Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dostoevsky - Notes From The Underground

"I am a sick man.... I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased. However, I know nothing at all about my disease, and do not know for certain what ails me. I don't consult a doctor for it, and never have, though I have a respect for medicine and doctors. Besides, I am extremely superstitious, sufficiently so to respect medicine, anyway (I am well-educated enough not to be superstitious, but I am superstitious). No, I refuse to consult a doctor from spite. That you probably will not understand. Well, I understand it, though. Of course, I can't explain who it is precisely that I am mortifying in this case by my spite: I am perfectly well aware that I cannot "pay out" the doctors by not consulting them; I know better than anyone that by all this I am only injuring myself and no one else. But still, if I don't consult a doctor it is from spite. My liver is bad, well--let it get worse!"

I've just finished reading Dostoevsky's terrifying 1864 book Notes From The Underground. The book was a decisive influence on Georges Bataille. From Michel Surya's excellent biography of Bataille:

"Chestov not only guided Bataille in his reading of Nietzsche, he initiated him into reading Dostoevsky. Everything suggests that this discovery was decisive. The young Bataille might be seen as 'Dostoevskian'; not only because of the explicit reference he made to the great Russian novelist in the sole remaining fragment of his first book W.C.; it may also be inferred by accounts from Métraux, according to whom Bataille wanted to follow the maxim 'everything is permitted' (echoing Dostoevsky's famous axiom 'nothing is true'), and Leiris. He first persuaded Leiris to read Notes From The Underground; in addition, Leiris depicts him at the time as 'frequenting dives and the company of prostitutes like so many heroes of Russian literature'. Leiris also suggests that the hero of Notes From The Underground influenced Bataille 'by his obstinacy in being what in popular terms one calls an "impossible" man, ridiculous and odious beyond limit'. Finally, Leiris portrayed the Bataille of 1924-5 as: 'impossible' certainly, debauched beyond a doubt, and a gambler like many of the heroes of Russian literature in general and Dostoevsky's in particular. Bataille gambled - often with money, and sometimes with his life at Russian roulette."


Anonymous said...

great blog! i've found it very interesting and really useful. i think i found it searching for stuff on surrealism, and was very intrigued in particular by all the posts on george bataille (who is fascinating and whom i am writing my dissertation on) which link his ideas to harsh noise and black metal, etc (which i also love). everything i've read on this blog is good though. looking forward to reading more, please keep up the good work!

thanks - jack

Transpontine said...

See also 'Song From Under the Floorboards' by Magazine: 'I am angry, I am ill and I'm as ugly as sin'