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In their seminal discussion of the periodization of Fedor Sologub's literary career Z. Mints and N. Pustygina defined the earliest period of his work, the 1890's, in the following terms:

    Период сочетания пост-народнического демократизма и идеализма "Северного вестника". Изображение быта соседствует с отдельными элементами сатирического гротеска и романтического "двоемирия", с мыслями о преображении мира красотой (лирика, "Тяжелые сны"). Однако в целом и "сны" мещанской пошлости, и высокая любовь пока оказываются разными сторонами одной - земной - действительности2.

The present article is concerned with an examination of the novel "Тяжелые сны" as the major text of this first period of Sologub's career. The argument concentrates upon the depiction of the relations between the fictional characters, since this is the point at which the ethical preoccupations of realism are most clearly in evidence, and therefore the point at which a challenge to that tradition may be most readily detected. This examination also raises important questions about the nature of the self, and it will be argued that in this earliest novel Sologub already introduces, if only implicitly, ideas about the self which will be developed with greater precision in his later work.

In her memoir about "Северный вестник" Liubov' Gurevich describes her meeting with Tolstoi and her answer to his question about the difference between her journal and all the other journals appearing at that time in Russia. She defined the specific stance of her journal as follows:

    Мы думаем, что механизм человеческой жизни заводится изнутри, из человеческого духа, и, только действуя на дух, можно обновить жизнь. А действовать внешними законодательными мерами - это значит только переводить стрелку отставших часов пальцем3.

This statement goes to the heart of the change in attitudes which the 1890s witnessed. If the tenor of public debate from the 1860s through to the 1880s had concentrated upon the perceived need to change society first in order to change the moral behaviour of people, that relationship is now seen to be reversed. There can be no doubt that Tolstoi himself, through the emphasis on the primacy of individual morality in his post-1880 works, was one of the principal agents in bringing about this change of view. Such an attitude to the relationship between the individual and society forms an essential part of the "idealism" of "Северный вестник" to which Mints and Pustygina refer. The "renewal" of life, about which Gurevich spoke, is itself a preoccupation shared with earlier generations: the desire for a juster, more humane and more equal society. Interpersonal relationships, at both the domestic and the wider social level, remain a matter fundamental concern. But, abandoning the notion that external action on the part of the state is capable of bringing about the desired changes, the generation of "Северный вестник" turned their attention to the nature of the self, on which all such relations depend.

Identifying the essential moral question in terms of the alternatives of egoism and altruism, the populists had seen no problem in the moral demand that the individual simply subordinate himself to the greater good of the community. The following generation, however, began to regard egoism as a necessary characteristic of the human personality. This is an issue that appears in one form or another in a variety of works that are known to have been widely read at the time, and to some of which reference is made in the text of "Тяжелые сны". In the background stands the ubiquitous influence of Schopenhauer, whose doctrine of the will, the blind life-force that governs the actions of all those who fail to understand its nature and escape its clutches, leads inevitably to the conclusion that egoism is the mainspring of all human behaviour4. Undoubtedly the understanding of Darwin that gave rise to the idea of "the survival of the fittest" played a part in this perception too.

The importance of Minskii's "При свете совести" for an understanding of "Тяжелые сны" has been recognized by critics. M. M. Pavlova has written:

    Реминисценции и скрытые цитаты из книги "При свете совести" часто встречаются на страницах "Тяжелых снов"5.

Minskii's central term is "self-love" (самолюбие), which he regards as the fundamental feature of human life. It changes its form as civilization advances, but not its basic nature. It underlies even behaviour that appears to be altruistic. Feelings understood as constituting sympathy for others are in reality based only on the fear that a similar misfortune might happen to oneself. For its fulfilment this egoism requires the constant re-affirmation of one's sense of being, and this is achieved through demonstrating superiority over others. The happiness of one person necessarily entails the unhappiness of others. This is the case not only in relation to one's contemporaries, but also in relation to the generations of the future. Just as certainly as evolution has brought the present generation to the highest state of consciousness known, so it will sweep it away to make room for the next. Generations yet unborn are clamouring for the iron of our blood and the phosphorous of our brains. The awareness of this creates a contradiction between the self-love without which no life is possible, and the understanding of the self's transience. It is the knowledge of the inevitability of death that gives rise to conscience, which is the force that counteracts self-love. Minskii explains it in terms of the Kantian categorical imperative6. Its striving for the Absolute is used as evidence for the Absolute's existence, on the analogy of gravitational pull proving the presence of a body that exercises it7.

As Minskii argues, the individual personality only exists in its relation to that which is outside it. Self-love can only be manifested in relation to the other. But it can never be satisfied, since the gratification of one desire immediately gives rise to another. The manner in which the individual establishes superiority over others evolves in response to this, and its nature changes from physical to moral. It turns into the wish to impose on others one's own attitude to the world8. What is now desired is the voluntary adoration of the other, and the attainment of this requires a willingness to suffer for the other, even to die. There arises the meon of selfless love:

    Таким образом, человек поднимается на вершину самолюбия и вместе с тем возносится объект его желаний, делаясь все недостижимее. Сперва он вожделел на тело своего ближнего, потом на его свободу и, наконец, на его внутреннюю личность. Но по мере того, как душа убеждается, что все ее желания себялюбивы и недостижимы, - в ней воздвигается понятие о какой-то чудной, чистой любви, всеобъемлющей и невожделеющей, о бескорыстной жертве ради того, что мне абсолютно не нужно. Это понятие есть меон.

