Be­cause Dos­to­evsky told Me to Do It

The Economic Times - - Front Page -

Some na­tions, or rather people who want to imag­ine a na­tion a par­tic­u­lar way, some­times twist and turn his­tory, myth and mem­ory to bring forth a vi­sion of a na­tion that suits their pur­poses. Of­ten, this works on the prin­ci­ples of re­fash­ion­ing the past to meet the per­ceived needs of the present. And the likes of poor writ­ers of the past, oft in­voked in this act, have no choice in how their name and work are be­ing used. Wit­ness the case of Vladimir Putin and his imag­i­na­tion of Rus­sia, and all that con­se­quent in­vad­ing and an­nex­ing go­ing on in Ukraine. Re­ports aver the Rus­sian strong­man’s two favourite writ­ers are Leo Tol­stoy and Fy­o­dor Dos­to­evsky. The two, it seems, pre­sented him a choice: to be­lieve in the lat­ter’s no­tion of Rus­sia as some sort of Slavic civil­i­sa­tional force that must ex­ert it­self over lesser be­ings, and Tol­stoy’s more hu­man­is­tic out­look. And it seems Mr Putin has cho­sen the first, much to the con­ster­na­tion of oth­ers.

But that would make it seem, to le­gions of Dos­to­evsky wor­ship­pers, that the great writer had some sort of fa­tal flaw, some­thing that could wrongly cause people to look askance at his writ­ings. So, one must has­ten to add the above adage about acts of rein­ter­pre­ta­tion, of­ten at odds with what might have been ac­tu­ally said by a writer, holds true. One man’s dreams, you see, need not be an­other man’s fan­tasy.

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