Foreword about Rosanov An Editorial Note
Rosanov’s work has never before been translated into English. Even in Russia, opinion is divergent as to his importance as a writer. “Some Russians,” writes S. S. Koteliansky, his translator, “consider Rosanov as one of the greatest Russian writers. Personally I think that Rosanov is not great, but extremely interesting for unexpected new light he throws on many of the most important problems. He is utterly personal and fearless. His style of writing, in his last three books (“Solitaria,” “Fallen Leaves,” volumes I and II) is such that, in my opinion, he by far anticipates those (like James Joyce) who have been doing their best to disintegrate the form of the novel; to bring in a perfectly new mode of writing.” Mr. Koteliansky quotes Maxim Gorky as saying—shall we add with a tinge of spite?—that Rosanov was actually Aliosha Kara-mazov (of Dostoevsky’s “Brothers Zaramazov”) writing under the pseudonym of V. V. Rosanov. And for himself Koteliansky adds that his last three books do “show him to be a Dostoevsky character, who happens to be a very gifted writer.” V. V. Rosanov was born in 1856 and died in 1919. In 1881 he took a degree from Moscow University in the faculty of history and philology, and became for a time a teacher in the provinces. Teaching bored him, and in 1893 he entered Civil Service and lived in St. Petersburg. From 1899 to its suppression by the Bolsheviks, Rosanov was on the staff of “The Novoye Vremya,” a reactionary daily. Mr. Koteliansky in his “Dostoevsky Portrayed by His Wife” has given the story of Rosanov’s first marriage to Mile. Souslov and their six unhappy years. His second marriage was more fortunate, and to the second wife he refers frequently in “Fallen Leaves” as “My Friend.” Rosanov’s writings include several books on religion and philosophy. He published “On Understanding” in 1886, “The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor,” a book on Dostoevsky, in 1889, “The Place of Christianity in History” in 1890, “The Family Problem in Russia” in 1903, and “The Russian Church” in 1909. There are other titles not given here. His unique place in Russian literature is, however, owing to the three last books which he wrote; “Solitaria” was published in 1912 and the first and second parts of “Fallen Leaves” in 1913 and 1916. Of these later writings, Mr. Koteliansky has said “In spite of the fact that Rosanov’s aphoristic statements seem at first sight to be disconnected yet the cumulative effect is such that a reader, through the seeming jumble of disconnected and as it were incoherent jottings, gets a perfectly clear picture of the man and writer.”
Fallen Leaves: Batch i.
I thought that everything was immortal.
And I sang songs.
Now i know that everything will end.
And my song ceased. (The last three years.)
Strong love of one makes love of many unnecessary.
Even iminteresting. . .
What does “when I die” mean?
There will be a flat vacant in Kolomenskaia Street, and the landlord will let it to a new tenant.
Bibliographers will rake up my books.
And I my self I Myself ?—nothing.
The undertaker’s office will receive sixty roubles for the funeral, and the sixty roubles will be entered in the ledger for the quarter—and added to the account.
And there it will be mixed up with other funerals; not a name, nor a sigh.
The essence of prayer consists in the recognition of one’s profound helplessness, profound limitations.
Prayer is there where “I can not;” where “I can,” there is no prayer.
Society, those who surround one, take away from the soul, but do not add to it.
What adds to the soul is only the closest and rarest sympathy, “one soul,” “one mind.”
Such you find, one or two, in a lifetime. Through them the soul blossoms out.
But run away from the crowd, or pass warily by it. (Drinking tea in the morning.)
And they all keep on running, running.
Whither? What for?
“You ask what the universal volo is for?”
But there’s no volo here; rather legs gliding, bellies shaking.
It’s a skating rink, not life. (At the Volkovo cemetery.)
Death—that too is a religion.
Another religion. It never occurred to me before.
An arctic pole.
A veil of snow.
And there is nothing.
Such is death.
Death is an end.
The parallel lines have met.