    <...> Мы узнаем об этом понятии, потому что страстно порываемся из оков самолюбивых желаний и вожделений, никогда вполне неутолимых, вечно возобновляющихся, наполняющих душу скукой и пресыщением, т.е. сознанием своей бесцельности9.

Minskii envisages a permanent conflict between reason and faith, in which the development of rational thought constantly dethrones the object of human veneration and the conscience re-instates new values. Much of his argument is concerned with the state of mind of people suffering from this process, and it sounds like a catalogue of the attributes of European decadence. In "Тяжелые сны" a similar argument is given to Anna, who explains the pessimism of the age by the fact that the old gods are dead, and the new gods have not yet been born (181). The notion of the 'meon' is Minskii's solution to this problem. Projecting forward the constant leap-frog between reason and faith, he introduces this concept to denote a distant ideal which is by definition not real, but towards which man must endlessly strive. The third part of "При свете совести" describes this notion in terms of space, time and cognition; most important for Sologub's novel is his argument about the 'ethical meon'. This proposes an ideal of personality that is vividly reflected in the climactic scenes of "Тяжелые сны".

Another background text to "Тяжелые сны" is the novel by the American writer Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward, 2000-1887, which first appeared in Russian translation in 188910, and which is referred to in the text of Sologub's novel (72). This is a utopian vision of the society of the future, in which the perceived failings of nineteenth-century society have been totally eradicated. All social inequality and conflict have been removed, and all forms of coercion have become unnecessary except the universal requirement to work between the ages of 21 and 45, which is in any case regarded as a natural human need. The principal reason for economic inefficiency, whose eradication has made universal material prosperity possible, is declared to have been the wasteful competition created by the individualism on which American society of the nineteenth century was based. The question is asked whether "the reds" had any part in the transformation that has taken place, and this is answered emphatically in the negative, on the grounds that their narrow class interests could not bring about the transformation of consciousness that was needed. The change in society could only come about when people ceased to conceive of the state simply as an association of people existing for political purposes, but created the "state party", which regarded the state

    как единую семью, как жизненный союз, как могучее дерево, листьями которого служит народ, питающийся его соками и в свою очередь питающий ствол. Эта партия взялась поднять патриотизм из простого инстинкта в рациональную преданность отечеству, сделав отечество действительно отцом, питающим и берегущим своих детей11.

This vision, with its mixture of the organic and the rational, rests upon a notion of human spiritual transformation through which the curse of individualism (another word for egoism) is overcome and people relate to each other as though within an ideal family.

The relative importance of these two texts to Sologub can perhaps be judged from the fact that enthusiasm for Bellamy is attributed to the minor and somewhat naпve, though undoubtedly positive, character of Shestov, while the references to Minskii's ideas appear mainly in the thoughts and words of Anna and Login. Different as the approaches of Minskii and Bellamy are, they nevertheless share the important feature that neither of them requires that suppression of the self's needs that was inherent in the moral stance of the populists. They look rather to the development of the self, envisaging a future state of affairs in which interpersonal relations will be established on a new and better footing, precisely because the individuals constituting society are able to achieve fuller self-realization. Both share, in their own ways, L. Gurevich's insight that spiritual transformation has to precede social reform.

There is no doubt that from an early age Sologub was deeply concerned with questions of interpersonal relations. In an essay he wrote in 1881, "Сказки животного эпоса и нравственно-бытовые", a substantial amount of space is devoted to descriptions of the distortions of normal family life, such as incestuous relations between father and daughter, that are recorded in folk-tales. Sologub makes it clear that such depravity is commonplace in rural Russian communities at the time of writing12. His letters to V. A. Latyshev, describing his life in the provinces as a teacher, contain many references to the brutality, casual morals and venality of the local population. Two particular episodes described in these letters were used as plot elements in "Тяжелые сны". The story of Molin, the teacher who molests a servant girl and is ultimately acquitted when the witnesses are blackmailed into changing their evidence is based on an incident in which he and his mother were involved13. Another letter describes attempts to set up a variety of self-help organizations - a mutual provident society, a printing-press, public lectures - in a manner that is directly reflected in the novel14. Like the ideas in Bellamy's novel, such steps entail not the subordination of one set of legitimate interests to another, but the discovery of common ground on which the individual interests of a group of separate selves can be realized through community.

