hollow cultural tradition (the duel with Kirsanov), the temptations of sentiment and self-pity (his behavior with Fenechka), and of course to his father's house where he faces his mortality. Bazarov's biography was always the old story in disguise. And this is why this hero appears increasingly like a cipher, an agent of a greater force that impels him to his ironic destruction: the novel gradually reveals his total implication with larger "plots" that shift the reader's perspective away from the biographical pattern toward a narrative effect not unlike the revelation of hamartia by a tragic hero--a revelation, in other words, that effectively "stops time" at the point at which the hero "comes to himself"/"comes home" and can no longer change.

Another way to consider the novel's relation to an ineluctability seemingly at odds with the Romanwelt would be through the multiple models of reading offered in the text itself. There are, for instance, Kirsanov's reading of culture, Nikolai Petrovich's reading of nature, and Bazarov's own reading of his life. But there is also the reading proffered through Turgenev's most subtly ironic speaker: the narrator whose knowing perspective regards the sons' posturing from a cool distance. If our guide's feelings are clear enough in his treatment of the minor character and hanger-on Sitnikov ("he was especially persistent in his attacks on women without suspecting that, in a few months' time, he would have to go crawling on all fours in front of his wife" [69]), he merely tempers such irony when it comes to Bazarov's adamant refusal of feelings that he clearly has. For instance, when the young nihilist arrives in such haste at Anna Sergeevna's that he claims he doesn't intend to unhitch the horses, our narrator demurely notes that Yevgeny is fortunately quite well-prepared when Anna calls for him: "It turned out that he had packed a change of clothes where he could easily lay his hands on it" (172). The descriptions provided can be cutting: when the budding class revolutionary tries out his common touch at the end, we are not spared his total failure: "this self-assured Bazarov didn't even suspect that in [the peasants'] eyes he had something of the look of a village idiot" (185); nor does the narrator neglect to observe Odintsova's relief at having resisted Bazarov, her stifled revulsion as she holds her breath by his deathbed, and so on (194). So it is not simply the end of the story--the nihilism of the sons giving way to astonishment at their own destruction (Bazarov) and the admission that they were "arrogant boy[s]" (Arkady)--but the narrator's foreknowledge of this fate that colors the concluding twist as we regard Bazarov's death and grave (176).

The meaning of the narrator's earlier reserve becomes evident in his refusal to smooth over the crushing ironies of this end. Even as Bazarov loses his mind (his prized reason) and his vigorous body (he is effectively paralyzed), in his last flash of consciousness he is compelled to witness his reconciliation with his heavenly Father even as his final wish is betrayed by his earthly one: "at the sight of the priest... something like a look of horror was momentarily reflected in [Bazarov's] deathly features" (196). This horror is the vision of an order that upends all of Bazarov's efforts to see himself as an actor in history, a student of "nature," a "force" (53).

It is of course this "force"--nature itself--that Turgenev's fathers and sons have fought to interpret--the first as "beauty," the second as an "impassive" energy. But if nature seems to have the final word here, it is read, by the narrator, as the inscription of values which are both salvific and sentimental. "There is a small village graveyard in one of the remote corners of Russia. Like almost all our graveyards it has a melancholy appearance," the narrator intones, before going on to elaborate a Chekhovian scene: tottering crosses, ditches overgrown with weeds, sheep wandering among the neglected graves. In this sad landscape there is yet "one [grave] that no man has dared lay his hands on and which no animal has trampled"; we are then told that "only birds alight on it and sing at sunrise" (201). The novel's vision of Bazarov's grave thus invokes a moral world at the exact moment that such values are no longer tenable; the senselessness of the death that introduces the book's final revelation is made to make leaving historico-biographical temporality, and the 'finis' of Bazarov's story within this model, behind.
Can love, sacred, devoted love, not be all-powerful? Oh. no! No matter
how passionate, sinning, rebellious is a heart hidden in the grave, the
flowers growing on it look at us supremely with their innocent faces:
they speak to us not only of that eternal peace, of that great peace of
"impassive" nature; they speak to us also of eternal reconciliation and
of life everlasting.... (201)

One need not even invoke parable to grasp the limitations of reading Turgenev in the way that, for instance, Nadine Gordimer does: as an artist of history. The above passage glides toward a form of signification recognizable to the student of Turgenev's most famous contemporary--the Flaubert whose Madame Bovary is haunted by both religious feeling and recurrent symbol. Yet the invocation of the Parable in Fathers and Sons goes further: its ending is reflexively cast in something like the religious-pedagogic mode the novel at first seemed set up to resist. This now appears to be a universe where, to borrow from Thomas Aquinas, we find a form of double signification within both word and world: a "first signification whereby words signify things," manifesting the "historical" sense, and the signification "whereby things have themselves also a signification [that] is called the spiritual sense, which is based on the literal and presupposes it" (Aquinas I, 17). If history speaks here, as Turgenev claimed, so does form. And in the parabolic world-view that the narrator summons and the plot invokes, it is form that speaks the meaning of history.

