Per chi è stata scritta la Divina Commedia? Lo scopriremo in Dante e i bambini, di cui qui vi leggiamo l'incipit.
It is, simply put, overwhelming
We might be scanning through the printed words in a volume containing Dostoevsky’s complete works when we are waylaid by images from Dostoevsky’s writing notebooks, images that are frequently the preferred choice for design covers and boxes of Dostoevsky-related books. Given the popular likening of Dostoevsky to his half-crazed main characters who, in a constant state of drunken blabber, busy themselves in the business of screaming and crying, we may find the extreme precision of Dostoevsky’s pristine calligraphy and his amiably quaint and simple portraits all the more astonishing. Although Dostoevsky devotees have long been familiar with their existence, it is rather remarkable that only recently has there been significant academic scrutiny given over to Dostoevsky’s dessins and calligraphies found in his writing notebooks. I first came across the study in 1996 or 1997, at a time when I was stewing over to meet a deadline of a manuscript discussing The Idiot. While at a library, I came across a paper, ‘“Calligraphy” of F. Dostoevsky’, written by Konstantin Barsht, in New Aspects in Dostoevsky Studies (Petrozavodsk, 1994), edited by V.N. Zakharov.*1 This was my first encounter with Barsht’s work, and a while later, after I had procured university employment, I remember well that one of the first books I bought using my ‘university fund allocation’ was his monograph, The Dessins in Dostoevsky’s Manuscript (St. Petersburg, 1996) *2 Being as I bought the book using university funding, it was destined to one day be stored in the library, and I was not able to underline passages or write in it. How I now deeply regret that I did not claim it as my own, using my own wherewithal. Later, I would search for the edition whenever I remembered, but I have yet to come across a copy on sale either in domestic bookshops or on international online bookstores. For a long time, I complaisantly assumed that this had been the only academic study about Dostoevsky’s dessins and calligraphies, and that copies had been bought up by hardcore Dostoevsky specialists who were therefore unlikely to let it go.
How I was mistaken. For in reality, further like-studies had been steadily carried out thereafter. A publication which flabbergasted my mind was Volume 17 of the 18-volume The Complete Collection of Dostoevsky, published in 2005 by Voskresen'ye Company.*3 The volume titled Dessin Рисунки comprised not only all the pages of Dostoevsky’s writing notebooks which contained even a little bit of his dessin and calligraphy, it also included the doodles that he was apt to make while conversing, totalling to 664 photographs. The annotations were, of course, undertaken by Barsht. At the time, my heart beat in anticipation that new studies would bear fruit from this publication, but unfortunately, the volumes were such luxury items that the budget of neither an individual nor a provincial national university could afford it, and I could only drool over the pages on occasions when I visited the Hokkaido National University Library.
More than a decade later, the newly-established Japan Dostoevsky Association received the publication in discussion, Konstantin Barsht’s The Drawings and Calligraphy of Fyodor Dostoevsky: From Image to Word. The Russian and English editions were submitted to us for book review, but there is apparently an Italian version as well.*4 One look at the volume is enough to be at a loss for words. It is far bigger than a telephone directory, with a densely heavy hardcover, and the photographs of Dostoevsky’s writing notebooks that are far superior to any other editions that have preceded it are (incredibly!) full-scale in size. A similar enterprise of recent years was a two-volume publication which reprinted every single page of Dostoevsky’s copy of the Gospel in full-color and full-scale (Dostoevsky’s Gospel, Moscow, 2010 *5), with detailed annotations by G. K. Schennyakop. However, the physical enormity of the volume far supersedes it. It is, simply put, overwhelming.
As for its content, to borrow the words of Barsht the author himself*6, it is ‘an update, deluxe edition of my earlier work.’ Indeed, in terms of structure and organisation, it is quite similar to the 1996 monograph and the 2005 Complete Collection, all beginning with his time at the military engineering school where he was taught drafting skills, then introducing his portraits of and episodes with such prominent figures as Belinsky and Turgenev, followed by sections organised according to his works such as Crime and Punishment and The Idiots, with an one by one examination of the pictures and calligraphies contained in his writing notebooks. A close comparison shows that some of the sentences have been taken not only from the 2005 Complete Collection but also from the 1996 monograph, so it is apt to see it as an ‘update’. However, the volume is a compilation of what is easily over 20 years of research, and so the accounts given have far more depth, with interpretations that differ from previous publications throughout. I will cite one such example, which I was particularly drawn to below.