In the novel these ideas fail completely to achieve realization. They are perceived by most uninvolved characters as probably seditious in intent; they are frustrated by civic officials; the prime mover of them, Login, is half-hearted in his belief in them and is seen to do very little to produce practical results. The principal reason for their failure, however, is the fact that the potential members of the group begin to fall out with each other as soon as details are discussed. Each begins to pursue his own personal interest to the exclusion of everything else, and the common purpose is drowned in a welter of individualism. The behaviour of these characters bears a distinct resemblance to the behaviour Sologub described in the first of his series of essays "Наша общественная жизнь", published in "Северный вестник" in January 1895, where he recounts his observations of the way business is conducted in Petersburg societies and associations15.

It is the condition of the self that determines any possibility of the renewal of life. Sologub as an educator was well aware of the influence of environment on the individual. In one of his letters to Latyshev he declared that boarding schools should be introduced in order to detach children from the baneful influence of their home circumstances and give them the chance to profit fully from the education on offer16. His unfinished early narrative poem "Одиночество"17 has elements of a Naturalist explanation for the deficiencies of its hero, whose failure to contribute to the social reforms he believes necessary is attributed in part to venereal disease, apparently of congenital origin in the manner of Ibsen or Hauptmann. However, the poem carries the subtitle, "История мальчика-онаниста", where the vice of onanism serves as an emblem of the individual's alienation from other people and seems (as far as can be judged from so incomplete a text) not to be attributed to any external cause or influence.

At all events, the hero of "Тяжелые сны", Vasilii Markovich Login, is a character whose failings are not attributed to any external causes. True, he recalls a joyless childhood in the city (30), but this is given no prominence as an explanation of his condition. His is the viewpoint through which the novel's action is mainly seen; it is his relations with other people that form the main substance of the novel's plot; and it is his self-awareness, his sense of self, that is examined in order to find the basis on which ethical relations with others can be established.

The first two chapters of the novel show Login to the reader in a variety of social situations, in the company of three different women, in his relation to nature, and indirectly through the opinions of others. In conversation with Anna at the end of the second chapter he says of himself:


    я как-то запутался в своих отношениях к людям и себе.

He describes his desires:

    Я жажду не любви, не богатства, не славы, не счастья, - живой жизни жажду, без клейма и догмата, такой жизни, чтоб можно было отбросить все эти завтрашние цели, чтоб ярко сияла цель недостижимая.

And he recalls the failure of all his philosophical quests, the unattainability of truth, goodness and beauty:

    Красота приводила к пороку, стремление к добру заставляло делать глупости и вносить к людям зло, стремление к истине заводило в такие дебри противоречий, что не знал, как и выйти (33).

A word frequently used to describe Login's condition is "порочность". Sologub's abandonment of the residual Naturalism of "Одиночество" is evident in the absence of any kind of hereditary or environmental explanation for this state. Indeed, very little is told about his past except for clear, but very general references to debauchery. Alcoholic excess and sexual licence are common features of the provincial world that Sologub depicts, and Login participates in these, but his debauchery is presented as a result, rather than a cause, of his wider malaise.

Login is described by Anna as possessing two truths at once (36). His duality is expressed in the archetype of Cain and Abel, and is dramatized in the dream scene where he sees himself as a corpse, and attempts to dismiss the vision in the name of a fixed and integrated identity: "Я - сам, постоянный и цельный, я - отдельно от тебя" (94). At times Login appears like a chrysalis, in which a new person is struggling to escape from the shell of an old one. His hatred of Motovilov, for which very little in the way of personal motive can be found, is identified with his hatred of the old self that he seeks to overcome. It is first mentioned immediately after the dream of the corpse, implying some kind of causal connection (97).There is a studied ambiguity in the words he speaks shortly before the murder: "Надо отделаться от ненавистного прошлого, надо убить его!" (226), where in context the pronoun could refer as easily to Motovilov as to his past. And shortly after the killing of Motovilov Login says to himself: "Убито злобное прошлое" (230).

Lacking a firm grasp on reality, Login finds life boring and meaningless, and he is not alone in this; his conversations with both Klavdia and Anna concentrate largely upon this theme. Having no fixed sense of self the characters tend to lack any clear motives for action, and the waywardness of their behaviour is frequently in evidence. Login catches himself conducting a silly and inappropriate conversation with Neta, he continues to drink despite his conviction that it is a bad habit, he throws a stone through Andozerskii's window purely on impulse. He sets off the rumour about the imminent arrival of hot-air balloons without any coherent motive, and then confirms their ostensible purpose and date of arrival out of frivolous malice. Many of the lesser characters' actions are similarly unmotivated and purposeless.

Meaning, in this world, is created by gossip, rumour and misunderstanding. The characters wilfully misinterpret each other's actions. Even in instances where rumours are spread without overt malice, the resultant interpretation of the world is manifestly absurd. The most striking example of this process in "Тяжелые сны" is probably the scene in which the two headmasters discuss which star has been mistaken for an approaching hot-air balloon. They reach the conclusion that it is either Venus (Венера) or Mercury (Меркурий). One of the townswomen, overhearing their conversation, spreads the message that what is approaching is either Невера (Unbelief) or Мор курий (Chicken pestilence) (172).