The novel's structural ironies are therefore multiple. It positions a figure defined by his resistance to "meaning" within a narrative that invokes both a biographical and historical pattern even as it summons forms of cyclic, essentially ahistorical signification ("how sons become fathers"). Yet this is not all: the story also closes by turning its protagonist into the unwitting hero in an apologue about eternal reconciliation: a narrative of "life everlasting" and "sacred, devoted love" (Turgenev 201). That this apologue draws on the coded narrative traditions of the past and their related reading strategies (the transindividual, transcendent truths of the Parable; the novelistic deployment of symbol) to suture the rift between word (culture) and world (nature) serves as the novel's final, yet least convincing, rebuttal of Bazarov's reading of his life and times.

The Karamazov Brothers's "Anti-parable": Confession and the "Euclidean" World

It was Joseph Frank who claimed that the Parable "may well be seen as [Dostoevsky's] own ultimate understanding of the meaning of his life and the message of his work"--a remark that aptly suggests the breadth of the topic and the limits of an article like this one (III, 748). I wish here to consider only one small example of how the Parable was reimagined in Dostoevsky, in The Karamazov Brothers. This is the blackly comic anti-parable that Ivan Karamazov delivers at trivializing speed in "Rebellion": the story of "Richard."

The story appears among the many examples of violated children Ivan says he collects, yet within this series it is remarkable for the way that it explicitly refers to what is arguably the narrative model--at once elicited and subverted--that lies behind both "Rebellion" and the following chapter, "The Grand Inquisitor": the Parable of the Prodigal Son. In a series of wild inversions of motifs from the New Testament, Ivan claims that the tale he is about to recount is taken directly from a "delightful pamphlet translated from French, which describes the execution in Geneva, as recently as five years ago, of a criminal, a murderer" who repented "when he was actually on the scaffold" (KB 300). Of the various details Ivan relates, it is noteworthy that Richard was "given away" by his natural parents to shepherds when only six years old, was abused under their care as a slave, and, starving, was driven out virtually naked to look after their sheep: "Richard himself testified that during those years, like the prodigal son in the Bible, he desperately wanted to eat the swill that they fed to the pigs...but they wouldn't even give him that and they beat him when he stole from the pigs" (300; italics in original).

We are hardly surprised to learn that this most abandoned of sons lives "like an animal" and "ends up robbing and killing some old man" (a crime that recalls Raskolnikov's sin) (KB 300). In prison, however, Richard is surrounded by Christians who beleaguer him with their attentions until he confesses, is tearfully converted, and then is rushed to his execution under the adoring gaze of "all the pious and philanthropic people of Geneva" (301). Crowning the story is the image of the crowds hysterically embracing their victim ("You are our brother....And you must die in the Lord. Granted, you are innocent, you knew nothing of the Lord when you envied the pigs their must die" [301]) even as "brother Richard" is swept to the scaffold sobbing, "This is the best day of my life, I am going to my God!" (301). This is the Parable retold as a story about betrayal by earthly fathers, brothers, and of course the heavenly Father. It equates absolute "love" with injustice, confusing the climactic gesture of the Parable--the embrace--with the kiss of Judas.

What is the point of this story, and what is its relation to the narrative within the novel which is Ivan's life story? If the outrage conveyed through Ivan's jubilant rehearsal of this anti-parable is all too evident, we should also note that the story, and "Rebellion" itself, effectively comprise a form of confession ('"There's one thing I have to confess to you', began Ivan..." [296]). Yet like Ivan's twisted retelling of the Parable itself, "Rebellion" is twinned with a vindictiveness and self-vindication that seem designed to resist absolution or even narrative resolution. Ivan suggests his diatribe is his attempt to, as he puts it, "redeem myself through you" (that is, Alyosha--his novitiate-interlocutor); but "Rebellion" is also his bid to "show his face": an action that he frames with the assertion that such a gesture will render forgiveness and reconciliation impossible and unacceptable: "as soon as [one] shows his face, that's the end of love" (297). "Rebellion" is thus an ironic refusal of (rather than outright disbelief in) the principle upon which confession revolves: Ivan defies the apocalyptic suturing of transgression and forgiveness (the "higher harmony") because he refuses to accept that the latter is founded on the necessity of the former.