Figure 1 is from page 34 in ‘Writing Notebook No. 3’, which contains plans for both Crime and Punishment and The Idiots, though as for the latter, it is only an initial outline. The illustration is also introduced in the Academy version of Complete Collection (Volume 8, p. 357), and is a famous page that can be variously found reprinted, but only a few are able to confidently answer who the central figure on the page is and what is written in the surrounding texts. Comparisons between the Academy version, Barsht’s 1996 monograph, his 2005 Complete Collection, and the 2016 Lemma Press version reveal the following. First, the photograph in the Academy version does not show the full page, but is a laterally long image that has trimmed what is actually a vertically long page to half its length, showing only the central part. The number ‘34’ shown inverted which appears in the lower right corner of the photograph was written in red pencil by his wife, Anna, for sorting purposes. That is to say, the page is displayed in an inverted state (which the 2005 Complete Collection follows suit). Furthermore, a close examination of how the drawing and texts are arranged indicates that ‘first, the drawing was made on an empty sheet of paper, and the texts were later added (most likely immediately after the drawing was completed).’ (The Dessins in Dostoevsky’s Manuscript, pp. 107-8, my translation) Dostoevsky had first drawn a face in order to conjure a character, and then had written in the surrounding words. As for the texts, a decipherment is printed in Volume 9, pp. 163-5 of the Academy’s Complete Collection. In the notebook, the texts are divided into six blocks, each written from a different angel. In order to illustrate the haphazard nature of their positions, in Figure 2, I have corrected the inversion and shown the numbering that was adopted in the Academy rendition.
Since the first few words of block ① writes ‘The railway carriage/Getting acquainted’(translated in Wasiolek, 1967, p. 71), these must be the notes for the opening scene of the finished manuscript where Prince Myshkin and Rogozhin have their initial encounter on the railway trip between St. Petersburg and Warsaw. However, as for whether the central figure that is depicted on the page is Prince Myshkin, in both the 1996 monograph and in the 2005 Complete Collection, Barsht asserts that while it may have been the initially-conceived protagonist of The Idiot whose ‘passions are violent … [and full of] boundless pride (Ibid., p. 31; Academy Complete Collection, Vol. 9, p. 141), it cannot be the ‘positively beautiful man’ that we known Prince Myshkin to be in the finished manuscript. In the completed draft, it was Rogozhin who took on the character that was the initially-proposed protagonist of The Idiot, and so the drawing is more in the liking of him in the final instance. A translated passage by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky describes Rogozhin as follows:
One of them was of medium height, about twenty-seven years old, with curly, almost black hair, and small but fiery gray eyes. He had a broad, flat nose and high cheekbones; his thin lips were constantly twisting into a sort of impudent, mocking, and even malicious smile; but his forehead was high and well formed and made up for the lack of nobility in the lower part of his face.
Then, what of the Lemma Press version that is under current examination? The conclusion it derives is approximately the same, but there are some subtle deferments that have been adduced. Barsht takes into consideration the possibility that the portrait on page 34 of the writing notebook is part of a series, it being the fifth portrait after preceding four portraits (on pages 7, 9, 12, 13). He surmises that because Dostoevsky initially vacillated between making the ‘Idiot’ and the ‘Holy Fool (yurodivy)’ as the protagonist, the portrait is a depiction of Ivan Iakovlevich Koreisha (1780-1861) who was then a famous psychic yurodivy residing in Moscow. Dostoevsky is known to have personally visited him in 1859, and he is the model for the yurodivy character that appears at the beginning of ‘The Village of Stepanchikovo’ and in Part II, Chapter 5 ‘Before the Fête’ in Demons. In order to buttress his hypothesis, Barsht includes a reprint of Koreisha’s portrait (Figure 3) that was originally in a saint biography that was published during his lifetime (The Drawings and Calligraphy of Fyodor Dostoevsky, p. 181). Regardless of whether one is willing to wholeheartedly embrace his assertion immediately, the boldness of his hypothesis is unquestionably meritorious. It eloquently highlights that research on Dostoevsky’s handwritten notes and drafts continues to be the source of provocative discoveries. We have, indeed, yet to learn how to read his draft drawings.
I would further like to touch upon another area of research regarding Dostoevsky’s calligraphies that Barsht pioneered. In Part I, Chapter 3 of The Idiot, there is a scene where Prince Myshkin displays his calligraphic ability and erudition to General Yepanchin and Gánya. This scene is mystifying, for, as Barsht was already emphasizing in his 1996 monograph, while there are only two outstanding attributes of the protagonist which persisted from the novel’s conception to the final manuscript, that of the name of the ‘idiot’ and his ‘beautiful handwriting’, the notion of Prince Myshkin as a skilled calligrapher is all but forgotten except for this lone scene. In the scene appears the mention of some object called ‘Pogodin’s book’. To again quote from Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky’s translation:
"This," the prince explained with great pleasure and animation, "this is the actual signature of the hegumen Pafnuty, copied from a fourteenth-century manuscript. They had superb signatures, all those old Russian hegumens and metropolitans, and sometimes so tasteful, so careful! Can it be you don't have Pogodin's book 16, General?
