Empty Days

Wednesday, May 18, 2005



V.V.Rozanov.

I already mentioned that turn-of-the-century philosopher Vasilii Rozanov was extremely popular in Russia these days. So are such un-russian thinkers as GK Chesterton, Mark Twain, and George Orwell.

People are craving "some sound words without much ado".

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I tried looking for Rozanov's works on the english internet but instead of translations found a bunch of academic papers with titles such as: "The scandal of Vasilii Rozanov", "The case of an amoral procreationist", "Vasilii Rozanov's Erotic Mythology", "Is There Pleasure in Suffering?" - and such.

One of his collections of aphorisms and "reclusive notes" is called Ephemeral.

Really.

Or his most well-known book - Solitaria.
It's so very much out-of-print on Amazon.com that it sells for nearly US$200.
Product Details:
Unknown Binding: 188 pages
Publisher: Boni & Liveright (1927)

OUCH.

Yeah - he was a slavophile, an out-spoken antisemite, and he married Dostoevsky's former lover who was an insufferable bitch and his 20-years elder. Partly because he admired Dostoevsky.

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Lev Shestov, a russian-jewish philosopher of the same period, tried to describe Rozanov thusly in 1930:
"I shall attempt, so far as it is possible to do this briefly, to "evaluate" the literary legacy of this great writer - more correctly, of this tireless battler. I say of this battler, for Rozanov was, like almost all great Russian writers, first of all a battler. His matchless literary talent was for him only a weapon in the struggle against an eternal and terrible enemy - an enemy, moreover, with whom reconciliation, a compromise, even only a temporary armistice is impossible. Whoever is not with him is against him. Whoever is not against him is with him. This enemy Rozanov saw in Christianity. Or more correctly: this enemy Rozanov called Christianity.

But, strangely, Rozanov, who always attacked Christianity so unrestrainedly and passionately, once said about himself, using the words of Feodor Karamazov: "Even though I am a piglet, God still loves me." As coarse and cynical as this may sound - in his writings Rozanov reached the extreme of coarseness and cynicism, and precisely when he was so coarse and cynical he revealed himself most of all - as coarse and cynical as this may sound, in these words there is a great truth about Rozanov. It is true that he was a "piglet," but it is also true that God loved him. Beyond this, although he did not express it, still another truth is hidden in these words: Rozanov himself loved God, loved Him with his whole heart and his whole soul, as the first commandment requires. And if all things do not deceive me, in this lies the key to the solution of his animosity toward Christianity. He could also have repeated the words of another hero of The Brothers Karamazov, the words of Mitya that he addressed to his younger brother: "I am sorry for God, Alyosha."
Rozanov went to church a lot, fasted, and variously cherished practical religion - russian orthodoxy more specifically. This didn't prevent him from calling the popes the "iron army" of Christ: a bunch of metal figurines surrounding a living figure so nobody might touch or see it. Pretty neat, hmm?





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