Yet this "confessional" turned against itself (and any apocalyptic resolution to history) is deployed simultaneously against an opposing, materialist vision. Ivan also entertains the notion that there will be no absolute point in time (in his life, in history) for there are only the observable rules which govern the sequentiality/causality of the quotidian "Euclidean" world. "I know only that suffering exists, that no one is to blame, that one thing leads to another just like that, that life goes on and things find their own equilibrium in the end--but then, that is just Euclidean nonsense, I know that, and when it comes down to it I can't agree to live by it!" (306). Even if, as in the fiction he then reads to Alyosha--"The Grand Inquisitor"--the "whole secret" that is revealed (by Ivan, by the universe) is merely that of God's absence, Ivan cannot accept that outcome either, for he perceives and despises what he calls the human need for "someone to worship, someone to take charge of his conscience, and finally, a way to be united unequivocally in a communal and harmonious antheap" (KB 323). This urge to be a part of what Freud called a "group psychology" remains, even if God does not. For Ivan, then, there will be no reunion with man (on either sacred or secular terms), just as there can be none with God.

The force of "Rebellion" does not in fact lie in its multiple refusals, however, but in the affective complexity of Ivan's protest and its confusion of the polarities sketched above. For while Ivan describes Richard's killing as "typical of the Swiss," the narration he delivers, with all of the rhetoric at his command, is itself a performance of what he then terms the particularly Russian counterpart to such disgusting behavior: to become "intoxicated by [one's] own cruelty," and specifically to get drunk on the act of violating the innocence of those waiting upon their "Dear Father God" (KB 303). By compelling Alyosha to listen to the unanswerable tirade he delivers in a "kind of delirium"--a rant that reaches a high point in the vision of "ultimate punishment" meted out to an innocent girl by her parents by locking her beaten, shivering body in a freezing privy overnight--Ivan subjects both his younger brother and the violated child within himself (again) to something not unlike beholding Nekrasov's peasant lashing his carthorse across the eyes:

Can you understand such a thing: that small child...sobbing, weeping humble tears of bloodstained innocence, praying to "Dear Father God" to protect her--do you understand this obscenity, my friend, my brother, my holy and meek monk, do you understand why such an obscenity should be so necessary, and what is the point of it? (KB 303)

The anaphoric repetition in Ivan's triple iteration of the same rhetorical question (Can you you you understand...and what is the point of it?); the fervent and ironic appeal to holiness and meekness (qualities of the violated child in the story) in the name of fraternity, friendship, and the offices of the church; the belittling acknowledgement of the possessives ("my friend, my brother, my holy and meek monk")--these bespeak his unshakable conviction that despite such authority, despite such qualities, despite such ties, his questions will never be answered. The ambivalence that rings through the speech consists in this conjunction of a simultaneously mocking and pleading urgency--which both begs for contradiction and vindictively swerves into an anguished revelling at the helplessness of Ivan's interlocutor before his unanswerable pleas. Conducted under a demand for total revelation (from God, from man) even as it vaunts Ivan's total disclosure--"If I ever want to call myself an honest man..." (308)--this "confession"/indictment thrills in its brutality even as it becomes a form of self-violation for the outraged innocence in the speaker himself. And echoing within the speech and the acts it describes, we hear Ivan's torment at that violation, and so on.

This language clearly generates an effect more complex than the presentation of a choice, nor is it at all likely that such a choice could resolve itself into the parabolic poles of "return" and "exile." In Ivan's speech apparent antitheses--a belief in "Euclidean" causality and a vision of divine purpose; the urge toward transgression and the wish to confess; a noble longing for justice and a thirst for unrelenting vengeance--circulate not so much as oppositions but as mutually-reinforcing impossibilities. Both poles of Christ's parable as experienced by the son are not only abhorrent, and thus a torment; they are a source of excitement because they torment. In a further self-inflicted wound, it is this torment which Ivan, out of moral outrage and what he calls "love," refuses to surrender (KB 308).