The principal polarity of the novel is the contrast between the inhabitants of the town and the Ermolin family who live on their country estate some distance outside it18. The Ermolin family, father, adult daughter Anna and teenage son Anatolii, represent a model of human relations utterly different from that which dominates the town. Anna, in particular, has a clear sense of selfhood, an intuitive and unproblematical affinity with nature, and an uncompromising clarity of judgement. The narrator often uses the word "жестокий" to describe her relentless manner of defining, without malice, the failings of other people. Such 'cruelty' is seen in her judgement on the schoolteacher Ivakina (155), and most clearly of all in her condemnation of Motovilov: "Вот человек, который не имеет право жить" (182)19. She possesses precisely the qualities which Login lacks, and at times appears to him as a paradise from which he must necessarily be excluded; her company soothes him, releases him from many a destructive emotion, but being with her feels to him like "безнадежное блуждание у закрытых дверей потерянного рая" (180). When Login asks the waif he has adopted, Len'ka, his opinion of Anna, Len'ka replies that you can tell her anything; pressed to say whether she is kind (добрая), Len'ka says: "Нет. И не злая. Она так, сама по себе. С ней, как с самим собою, - только с хорошим собою" (211). In one of her conversations with Login, Anna explains her ideas about love. Rejecting Login's belief that the quest for truth has primacy, she responds: "Это - отвлеченное дело. А правда - не в добре и не во зле, она - только в любви к людям и к миру, ко всему. Хорошо все любить, и звезды, и жабу" (181). She also borrows Minskii's term 'meon' to explain her attitude to love: not the love of the here-and-now, the finite, but the love of the distant ideal. In this she echoes the better strivings of Login and his wish, quoted above, for "unattainable goals".

Anna also says that the love of which she speaks may turn out to be cruel. Besides echoing the word used in the description of Anna herself, this statement may provide the explanation for one of the most puzzling scenes in the novel.

Anna and Login declare their love for one another, and exchange their first kiss, in a nocturnal garden scene which loudly echoes the declaration of love between Lavretskii and Liza in Turgenev's "Дворянское гнездо". Significantly, they kiss across a fence, which clearly represents a barrier between them that still has to be overcome (200). Visiting the Ermolins' house the following morning Login finds no one to speak to, but is struck by what he takes to be the voice of Anna crying out in pain: "Вдруг Аннин голос громко и резко нарушил тишину. Звонкие вопли, мерно, долго... Смолкли" (211). This scene is never explained or referred to again. Shortly afterwards Anna is seen discussing with her father her intention to give herself to Login, explaining her willingness to make a sacrifice and to live, if necessary, with unhappiness. The upbringing her father has given her, she says, has made her strong enough to withstand things that weaker people fear. Her father's reply indicates a feature of that upbringing which is not clarified on the surface: "Горе жизни, милая, пострашнее, чем босою по снегу походить или от боли под розгами пореветь" (228). We already know that Anna has been taught to walk barefoot in all conditions. This exchange makes it clear that her upbringing has also included, and continues to include, beatings designed to strengthen her character and will.

Sologub's attitude to corporal punishment has been clarified through a number of publications during the past decade, especially through M. M. Pavlova's essay on the pre-history of "Мелкий бес", which includes the text of Sologub's essay "О телесных наказаниях"20. Situating his arguments within the general public debate of the time about the acceptability of corporal punishment, he declares that corporal punishment is preferable to other forms of punishment because the child recovers quickly from physical pain, which does no long-term harm. Other punishments, such as various forms of deprivation, are resented more vigorously and experienced as more debasing, and harm the child spiritually in a way which should be avoided. Corporal punishment brings a sense of peace in its wake and strengthens the character of the victim. Sologub argues that it is a necessary part of an upbringing designed to inculcate Christian values, since it teaches the primacy of the spirit over the body:

    Аскетизм видел победу духа в умерщвлении плоти. Современность, требующая силы и энергии, полную победу духа ставит в зависимость с силою и выносливостью тела21.

The beatings which Sologub himself underwent as a child, at the hands of his mother, his sister, or sundry others employed for the purpose, are now a well-known aspect of his early life. His essay makes mention of this. As a teacher he also had frequent occasion to inflict such punishment on others. There is evidence that in adult life he continued to submit voluntarily to beatings by his sister, from which he clearly obtained pleasure. Pavlova draws attention to the presence in Sologub's poetry of the Abelard and He-acuteloi-umlse theme, in which religious ecstasy merges with ecstasy of an erotic nature22. It is clear that the beating Anna undergoes is not a form of punishment: there is nothing for which she deserves to be punished. All the signs indicate that it is to be understood as a form of voluntarily undergone suffering, desired by her for the effect it has on her resolve. There is no textual reason to draw any further inferences from this about the nature of her relationship with her father. The reader is invited, it seems, to regard this beating as entirely compatible with a relationship that is loving in an entirely normal sense. The analogous theme of the interchangeability of tenderness and cruelty between lovers has been noted in "Тяжелые сны" (360), but the presence of this educational notion of physical chastisement has not, to the best of my knowledge, previously been commented upon.