Well, have collided with one another—and there is no going any further.
Even “the very laws of geometry” no longer hold good.
Yes, “death” overcomes even mathematics. “Twice two= nought.” (Looking at the sky, in the garden.)
I am fifty-six: and multiplied by my annual labour it yields nought.
No, more than that: multiplied by love, by hope it yields nought.
Who needs that “nought?” Can it be that it is God who needs it? But then who else could need it? What for?
And am I to say that death is stronger than God himself? But then won’t it come to this: death itself is God ? In place of God?
I am afraid of death,
I do not want death,
I am terrified of death.
The death of “granny” (Al.
Roudnev), did it change anything in my correlations? No.
I felt sorry.
I felt pained.
I felt sad, on her account. But / and “what concerns me”—did not change at all.
There is in this a further sadness: how dared “what concerns me” not change, when she died? Does it mean,
I do not need her? A terrible suspicion.
It means then that things, persons do have a correlation while they are alive, but there is no correlation in them as taken, so to say, from the head to the heel, the metaphysical head and metaphysical heel? That loneliness of things is still more terrible.
And so “mammie” and I shall die, and our children, after their grief, will go on living.
Nothing will change in the world: the terrible change will come only on us alone. “An end,” “finished.”
That “finished”—not as regards details, but as regards the whole, everything—is terrible.
I am finished. Why then did I live ?!!!
But for the love of “my friend” and the whole history of that love—how impoverished my life and personality would have become.
It would all have been the mere ideology of an intellectual.
And probably it would have soon stopped short.
. . . to write of what?
Long ago everything has been written. (Lermontov.) The destiny of “my friend” revealed to me an infinity of themes and everything blazed up with a personal interest.
The most happy moments of life I remember were those when I saw (heard) people in a state of happiness.
Stakha and A.
P-va, “my friend’s” story of her first love and marriage (the culminating point of my life).
From this I conclude that I was born a contemplator, not an actor.
I came into the world in order to see, and not to accomplish.
But what shall I report (in the n. w.) to God of what he has sent me to see ? Shall I report that the world created by him is beautiful? No.
What shall I report then?
G. will see that I weep and keep silent, that my face smiles sometimes. But He will hear nothing from me.
I fled round themes, but did not fly towards themes.
The flight itself—that is my life.
As to themes—”just like a dream.”
One, two . . . many . . . and I have forgotten them all.
I shall forget them as I near the grave.
In the other world I shall be without themes.
God will ask me:
“But what have you done?”
“Nothing,” will be my reply.
It is necessary to “knit the stocking of life” quite well, and —not to think of the rest.
The rest is with “Destiny:” there we can’t do anything, and our own (“the stocking”) we shall only spoil (through the distraction of attention).
Egotism is not bad; it is a crystal (solidity, indestructibility) around the “I.”
And, strictly speaking, if all the “IV were crystallised, there would be no chaos, and therefore the “state” (the Leviathan) would almost not be wanted.
There is a thousandth particle of Tightness in “anarchism:” there is no need for “common” “Koinon”; and then, what is individual (the paramount beauty of man and history) will increase.
We must have a good look at “the prehistoric life of people:” according to Draper and the like, they are “troglodytes,” since they had “no universal compulsory education,” and were not bamboozled by Yankees.
But according to the Bible—it was “paradise” then.
Surely the Bible is worth as much as Draper. (Correcting proofs,)
Not literature, but literariness is terrible: literariness of the soul, literariness of life.
This that every experience is poured forth into a dancing, living word; yet that is the end of it—the experience itself has died and is no more.
The temperature (of the man, of the body) has cooled down through utterance.
The word no longer agitates; oh, no!—it chills and checks.
I speak of original and beautiful words, not of “just so” words.
Hence after “golden epochs” there always sets in in literature a profound disintegration of life, an apathy, decrepitude, dearth of talent. The people become somnolent, life becomes somnolent.
That was the case in Rome after Horace, and in Spain after Cervantes.