The topic under discussion here is the line, ‘[t]he humble hegumen Pafnuty here sets his hand to it’ which Prince Myshkin had himself written out.
It is ‘Pogodin’s book’ which is surmised to be the source of treason. Barsht complies with the conventional view found in the annotation of the Academy’s Complete Collection, making the presumption that it refers to a signature appearing on the 18th page of the 2nd squire of Samples of Old Slavonic-Russian Penmanship, Squires 1~2 (1840-1841*7), which is comprised of 44 lithographic reproductions of handwriting samples from 9th to 18th century (p. 393, Figure 4), edited by M. P. Pogodin, a Professor of Russian History at Moscow University, who intended it as basic source material for old Slavonic-Russian calligraphy. However, a rigorous dissention supplanted with a truly provocative riddle-answer has been proposed by G. N. Krapivin*8.
Let me introduce the gist of his argument. Based on robust document research, Krapivin questions hitherto explanations regarding the proper nouns of ‘Pogodin’ and ‘Pafnuty’. What the Academy’s Complete Collection identifies as ‘Pogodin’s book’ comes from Samples of Old Slavonic-Russian Penmanship, and more specifically, refers to the only document with an attached signature, that of a last testament by an 18th century bishop, Mitrofan. How is it that the signature that Prince Myshkin speaks of can refer to a document with a different name, period and expression? The former is ‘signed with the hand (своею рукою подписал) of Mitrofan, the Bishop of Voronezh’, and the latter is ‘put by the hand (руку приложил) of Abbot Pafnuty, a servant of God’, and so even the words used are different. According to Krapivin, as regards ‘Abbot Pafnuty’, the protagonist himself already misrepresents him. Prince Myshkin states that ‘Abbot Pafnuty is from the 14th century, and was the abbot from the banks of Volga River, which is currently Kostroma’ (in Part I, Chapter 5), but research shows that the actual Pafnuty was an abbot from the banks of Viga River, which is far removed from Volga River, In other words, the ‘Abbot Pafnuty’ that Prince Myshkin speaks of did not exist in the 14th century. It is at this juncture that Krapivin makes a bold conjecture, that Prince Myshkin’s mistake was an intentional one (and one that readers with cultivation would have realized at the time). Could it be that the reference was a tacit invitation to conjure a different ‘Pafnuty’ from a different century? He then turns the spotlight on Pushkin’s historical play, Boris Godunov (1831), which greatly inspired the young Dostoevsky while he was still a student at the military engineering school. The following a passage from the play:
PATRIARCH. And he has run away, Father Abbot?
ABBOT. He has run away, holy sovereign, now three days ago.
PATRIARCH. Accursed rascal! What is his origin?
ABBOT. Of the family of the Otrepievs, of the lower nobility of Galicia; in his youth he took the tonsure, no one knows where, lived at Suzdal, in the Ephimievsky monastery, departed from there, wandered to various convents, finally arrived at my Chudov fraternity; but I, seeing that he was still young and inexperienced, entrusted him at the outset to Father Pimen, an old man, kind and humble. And he was very learned, read our chronicle, composed canons for the holy brethren; but, to be sure, instruction was not given to him from the Lord God--
PATRIARCH. Ah, those learned fellows! What a thing to say, "I shall be tsar in Moscow."
It is this ‘Abbot’ that is Abbot Pafnuty of Chudov Monastery. Otrepiev whom he patronizes, is, of course, the instigator of the political rebellion known as the ‘Times of Trouble (Smutnoe vremya)’ which occurred in early 17th century. After the deaths of Ivan the Terrible and his male heirs in late-16th century, the dynasty ceased, at which point the aristocrat, Boris Fyodorovich Godunov ascended to Tsardom. However, a rumor soon began to circulate amongst the people that Prince Dmitri whom Boris was meant to have killed was actually alive and was returning in order to save them from tyranny. In due course, a man who claimed to be Prince Dmitri appeared in Poland, and with the popular support of Muscovites, entered Moscow and usurped the reign. It was this imposter, the fake Dmitri, who is Gregory (Grisha) Otreviev, the excommunicated monk who had escaped from Chudoy Monastery. And what did Abbot Pafnuty of Chudoy Monastery choose to do? Unlike Patriarch Job who was arrested for rejecting the imposter, he moved swiftly to recognize the fake Dmitri. By remaining silent about the past and through his willful devotion to the imposter, Pafnuty saved himself, and in effect, signed on to a fraudulent Tsar. When Abbot Pafnuty, a servant of God ‘puts his hand (руку приложил)’, he was not only ‘signing on (to something)’, he was also literally ‘abetting an imposter for self-protection’.