The general issue of egoism and altruism is reflected at a number of points in the text of "Тяжелые сны". It is present in discussions between Login and Anna about the nature of charity; it figures frequently in his questioning of his own motives for action. It is seen clearly in Chapter 24, where Login's argument that apparently altruistic acts are in reality designed to satisfy a need on the part of the performer is taken by his listeners as confirmation of his own impure motives for sheltering the runaway Len'ka. The statement itself is entirely in keeping with similar assertions made by Minskii. However, these ethical issues are to a great extent embodied in Sologub's polemic with Dostoevskii, which has been the subject of a substantial amount of critical comment23. The novel of Dostoevskii's to which reference is most obviously made in "Тяжелые сны" is "Преступление и наказание".

Direct textual references to "Преступление и наказание" begin to appear in Chapter 16. During the party at Kul'chitskaia's house, the wife of the military commander makes a remark which recalls the conversation between the two students about what has come to be called "the Rastignac question", which Raskol'nikov overhears while he is still planning the murder:

    Жена воинского начальника потягивала вино маленькими глотками и уверяла, что если б ей представился случай для обогащения отравить кого-нибудь и если бы это можно было сделать ни для кого неведомо, то она отравила бы (110).

A little later Father Andrei, teacher of religion, tells of a dream in which he discovers that the lamp representing his life is running short of oil, and seizes the opportunity to replenish it by transferring oil from the lamps of others. These remarks clearly indicate a primitive form of egoism, where the morality invoked is limited to the danger of discovery. At the end of the same chapter, when Login goes home from the party, his hatred of Motovilov returns violently, and a psychological parallel is suggested with Raskol'nikov's attitude to the moneylender. When he then says to himself, "Перешагну" (114), the word clearly echoes a central topos in Dostoevskii's novel24. Further references to "Преступление и наказание" are to be found in the murder scene itself, when Login has the good fortune to come across a conveniently situated axe, and, most significantly, in the subsequent scene with Anna, a self-evident polemic with Raskol'nikov's confession to Sonia, in which Anna tells him not to confess to the murder. "Свою тяжесть и свое дерзновение мы понесем сами" (стр. 233), she says to him. As Irina Pantelei puts it, this shows Sologub's attempt to demonstrate the possibility of "преступление без наказания"25.

In the detailed discussion of the novel in her 1983 book "Ранняя проза Федора Сологуба", Liudmila Kleiman points to the way in which Sologub follows the poetics of Dostoevskii in creating doubles, overlapping personalities. In particular, the murder of Motovilov is justified by the argument that he represents the evil in Login himself, just as Svidrigailov embodies the purely evil and self-seeking aspect of Raskol'nikov, so that Login is in fact symbolically killing the old evil in himself, which had been shown in the vision of himself as a corpse and expressed in the mythic archetype of Cain and Abel. The text provides plenty of support for this interpretation. The difference from Dostoevskii's moral world is profound in the extreme: nowhere in his work is any act of violence by one character on another seen as justified. On the level of poetics, the symbolic identification of different characters is never allowed to override the fact of their psychological and metaphysical uniqueness.

The moral issues raised by the plot cannot be resolved simply by deeming the action to have symbolic significance only. The duplication of characters, while very probably a device for which Sologub is indebted to Dostoevskii26, serves in "Тяжелые сны" a somewhat different purpose. Kleiman already pointed out how it raises fundamental questions about the nature of individuality and carries intimations of metempsychosis27.

The 'Dreams' of the novel's title are not only the "сны мещанской пошлости" to which Mints and Pustygina refer. There are abundant literal examples of dreams in the experience of all the main characters. Login is not alone in having an unsure grasp of reality, and the more closely one examines this aspect of the novel, the harder it is to be sure where the dividing line comes between what is dream and what is reality. The first instance of such confusion comes in the scene in the first chapter where Login is visited by Ul'iana, the wife of Spiridon and the housekeeper, presumed mistress, of Motovilov28. Login cannot remember having invited her, though she is insistent that he did. Afterwards he is himself not certain that the visit really took place, and the evidence of how she might have entered the house unnoticed is inconclusive. But what is particularly telling in terms of the novel's plot structure is that this event, be it real or imagined, disappears without trace, has no further consequences, and is not referred to again. Its position in the opening chapter leads the reader to expect it to have importance for the novel's further development, but in terms of the action it has none.