Theterminus of this affectively ambivalent, sadomasochistic shifting between narrative possibilities (a worldview based on blind causality--"one thing leads to another just like that"--within the frame of an "interminable confession") is the breakdown of the narrative principle itself: incoherence. "I am the x in an indeterminate equation. I'm a sort of ghostly reflection of life that's completely lost all his ends and beginnings and has finished by even forgetting what to call itself (805). This is Ivan's Devil whose narrative is not one of scepticism so much as "belief and disbelief alternately," a discourse that at once appeals to what Ivan calls "realism" (scientific, logical argument) even as it admits a "seed of faith" (809). It is the doubleness of this narrative and its compulsive return to an ineradicable guilt that finally destroys all "ends and beginnings": "[Ivan] was manhandled out, crying and shouting incoherently" (862).

The Master of Petersburg: "This Depraved Parable"

If the sardonic force of Ivan's "anti-parable" is ever truly countered in his novel, Joseph Frank is right that this does not happen (contra Dostoevsky's own views) through the preachments of Father Zosima. Rather, it is through dramatizing the ineradicable promptings of conscience that Dostoevsky insists on a moral principle that no one, not even the most hardened evildoer (and not Ivan himself), can evade (Frank, V, 678).

But what if the agonies of such a conscience themselves initiate yet another hypnotic cycle of violation and self-violation? This possibility constitutes one difference between Frank's reading of The Karamazov Brothers and Devils, and Derek Attridge's reading of Coetzee's fictionalized account of the gestation of these novels in The Master of Petersburg: Attridge is surely correct that The Master seems to present the act of literary creation in a way that has "nothing to do with traditional understandings of ethics, or with human responsibility" (133). Instead we find that what Coetzee's Dostoevsky's (hereafter "Dostoevsky's") writing needs--what literature itself may require--is "the sacrifice of innocence" (Attridge 132).

The Master elicits such a troubling reading in no small part through amplifying tensions we have already seen in preceding treatments of the Parable, and through a complex layering of allusion and literary mode. Set up as a historical novel (the book begins "1869"), it stages a series of confrontations between a man who "loves to play the father forgiving the prodigal son"--"Dostoevsky"--and his "sons" (his stepson Pavel, and the adversary, Sergei Nechev), even as its hero (an epileptic, like the real Dostoevsky) trembles on the brink of moments when time ceases (218).

As its protagonist senses himself slipping from historical embeddedness into what we might call, in its New Testament sense, kairos time--the moment when "the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:15)--The Master elicits and confuses the kinds of polarities that distinguish parabolic narrative, sans resolution. Not least among these are the figures of rebellion, authority, return, and transgression in Christ's lesson: the father and the sons. Not unlike Ivan's slippage in "Rebellion" between violated and violator, "Dostoevsky" emerges in his text as a figure who oscillates between the primal father of Ivan's rages ("Fathers devouring children, raising them well in order to eat them like delicacies afterwards" [TMP 125]) and the tormented offspring whose "confession" rings behind "Rebellion." In a novel whose dominant motif is that of falling, the effects are suitably dizzying.

"Dostoevsky's" antagonist--the "son" Sergei Nechaev--was appropriately developed through a strategy Coetzee also borrowed from Dostoevsky: the "projection" of character types from other literary works into a new place and time. (10) And if, like Bazarov, Nechaev claims that the "forces" that determine his outlook on the novel's world are material and historical (in his case, political and economic: "the stock exchanges and the merchant banks...of Europe" [TMP 180]), his larger vision also revolves around an all-informing struggle with the generational cycle: "I will never be a father," Nechaev asserts, "I am my own father" (188). In a profane rewriting of the Last Judgment, Nechaev sardonically prophesies that in his new universe God will be called down from heaven even as all hierarchies, successions, and orders are wiped out--including the irreversibility of death: "There are no bounds to what can be done"; "Revolution is the end of everything old, including fathers and sons" (194, 189). Nechaev in fact posits a mirror-narrative to Christ's story wherein the fathers submit and confess their greed to the children. (11) There will be no new family at the end but a group without a head ("the People"), time, or tradition. Like the younger son, Coetzee's Nechaev wants his inheritance--all of it--now.

