Winter 1955 • Vol. XVII No. 1 Nonfiction |

Dostoevsky: The Politics of Salvation

In nineteenth century Russia the usual categories of discourse tend to break down. Politics, religion, literature, philosophy—these do not fall into neat departments of the mind. Pressed together by the Czarist censorship, ideas take on an extraordinary concentration; the novel, which in the West is generally seen in terms of portrayal, acquires the tone and manner of prophetic passion. Not till the rise of the Symbolists at the end of the century does the cult of aestheticism, with its tacit acceptance of a fragmented experience, prosper in Russia; for the most part, Russian thought is seized by that "mania for totality" which is to become characteristic of our time. Where ideas cannot be modulated through practice, they keep their original starkness; where intellectuals cannot test themselves in experience, they must choose between complete intransigeance and complete surrender. For the subtler kinds of opportunism, such a society offers little provision. The seriousness we all

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