Yet it is not these examples that are convincing, but the essential concatenation of things.
That is why, strictly, literature is not needed: on this point K.
Leontiev is quite right. “Why, in speaking of the glory of a period, will everyone name Goethe and Schiller, and not Wellington and Schwarzenberg?”
Why, indeed? Why is the time of “Nicolas I” the “time of Pushkin,
Lermontov and Gogol,” and not the time of Yermolov,
Voron-zov and the like? We don’t even know.
We are so much spoilt by books, nay—snowed under by books, that we don’t even remember the names of great military leaders.
Spitefully and deliberately did the poets call military leaders “Skalozub” (“Grin”) and”Betrischev” (“Stupid”).
Surely that is one-sidedness and a fib.
A “great literature” is needed not at all, what is needed is a great, beautiful and useful life.
And literature need only be “mediocre”—somewhere in the “backyard.”
Hence is there not something providential in the fact that here everything is “tumbling down?”
That instead of a Griboyedov, there is a L.
Andreyev, and instead of a Gogol there is a Bunin and an Artsybashev.
May be we are living in the great termination of literature.
Leaves stirring, but no noise.
Everything sparkling with rain in the sunlight. And “mammie” said: “Look!”
I looked and thought of the same thing.
But she thought and said:
“What can be purer than nature?”. . .
She did not go on, but it was her thought which I continued :
“And people and their life are not as pure as nature . . .”
Mammie said: “How innocent nature is. And hence how noble. . .” (About eight years ago, in the garden.) When I read this to “mammie,” she said: “It was four years ago.”
This was long before her illness, but she had forgotten.
It was eight years ago. She added:
“You are unhappy now, and therefore you recall the times when we were happy.”
Limping, she brings me my slippers, for I have taken off my boots and by mistake put them solemnly before me on the rails of the balcony (“just anywhere”).
And she limps and limps.
And helps and helps.
“It was bad yesterday without you.
I had an attack.
I even put ice on my head” (a very rare thing).
And where my road is going to end,
I don’t know.
And I am not interested.
It is something elemental and non human.
I am rather “carried,” than walking by my own will.
My legs are dragging on.
And I am torn away from every place where I stand. (The court; proceedings about Solitaria.)
Since printing, love has become impossible.
What love can there be “with a book?” (Going to a birthday party.)
To say that Shperk is now no longer at all in the world, is impossible.
In the Platonic sense, the “immortality of the soul” may perhaps be a mistake: but as regards my friends it is in no way a mistake.
And not that “Shperk’s soul is immortal,” but his gingery little beard could not die: his “Bysov” (he had a friend of that name) is waiting outside the gate, and he himself is taking a tram to come to me at Pavlovskaia Street.
Everything as it used to be.
And as to his “soul” being immortal —I neither know nor am interested to know . . .
Everything is immortal.
Eternal and living.
Right down to the little hole in the boot, which does not get bigger, nor has been “patched up” ever since it was made.
This is better than “immortality of the soul,” which is dry and abstract.
I want to arrive at “the other world” with a handkerchief.
Nothing less than that. (May 16, 1912.)
I don’t understand why I particularly do not love Leo Tolstoy,
Soloviov, and Rachinsky.
I do not love their thought,
I do not love their life,
I do not love their very soul. On examination,
I find the chief source at any rate of my coldness and of a certain indifference to them— (strange to say!)—in “class distinction.”
Soloviov if he was not an aristocrat, all the same he had achieved “glory” (“excessive glory”).
I know for certain that there’s no envy here. (“It’s all the same to me.”) But talking with Rachinsky about the same ideas and being of the same views as he (on the question of church schools) —
I remember that everything he said was alien to me; the same I felt with regard to Soloviov, the same—to Tolstoy.
I could admire all the three of them (and did), value their activity (and I did value it), but never for some reason could I love them, not only much, but even in the least.