For "Dostoevsky," however, Nechaev's nihilist materialism in fact only papers over his descent from extremist spiritual stock: Nechaev is a "Jesuit" who will accomplish his ends by any means (TMP 46); as "the People's saviour," he is a dark "Christ in his wrath" (103); and in a complex formulation that joins God the Father and the Son, Nechaev is the "Christ of the Old Testament" who "want[s] to steal Easter from Jesus" (187). But if The Master suggests that the battle between fathers and sons in the late sixties was not "really" a perennial struggle between the generations, or a historical contest between political adversaries, but a fight for the soul of Russia ("Russia in the hands of Nihilists would be neither more nor less than Russia under the Antichrist" [Coetzee, Stranger Shores 142])--it is also at this level, where the stakes are arguably highest, that the opponents become increasingly difficult to tell apart. When this happens in the novel, we inevitably confront a familiar story.

In "The Cellar" Nechaev has led a blindfolded "Dostoevsky" into St. Petersburg's (literally) underground realm; here he presents him with the spectacle of a prostitute returning from her work to feed her children. Outplayed, "Dostoevsky" responds not with speech but a gesture:
...with what seems to him the strength of a giant [he] folds Nechaev to
his breast. Embracing the boy, trapping his arms at his sides,
breathing in the sour smell of his carbuncular flesh, sobbing,
laughing, he kisses him on the left cheek and on the right. Hip to hip.
breast to breast, he stands locked against him. (190)

Lest there be any doubt about what is happening here, note that "Dostoevsky" urges Nechaev to return to his biological father, to kneel, beg forgiveness and ask to be sheltered; to Nechaev he says that "this is not a parable; I don't speak in parables" (184). (As noted, later in the book we find that Pavel has written in his journal that "Dostoevsky" "loves to play the father forgiving the prodigal son" [218].)

But the embrace here of course also invokes Dostoevsky's own rewriting of the Parable at the heart of The Karamazov Brothers. Facing the stake at dawn in the "dark vaulted prison" of the Holy Office, it is Christ who listens until the Inquisitor's tirade has finished:
When the Inquisitor stops speaking, he waits a long while for the
prisoner to answer him. He finds His silence disconcerting. The old man
wants Him to say something, no matter how unpleasant and terrible. But
He suddenly approaches the old man in silence and calmly kisses him on
his bloodless ninety-year-old lips. That is His only response. (KB 329)

As in the other instances when "Dostoevsky" hearkens to an impulse or a voice that seems to arrive from the beyond, his embrace has the status of a revelation; like its mirror in Ivan's "poem" or the Parable, this gesture would bypass argument to reach "from heart to heart" (TMP 195).

The meaning here might initially seem clear. In this cellar that recalls the cell where Ivan's Christ (the Son) confronts his judge (a "father"), Nechaev stands in as the Inquisitor: a rebellious false savior who sets up an alternate order to that of Christ's kingdom. And there are parallels here between the religious patriarch and the secular revolutionary: both characters share the view that humans are "slaves even though they have been created rebels" who long to "submit blindly, even against the dictates of their conscience" (KB 321-22). In this reading the connections between the Church under the Inquisitor and the world under Nechaev's "vengeance"--with its vision of total revolution and "harvest days"--snap into focus when we recall that the real Dostoevsky referred to the Inquisitor as "my Socialist" (Letters, vol. 4, 58).

Yet Coetzee's text will not let the opposition stand. It is not only the hostile, forced quality of Dostoevsky's gesture that alerts us to something strangely "literary" about this symbol of father embracing son (Dostoevsky "traps" Nechaev's arms; he "locks" Nechaev against himself)--it is the echo of a further allusion. The line "the strength of a giant" recalls the most famous description of a man as a giant in modern Russian literature: it is Bazarov--the forerunner for the real Dostoevsky's Stavrogin in Devils and a model for Coetzee's Nechaev--who lives "with the strength of a giant" (Turgenev 195). And it is "son" Bazarov who maintains, as "father" "Dostoevsky" puts it later, that "Fathers and sons [are] foes: foes to the death" (TMP 239).

As the embrace here shifts from forgiveness to entrapment, sincere to literary, "real" to "symbolic," Nechaev's vision of a revolution that will bring an end to history--"there are no bounds to what can be done" (190)--begins to resound within "Dostoevsky's" earlier insistence on the abiding power of the paternal bond: recalling the "loving father" of the Parable, "Dostoevsky" counters that "[t]here are no limits to what a father will do" (TMP 194). But in this echo chamber where Christ and Antichrist seem more like twins than opposites, "father" "Dostoevsky's" claim also begins to sound like a fact to which Ivan Karamazov would furiously assent.

