What sort of Jew Dostoevsky liked and disliked: a narrative of a love-hate relationship

Автор: Prokhorov G.S.

Журнал: Новый филологический вестник @slovorggu

Рубрика: Русская литература

Статья в выпуске: 3 (46), 2018 года.

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In his fiction, journalism and letters, Dostoevsky recurrently mentions ethnicity of his protagonists. Russians, Poles, Englishmen, Germans, Turks, Greeks etc. never act as individuals with their personal life but rather as ‘carriers’ of some national idea. Amidst the nations represented in Dostoevsky’s oeuvre, there are some Jews. The fashion of how Dostoevsky portraits them was questionable even at the writer’s lifespan. Arkadii Kovner’s and Sophia Lurie’s letters to Dostoevsky are quite known as well as their direct indictment of the writer in Anti-Semitism. After 1920s, Dostoevsky’s attitude toward Jews turns into a difficult topic of Dostoevsky Studies. In the article, we trace how Dostoevsky uses words which traditionally refer to Jews and show their semantics as highly dispersed. We find the writer’s affinity to use words ‘a Jew’, ‘a Hebrew’ and even ‘an Yid’ with dubious or even without any links to real Jews. Based on private letters of Dostoevsky and his journalism, we derive two Jewish images – positive and negative – which are quite constant in the writer’s texts. Dostoevsky bindingly connects Jews with Judaism, i.e. its practises, traditions and rituals. Thus, he is mostly sympathetic to ‘serious Jews’ – traditionalists. Vice versa, he is rigorously critical to the secular ones. Dostoevsky looks at the polemics of the traditionalists and the ‘maskilim’ and perceives it as a parallel to Russian debates around the Westernization. In the both conflicts, Dostoevsky’s sympathies are with people who keep traditions while he perceives those who decline a ‘national body’ as his own ideological ‘foes’.


Dostoevsky, Jewish narrative, Anti-Semitism, assimilation, secularisation, Westernisation, the Enlightenment

Короткий адрес: https://sciup.org/149127405

IDR: 149127405   |   DOI: 10.24411/2072-9316-2018-00045

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