The handwriting of the imposter Gregory can be seen in ‘Pogodin’s book’. Krapivin turns his attention to another text of Pogodin which had heretofore escaped attention. On page 14 of Russian Historical Album (1853*9) edited by Pogodin, four forged signatures are on display (Figure 5). The signatures are written in Russian, Polish and Latin, and are astonishing historical documents attesting to the existence of a kind of literacy which, in the words of the afore-mentioned Patriarch, ‘has not been blessed by God’. 19th century readers were thus variously able to tactically sense upon the printed page, the tremors that the hands of the damned excommunicated monks must have experienced as they forged the signature of the Tsar.
Seen in this light, Prince Myshkin cheerfully copying the signature of ‘servant of God, Abbot Pafnuty’ suddenly appears sinister in nature. He is, in fact, forging the signature of Pafnuty, who has forged the signature of a forged signature of the imposter, Grisha Otreviev, of whom he is a sycophant. Prince Myshkin’s was a ‘participatory act of imposture’. That is Krapivin’s conclusion. However, if Grisha Otreviev was imposturing a Tsar, what was Prince Myshkin trying to imposture? Could it have been Prince Jesus…?
Although I have introduced Krapivin’s argument above, in case any misunderstanding may arise, I would like to add a cautionary note that I am not in complete agreement with his ‘riddle-answer.’ (To make the leap from 14th century Pafnuty to 17th century Pafnuty seems to me to be a sizable jump, and the fact that there is no correlation with ‘put by the hand (руку приложил) of Abbot Pafnuty’ is a problem also found in Samples of Old Slavonic-Russian Penmanship and Russian Historical Album.) I am not questioning the validity of these riddle-answers as much as I would like to emphasize the importance and fertility of research into Dostoevsky’s calligraphies that Barsht pioneered. The novelist, Dostoevsky, with his ability to write beautiful letters, had as his impetus to become a novelist, his self-awareness that he could write beautiful letters (‘If we were all to proceed with creative writing, who would be left to make fair copies?’ in Poor People, June 12th, translated by Haruko Yasuoka, my translation), and even after adopting a creative process whereby he produced his novels orally with Anna, his wife, as his stenographer, he continued to lovingly scribe in his writing notebooks night by night. It is not possible that his exploration of written letters did not have a deep impact on his exploration of literature. (Indeed, the contemporary Russian philosopher Podoroga engages with a bodily concept of mimesis to forge a connection between the two, thereby attempting to elucidate the significance of Dostoevsky’s creative plan.*10） Stefano Aloe’s assertion which he makes in the foreword that ‘Barsht’s work has given rise to the theme of Dostoevsky’s “literary graphics” as a separate area of scholarly research’ (The Drawings and Calligraphy of Fyodor Dostoevsky: From Image to Word, 2016, p. IV) must be regarded at its face value.
*1 К. А. Баршт, “«Каллиграфия» Ф. М. Достоевского”, В. Н. Захаров, ред., Новые аспекты в изучении Достоевского, Петрозаводск, Изд-во ПетрГУ, 1994.
*2 К. А. Баршт, Рисунки в рукописях Достоевского, СПб., Формика, 1996.
*3 Полное собрание сочинений Ф. М. Достоевского в XVIII томах, т. 17, М., Воскресенье, 2005.
*4 Константин Баршт, Рисунки и каллиграфия Ф. М. Достоевского. От изображения к слову, Бергамо, Lemma-Press, 2016; The Drawings and Calligraphy of Fyodor Dostoevsky: From Image to Word, 2016; Disegni e calligrafia di Fëdor Dostoevskij: Dall’immagine alla parola, 2017.
*5 Евангелие Достоевского, т. 1-2, М., Русский Мир, 2010.
*6 The Bloggers Karamazov: https://bloggerskaramazov.com/2018/02/23/drawings-and-calligraphy/ (accessed Nov. 26, 2018)
*7 М. П. Погодин, Образцы славяно-русского древлеписания, тетради 1-2, М., В Тип. Ноколая Степанова, 1840-41. 評者はかつてこれを見るためにわざわざペテルブルクの図書館まで行ったのだが、現在ではGoogle Booksで簡単に見ることができる。
*8 Г. Н. Крапивин, “К чему приложил руку игумен Пафнутий?”, Русская литература, 2014, № 4, с. 145-151. この論文の存在は齋須直人氏の論考に教えられた（「ムイシュキン公爵の理念的原像としての聖人ザドンスクのチーホン――子供の教育の観点から」、『ロシア語ロシア文学研究』第48号、2016年、127-128頁、注11）。
*9 М. Погодин, Русский исторический альбом, М., В Тип. Степановой, 1853, лист 14. この書物もGoogle Booksで見ることができる。
*10 В. А. Подорога, Мимесис: Материалы по аналитической антропологии литературы в двух томах, том 1, Н. Гоголь, Ф. Достоевский, М., Культурная революция, Логос, Logos-Altera, 2006, с. 347-360.
Edward Wasiolek, The Notebooks for The Idiot, The Univ. of Chicago Press, 1967