There are other instances where the characters, especially Login, are unsure that what they recall were real events. This is the case on the morning following the declaration of love. But most important is the murder scene itself, on which the interpretation of the novel's ethical meaning must depend. The act is preceded by a scene at Login's house, where he and Baglaev are drinking. Baglaev tells Login that he believes him capable of killing: "Ты все фокусы выкидываешь, ты для фокуса рад человека убить" (228). For no reason other than that he is making moral judgements, Baglaev also states that Motovilov is a scoundrel. These words have to be seen as part of Login's motivation, but they can be construed as motivating either an action or a dream. Baglaev then falls asleep, and Login, too, closes his eyes and drops into a trance-like state, which is described as falling into an abyss. When the fall is complete, he is said to open his eyes. He then, apparently, sets off to Motovilov's house, obeying an unconscious impulse and without any plan, quite by chance stumbles upon an axe and exploits a fortuitous opportunity to kill him. He is seen leaving by Len'ka, though he is himself unaware of that. On his return he finds Baglaev still asleep, and suddenly wonders whether he too has not been dreaming. On waking, Baglaev denies ever being asleep and asserts on the contrary that Login himself has been sitting there snoring all the time. The credibility of his version of events is increased when he mentions the detail of having splashed Login's face with water.

It is possible to interpret this scene in two quite different and incompatible ways. The interpretation that has commanded critical support hitherto is to see Login's murder of Motovilov as a real event. It is acknowledged that the murder is committed in a trance-like state induced by drink, and Login incorporates this fact into his later reflections on it (234). Baglaev's period of sleep and his denial of it then provide Login with an incontrovertible alibi, just as the suicide of Spiridon provides an obvious alternative suspect29. If Len'ka saw Login leaving the house - and the weight of evidence is that he did (229, 234) - then he never tells anyone because of his love and gratitude towards Login. If Login quickly stops disputing Baglaev's assertions that he was awake, it is because he realizes what a perfect alibi this creates.

However, it is equally possible to take literally the interpretation of this scene as a dream. Login is said to close his eyes when Baglaev falls asleep. The description of his opening of them is not an unambiguous statement that he has woken up; it can also be understood that he is entering a dream. All through the following scene he is accompanied and addressed by the moon, which both instigates and exonerates the act. In its function of representing the unconscious, the moon could be associated either with trance or with dream. Login's sense of having been dreaming can be understood literally. In that case the real murderer is in fact Spiridon, and the version of events that the townspeople come to accept is essentially the truth of what happened.

But "Тяжелые сны" is not a detective novel in which the reader's task is to discover "what really happened". The ambiguity of both scenes - the visit of Ul'iana and the murder of Motovilov - serves quite a different purpose. What the scene of Ul'iana's visit achieves, in the absence of practical consequences, is to establish an equivalence, a quasi-identity, between Login and both the other men who have a similar relationship with her: her estranged husband Spiridon, and her employer Motovilov. The murder scene brings precisely these three characters together again. The individual identity of Motovilov's murderer is then not a matter needing resolution. Spiridon is as much a double of Login's as Motovilov is; whichever of them physically struck the blow, the outcome is the same, and the suicide of Spiridon is a second symbolic death, removing another unwanted aspect of the complex self that is Login.

The novel's climactic scene comes in chapter 36, when Anna symbolically undresses in front of Login as a token that she has irreversibly given herself to him, and he cries: "Дорогая моя <...> мы на вершине! Какое счастье! И какая печаль!" (238). As a piece of psychology it is hard to disagree with L. Gurevich's judgement that this is less than fully successful30. However, Sologub's vigorous defence of the scene in his correspondence with her confirms the importance he attributed to it31. Login is said to experience on occasion a kind of epiphany, a sense of complete unity with the universe; the fullest such instance is in chapter 4 (44). This is a moment when all oppositions are resolved. It is an exceptional state, which does not often recur. For most of the novel, the world's oppositions are very much in evidence. Sologub's recurrent image of the swing, качели, embodies this most concisely. Even when Login and Anna have declared their love for each other, he has to come to her the next day and declare his hatred. The wish to possess another person oscillates inescapably into the wish to harm them, to cause them pain. What the juxtaposition of 'happiness' and 'sadness' expresses in the climactic scene is the balance of opposites, the swing at the point of rest. They have achieved a condition that can be explained by reference to Minskii's 'meon of ethical behaviour'. Minskii envisages a condition in which the personality is free of all dependence on the external world, but, being a meon, this state is only imaginable, not real. The escape from desire is an essential element of the world's transformation through beauty; Login had mentioned that beauty led to debauchery, and had claimed that modern man was incapable of contemplating beauty (30). His perception of Anna as embodying transcendental beauty is an epiphanic resolution of this problem. Minskii argues that the notion of release from desire leads to the concept of a single and unique personality, since that is the only kind of personality which could possibly be free of desire32. This idea, expressed near the end of his treatise, echoes an utterance from the beginning: "о, зачем нет общей души или общей нервной системы между людьми!"33.

It has been pointed out that Login's near-death experience at the hands of the irate crowd, and his subsequent recovery, echoes certain mythic archetypes of the suffering and resurrected god34. This willingness to undergo a selfless death is also part of Minskii's description of the 'ethical meon'.