As the novel moves toward its dramatization of literary creation in "Stavrogin," such echoes become increasingly troubling. "Dostoevsky's" invocation of the biblical promise of "the resurrection of the body eternal" appears to merge into Coetzee's Stavrogin's justification for evil: "History is coming to an end; the old account-books will soon be thrown in the fire" (TMP 244). The oppositional qualities of these two visions are joined in their apocalyptic yearning for the end, a yearning to leave behind calendric time--to step outside of time itself. Here the contrasting ethical imperatives that separate father and son do not appear to oppose but rather to imply one another. The real Dostoevsky's hope to live "in the eschatological tension that was (and is) the soul of the primitive Christian ethic...led to a doctrine of totally selfless agape" (Frank, IV, 321). But the truth that "Dostoevsky" senses with the irreversibility of an approaching seizure and that echoes Nechaev's inverted Last Judgment--"Time shall have an end' (TMP 118)--might also mean: "Everything is permitted" (KB 330). The novel's world begins to resemble Ivan's "depraved parable," in which ultimate good requires evil (TMP 183).

The Master confronts this paradox--that of "Rebellion"--in its own parable, the "parable of the householder," a story which anticipates "Dostoevsky's" final act of "trapping" God through the torsions of the fiction he composes in the novel's final chapter. (12) Yet this "trap" for God is also a "prison" for the writer who finds himself back in the paradoxes of "the old labyrinth" as he paces in his dead son's room (TMP 236-37):
If he [the householder/"Dostoevsky"] is to be saved, it will be by the
thief in the night, for whom he must unwaveringly be on watch. Yet the
thief will not come till the householder has forgotten him and fallen
asleep. The householder may not watch and wake without cease, otherwise
the parable will not be fulfilled. The householder must sleep; and if
he must sleep, how can God condemn his sleeping? God must save him. God
has no other way. Yet to trap God thus in a net of reason is a
provocation and a blasphemy. (TMP 236)

In the transposition of Christ's lesson and Peter's apocalyptic prophecy into "Dostoevsky's" story, the "thief in the biblical text (the Son of man) becomes a figure who may "save" the watcher even as he threatens judgment. But as "Dostoevsky" reasons it, the watcher's failure is necessary for the "thief's" arrival, so that the lesson of the "parable" might be complete. Once again: the universal harmony is founded on the injustice that it will at last abolish.

Yet this "parable" also becomes a figure for The Master's novelistic world: "house-keeper" and "thief become, respectively, "Dostoevsky" and God. In this sense the drama is a specific one, pitched in the novel's "real" time: "Dostoevsky's" challenge that God reveal Himself in the silence of Pavel's death. Yet if "Dostoevsky" is "ultimately" within a "parable" (not the calendric time of the novel), then he is right to grasp the simple but profound truth that the story must end in a certain way. If the watcher can maintain this impossible thought as he drifts asleep, he will see that the parabolic injunction of the biblical text is effectively inverted. It is God who must answer to man in this story because He is its author; God must answer for the way that the story ends.

Parable and the Novel's Master-plot

As even this brief reading might indicate, Coetzee's novel suggests the limits of both major accounts of form that hinge on Dostoevsky, and specifically on The Karamazov Brothers. Not least because of The Master's complex invocations of the Parable and the Russian tradition that transformed it, one cannot describe this novel as tracing the always-emergent meaning of an individual biography within history (Lukacs); nor is this a life-story that culminates in an appeal to the confessional pattern, with a gesture of "reconciliation between man and the sacred" (Girard 294). And if neither the "fallen" sequentiality of the secular world nor the "radial" pattern of spiritual redemption corresponds to the novel's multiple, contradictory movements, one need hardly point out that the novel also fails to elicit the kind of Rawlsian "reflective equilibrium" sought by those champions of the novel's "literary-ethical" potential--those who use literature to ask, "How should one live?" (Nussbaum 173).

But Coetzee's novel does speak to both the "answer" Dostoevsky himself gives to the problem of evil as well as the ahistorical vision Holquist finds at the heart of The Karamazov Brothers: the never-completed, iconic "artistic picture" of how sons may become fathers. A counterweight to "The Grand Inquisitor," Dostoevsky's "picture" (parable-like in its appeal to feeling, in its bypassing of the intellect, in its condensed shape) begins to emerge in those passages that readers as astute as Czesfaw Milosz have misread as "an unintended parody"--the sections where Kolya Krasotkin and the boys form a community of brothers whom Alyosha "fathers" yet still fosters as individuals (Mitosz 318). Yet in The Master's return to similar tensions, Coetzee's text turns aside from this "answer" and the regenerative closure it offers to pose a further question: What is it to be a father?

