Summer in Baden-Baden

Summer in Baden-Baden

A Novel

Book - 2001
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Summer in Baden-Baden has a double narrative. It is wintertime, late December: a species of "now." A narrator--Tsypkinis on a train going to Leningrad. And it is also mid-April 1867. The newly married Dostoyevskys, Fyodor, and his wife, Anna Grigor'yevna, are on their way to Germany, for a four-year trip. Dostoyevsky's reckless passions for gambling, for his literary vocation, for his wife, are matched by her all-forgiving love, which in turn resonates with the love of literature's disciple, Leonid Tsypkin, for Dostoyevsky.
Publisher: New York : New Directions Books, [2001]
Copyright Date: ©1987.
ISBN: 9780811215480
Branch Call Number: TSYPK
Characteristics: xxi, 146 pages ; 21 cm
Alternative Title: Leto v Badene. English


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Mar 17, 2018

p. 114-6: I leafed through…the penultimate volume of Dostoyevsky’s works, containing the “Diary of a Writer” for 1877 or 1878–and finally I stumbled on an article especially devoted to the Jews–‘The Jewish Question’ it was called–and I should not have been surprised to discover it because he was bound after all somewhere or other to have gathered together in one place all those ‘Jews, Jewesses, Jew-boys and Yids’ with which he so liberally besprinkled the pages of his novels–now as the poseur Lyamshin squealing with terror in “The Possessed”, now as the arrogant and at the same time cowardly Isaiah Fomich in “Memoirs from the House of the Dead” who did not scruple to lend money at enormous interest to his fellow-convicts, now as the fireman in “Crime and Punishment” with that ‘everlasting sullen grief, so sourly imprinted on all members of the tribe of Judah without exception’, and with his laughable way of pronouncing Russian which is reproduced in the novel with such particular and fastidious pleasure, now as the Jew who crucified the Christian child and then cut off its finger, relishing the child’s agony (Liza Khokhlakova’s story in “The Brothers Karamazov”)–but most often he would depict them as nameless money-lenders, tight-fisted tradesmen or petty thieves who are not even fully portrayed but simply mentioned as little Jews or some other term implying the lowest and basest qualities of the human character…although in fact there was no special theory–only fairly hackneyed arguments and myths (which have not lost their currency to this very day, incidentally): about the way Jews send gold and jewels to Palestine, about world Jewry which has ensnared practically the whole globe in its greedy tentacles, about the way Jews have mercilessly exploited and made drunkards of the Russian nation which makes it impossible to grant them equal rights, or else they would completely consume the Russian people etc.–and I read all this with a pounding heart, hoping to discover in these arguments…at least some ray of hope, at least some movement in the other direction, at least some effort to view the whole problem from a new angle…and it struck me as being strange to the point of implausibility that a man so sensitive in his novels to the sufferings of others, this jealous defender of the insulted and the injured who fervently and even frenetically preached the right to exist of every earthly creature and sang a passionate hymn to each little leaf and every blade of grass–that this man should not have come up with even a single word in the defence or justification of a people persecuted over several thousands of years–could he have been so blind?–or was he perhaps blinded by hatred?–and he did not even refer to the Jews as a people, but as a tribe…and to this tribe I belonged and the many friends and acquaintances of mine with whom I had discussed the subtlest problems of Russian literature, and to this tribe also belonged Leonid Grossman…and the many other Jewish literary critics who have gained what amounts almost to a monopoly in the study of Dostoyevsky’s literary heritage–and there was something unnatural and at first glance even enigmatic in the passionate and almost reverential way in which they dissected and to this day continue to analyse the diaries, notebooks, rough drafts, letters and even pettiest biographical details of this man who despised and hated their race–perhaps it was a kind of cannibalistic act performed on the leader of an enemy tribe–but it is possible, however, that this special attraction which Dostoyevsky seems to possess for Jews reveals something else: the desire to hide behind his back, as if using him as a safe-conduct -- something like adopting Christianity or daubing a cross on your door during a pogrom--although one cannot exclude the simple fervour of Jews here which has always been particularly strong in questions concerning Russian culture and the preservation of the Russian national spirit…

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