If the novel's climax is understood in terms of Minskii's 'ethical meon', it becomes easier to identify what notion of the self underlies "Тяжелые сны". It is a conception whereby the individual self, seeking an escape from the self-love that is a necessary condition of all real existence, envisages a single, all-embracing self that is not dependent on the other, because there is no other. This is an idea that Sologub embraced openly in the following decade. In his short essay published in 1907, "Человек человеку - дьявол", he argues that the essential law of human cognition is the identity of opposites: "Непреложный закон нашего познания в том, что совершенно противоположное - тождественно"35. Applying this law not only to God and the Devil, he specifically addresses the problem of ego and other, Я и не-Я. The real temptation of the Devil is the false belief in our separate identities: "вечный, роковой соблазн разъединения"36. The 'Dreams' of the novel's title have surely at one level to be understood precisely as this fatal delusion. The Ego of which Sologub writes here, the capitalized Я, is the shared subject of the Universe in which all individual selves potentially participate, but only if they overcome their base, separate individualities. It can be understood in terms of the Sanskrit adage 'tat tvam asi', knowledge of which was spread in Russia both through the works of Schopenhauer and by the Theosophists. This identity with the universe can be experienced, but not rationally proved. It is significant that Sologub insists it is to be attained not by the suppression of the ego, but "на пути совершенного самоутверждения"37.

If the relations of self and other in Sologub's first novel are understood in this way as a preliminary formulation of ideas he will develop with greater clarity and certainty in subsequent years, then I believe it is possible to resolve the moral dilemma of the murder of Motovilov. I argue that it is not satisfactory to see the novel as primarily concerned with earthly reality, and then to explain the murder as simply symbolic. If, however, the idea is fully embraced that all human subjects are in truth parts of the same divine Ego, then even the killing of one individual by another can be understood as part of the necessary action of that divine self.

The text which best explains the difficulties of reconciling the brutal murder of Motovilov with the message of love and knowledge which is the novel's core38 is, I believe, the "Bhagavad Gita". I am not able to say for certain that Sologub was familiar with it at the time of writing "Тяжелые сны"; the first Russian translation appeared only in 1899. However, it is quite possible that he read it before then in French. His knowledge of "the Buddhist catechism" is recorded in memoirs of him from the period of his work on the novel39. In the early chapters of the Indian epic the hero Arjuna is faced with the prospect of participating in a fratricidal war, in which his kinsmen and the teachers he loves are likely to be killed by his own hand. He invokes the rituals of righteousness, which will be cast down if brother kills brother; "What happiness could we ever enjoy, if we killed our own kinsmen in battle?" He tells the Lord Krishna that he refuses to fight in this war, and would rather be killed himself.

Krishna in reply sets out to convince Arjuna that it is his duty to fight, and that in fighting he will be doing no evil, for the immortal Spirit resides in all and cannot be destroyed. The argument is best entrusted to his own words:

From the world of the sense, Arjuna, comes heat and comes cold, and pleasure and pain. They come and they go: they are transient. Arise above them, strong soul.

The man whom these cannot move, whose soul is one, beyond pleasure and pain, is worthy of life in Eternity.

The unreal never is: the Real never is not. This truth indeed has been seen by those who can see the true.

Interwoven in his creation, the Spirit is beyond destruction. No one can bring to an end the Spirit which is everlasting.

For beyond time he dwells in these bodies, though these bodies have an end in time; but he remains immeasurable, immortal. Therefore, great warrior, carry on thy fight.

If any man thinks he slays, and if another thinks he is slain, neither knows the ways of truth. The Eternal in man cannot kill: the Eternal in man cannot die.

He is never born, and he never dies. He is in Eternity: he is for evermore. Never-born and eternal, beyond times gone or to come, he does not die when the body dies.

When a man knows him as never-born, everlasting, never-changing, beyond all destruction, how can that man kill a man, or cause another to kill? ...40

I suggest, then, that although Sologub poses the question of self and other in "Тяжелые сны" initially at the level of base, everyday life (быт), the solution to which the novel leads can only be properly understood on the metaphysical level. This means that the metaphysical dualism which is so evident in his later work is, in fact, already clearly present in his first novel.


1 I have pleasure in acknowledging the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Board and of the British Academy, who enabled the research for this article to be undertaken by providing, respectively, the funding for a semester's study leave, and financial support for a research visit to St Petersburg. I also wish to record my gratitude for the help of Margarita Mikhailovna Pavlova, who made available to me copies of unpublished materials which were temporarily unavailable because of reorganization at the Institute of Russian Literature. Назад

2 Минц З. Г., Пустыгина Н. "Миф о пути" и эволюция писателей-символистов // Тезисы I Всесоюзной (III) конференции "Творчество А. А. Блока и русская культура ХХ века". Тарту, 1975. С. 150. Назад

3 Гуревич Л. История "Северного вестника" // Венгеров С. А. Русская литература ХХ века. М., 1914. Т. 1. С. 246. Назад

4 The influence of Schopenhauer on Sologub has been acknowledged in very many critical works about him, and is not in dispute. It is the subject of a recent monograph: s-circemjatova B. Sologubs Schopenhauerrezeption und ihre Bedeutung fu-umlr die Motivgestaltung in seinen Erza-umlhlungen. Mu-umlnchen, 1997; as its title indicates, this work is concerned with Sologub's short stories rather than his novels. Назад