The novel's staging of this question through the act of literary procreation ("Stavrogin") also requires us to reformulate this question in novelistic terms: What is it to be a novelist? To both versions of this question the text answers: "a betrayal." It is an answer that shakes both secular and religious models for securing and valuing the novel's master-plot. For this betrayal is not only of the literal or figurative sons, the innocence of children, or the soul of Russia (in "Stavrogin" "Dostoevsky" renames the girl he violates, Matryona, as "Dusha," meaning "soul" [246]). The Master's ending dramatizes a betrayal of Dostoevsky's (and "Dostoevsky's") account of the Parable as the truth behind the truth of history. It is through its exploration of the complex temptation to this betrayal--the temptation of playing the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son--that The Master's final chapter constitutes a deepening of the tradition considered here.



(1) For an account of this deathbed scene see Frank, III, 747-48. In Anna Grigoryevna's memoirs she notes that had the edition from which Dostoevsky read been a more recent one--the Bible he possessed had been presented to him thirty years earlier by the wives of the Decembrists--the line might have been rendered "Suffer it to be so...." Such was the importance of the gospel for him, she claimed, that had this line been rendered differently in Russian, Dostoevsky would have recovered (Mochulsky 647).

(2) Hereafter referred to as the Parable.

(3) Cited as KB. The subject of the prodigal son in literature is of course vast. See Rad for the most recent and extensive study of the topic of the prodigal son and Russian literature. See Tucker for the parable in Crime and Punishment. See Pattinson and Thompson for a study of the wider context in Dostoevsky.

(4) Cited as TMP.

(5) The example of the Russian tradition is a powerful if surprising one for Coetzee and other South African writers. See Jackson; see also the chapter on The Master of Petersburg in Hayes.

(6) See Forster's discussion of the distinctive contribution the novel has made to literature in this sense in Aspects of the Novel, 42-44.

(7) Dostoevsky's absence from Watt's and McKeon's accounts of the English novel is of course to be expected; but the writer is hardly mentioned in Nussbaum's massive Love's Knowledge, and in Moretti's titanic The Novel Dostoevsky appears almost exclusively in William Mills Todd Ill's "The Ruse of the Russian Novel" (where he notes the habitual reading of Russian fiction noted above) (402-03).

(8) See Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon, 520.

(9) On his return, Rilke's prodigal throws himself to his knees, but only to "implore [his family] not to love [him]" (Rilke 260). Human love, Rilke suggests, has nothing to do with its object; it creates a false image of the beloved and imprisons the beloved in that image. See the ending of The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, 251-60.

(10) The major fictions behind The Master--Crime and Punishment, The Karamazov Brothers, and Devils--borrowed from Turgenev's exploration of nihilism even as they explored the radical thought reignited by Turgenev's antagonist Nikolai Chernyshevsky in the new climate of the 1860s: when "the battle of the generations was...joined once again in Russian culture, as it had been in Fathers and Sons" (Frank, IV, 403). A simplified Bazarov became Dostoevsky's model for Pyotr Verkhovensky in Devils (a Bazarov as read by D. I. Pisarev, who defended Turgenev's hero in an 1862 article as a man who nobly pursued the satisfaction of his own ego and pleasure), and more complexly, laid the groundwork for the character who became Stavrogin. It is the emergence of this last figure that The Master of course dramatizes in its final chapter--the chapter that begins with the writing of Devils.

(11) "I have always had a suspicion about fathers," Nechaev says, "that their real sin, the one they never confess, is greed. They want everything for themselves. They won't hand over the moneybags, even when it's time" (TMP 158).

(12) The terms here are borrowed from Christ's parable of the housemaster in Luke 12:39 conflated with 2 Peter 3:10's apocalyptic warning about the day of the Lord: "And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not" (Luke 12:39-40). "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10).


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Title Annotation:J.M. Coetzee, Ivan Turgenev, and Fyodor Dostoevsky
Author:Bolin, John
Publication:Studies in the Novel
Article Type:Critical essay
Date:Jun 22, 2018

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