5 Сологуб Ф. Тяжелые сны. Л., 1990. С. 356 (прим. к с. 46). All references are to this edition of the novel, and page references are given henceforth in parentheses in the text. This edition is based on the fifth edition of 1913, which incorporated the changes introduced into the third edition of 1909. The differences between the editions are discussed in Клейман Л. Ранняя проза Федора Сологуба. Ann Arbor, 1983. P. 44-53. They are not essential to the argument of this article. The novel was first published in "Северный вестник". 1895. N 7-12. Назад

6 Минский Н. М. При свете совести. Изд 2-ое. СПб., 1897. С. 98. Назад

7 Там же. С. 120. Назад

8 Там же. С. 183. Назад

9 Там же. С. 184-185. Назад

10 Беллами Э. В 2000 году. СПб., 1889 (Книжки "Недели". 1890. N 5-7). See also Сологуб Ф. Тяжелые сны. Л., 1990. С. 357. Назад

11 Беллами. С. 142. Назад

12 Письменные работы по русскому языку Федора Тетерникова. Январь 1881 года // ИРЛИ. Ф. 289. Оп. 1. N 459. Л. 37. Назад

13 Letter of 26 April 1885 from Krestsy // ИРЛИ. Ф. 289. Оп. 2. N 30. Назад

14 Letter of 8 October 1891 from Vytegra // Ibid. These biographical elements in the novel have been more fully described by M. M. Pavlova in the Introduction to "Тяжелые сны" (Л., 1990). Назад

15 Ф. С. Нечто о Петербургских собраниях и кружках // Северный вестник. 1895. N 1. Отд. 2. С. 49-53. Назад

16 Letter of 11 December 1883. Назад

17 This hitherto unpublished work will appear in the three-volume edition of Sologub's poetry currently in the press. Назад

18 This contrast has been examined from the point of view of the semantics of space in: Ильев С. Пространство романов Федора Сологуба // Studia Slavica Academiae Scientarum Hungaricae. Budapest, 1986. Tomus 32. Fasc. 1-4. P. 243-251. Назад

19 This condemnation is reminiscent of Ivan Karamazov's judgement on his father, which motivates Smerdiakov's murder of him. Anna's utterance has a similar dramatic function here, contributing to Login's motivation for killing Motovilov. Назад

20 Павлова М. М. Из творческой предыстории "Мелкого беса" // De Visu. 1993. N 9 (10). P. 30-54. Назад

21 Там же. С. 53. Назад

22 Там же. С. 37. Назад

23 See Клейман Л. Ранняя проза... С. 17-27; Пантелей И. В. Традиции Ф. М. Достоевского в романах Федора Сологуба. Автореферат. М., 1998. С. 3-6. Назад

24 See also M. M. Pavlova's notes, "Тяжелые сны". С. 358. Назад

25 Пантелей И. В. С. 4. Назад

26 It is, however, worth noting that a somewhat similar device is used (albeit with incomparably lesser skill) by Bellamy, when he makes the heroine of the action in the year 2000 the great-granddaughter of the heroine of 1887, and to all intents and purposes her re-incarnation. Назад

27 Ранняя проза... С. 20-21. Назад

28 This scene is assumed by one critic to be a dream of Login's; Ильев С. Пространство... С. 247. Other critics, such as Kleiman, take it to be a real event. Назад

29 In terms of the pragmatics of the plot, this bears a close resemblance to the suicide of Svidrigailov, which similarly removes the one witness to the murderer's guilt. Назад

30 Сологуб Ф. Письма к Л. Я. Гуревич и А. Л. Волынскому / Публикация И. Г. Ямпольского // Ежегодник РО Пушкинского дома 1972. Л., 1974. С. 123. Прим. 2. Назад

31 Там же. С. 119. Назад

32 Минский. При свете... С. 188. Назад

33 Там же. С. 3. Назад

34 Клейман Л. Ранняя проза... С. 75-8. Назад

35 Сологуб Ф. Человек человеку - дьявол // Золотое руно. 1907. N 1. С. 53. Назад

36 Там же. С. 54. Назад

37 Там же. С. 55. Назад

38 Anna's words about the primacy of love as the route to knowledge are echoed in Sologub's preface to the third edition (1908): "Создаем, потому что стремимся к познанию истины; истиною обладаем так же, в той же мере и с тою же силою, как любим" ("Тяжелые сны". С. 18). Назад

39 Федор Сологуб в Вытегре. (Записи В. П. Абрамовой-Калицкой) / Публ. К. М. Азадовского // Неизданный Федор Сологуб. М., 1997. С. 275. The "Bhagavad Gita" is, of course, a pre-Buddhist work, but such niceties were not always taken into account. Назад

40 The Bhagavad Gita / Translated by Juan Mascarу. Penguin Classics, 1962. P. 10-11. Назад

* Блоковский сборник XV. Тарту, 2000. С. 11-32. Назад
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