The commonest dog, run over by a tram, stirred a greater emotion in my soul than their “philosophy and publicist ideas” (oral).
The “crushed dog” does after all explain something.
In all the three there was absolutely nothing “crushed”; on the contrary they themselves “crushed” others very, very much (polemics, enemies, etc.).
Tolstoy now gives a high mark, now a low mark to Gogol: a pleasant self delusion.
All the three then were self-deluded: and because of that I had no desire to love them, nor to “keep company” with them.
“Well, get on, gentlemen—it does not concern me.”
Ever since childhood compassion has been awfully inborn in me: and for that chief pathos of my soul I have found no object in all the three of them, no “subject” for me at all.
In the way I loved and love Strakhov, in the way I loved and love K.
Leontiev—no; without speaking of “life’s trifles,” which I love boundlessly.
I have nearly found the explanation: you can love him or it, for whom or what your heart aches.
As regard all the three there was no cause at all for “my heart to ache,” and because of that I did not love them.
“Class distinction:” i felt that with regard to Rachinsky.
It was always “all the same” to me whatever he said; just as regards myself I felt that “it was all the same” to Rachinsky whatever there was in my heart; and with the same remote fondness he loved my writings (he, evidently, loved them).
Here, indeed, is a terrible class difference: another world, “another colour,” “another skin.”
But nothing could be understood if it were to be attributed to envy (it would be too simple): here indeed is non-understanding in the sense of the impossibility of overcoming it.
Rzy (a nobleman) and I understood one another by half a word, by a mere hint; but he was poor like myself, “unwanted in the world,” just as I felt myself to be.
Well, that “unwantedness,” “expulsion” from the world binds awfully, and “everything becomes at once awfully understandable;” and men not in mere words become brothers.
History, isn’t it another monstrous personality that swallows men for its food, without in the least caring about their happiness? without even being interested in it? Ane not we—a “small I” in a “capital I?”
How terribly and cruelly arranged everything is. (In the wood.)
Is there pity in the world? Beauty—yes; meaning—yea But pity?
Do stars pity? a mother pities: and may she be above the stars. (In the wood.)
Pity goes out to what is small.
That is why I love all that is small. (In the wood.)
Authorship is Destiny.
Authorship is fatum,
Authorship is misfortune. (May 3,1912.)
. . .
And perhaps simply because of that authors ought not to be subjected to a terrible judgment . . .
Yet strict judgment ought to be executed upon them. (May 11912.)
Tolstoy had genius, but not a great mind.
Mind added to genius, after all “does no harm.”
Mind is rather a little bourgeois, yet you can’t dispense with the “tiers etat.”
One has to wear polished boots; one has to have clothes made.
The “prophet Elias” after all had a mantle, and it must have been made by a tailor.
The very contempt (of the mystics) for the mind, i. e., for the bourgeois, has at its very tip something bourgeois. “I’m such a ‘gentleman’ or ‘prophet’ that I don’t shake hands with that common fellow.”
He who says so or thinks so, eo ipso becomes a pseudo-gentleman and pseudo-prophet.
Real superiority of the mind must be utterly profound, utterly hidden away in one self: it must be a subjective secret.
Let Spencer show off before Pascal.
Pascal must even now and then address Spencer as “Your Excellency”—and, generally, must give no hint of the real measure of Spencer.
Perhaps I am parting company not with man, but only with literature? To part company with man is terrible.
With literature—nothing particular.
Levin justly reproaches me with “egotism.”
Certainly it is there.
And just because of that I wrote (write) Soli-taria: I wrote (write) in the profound anguish of a desire of breaking somehow the chain of solitude . . .
Indeed it is a chain fastened to me from my very birth.
And it is because of that that I shout: behold what is here; let people know it, if they cannot either see, or feel, or help.
Like one drowning, at the bottom of the well,
I would shout to people “there,” “on the brink.”
Turned up sleepers. Boards. Sand. Pebble.
“What’s it? Is it the pavement being repaired?”
“No, it is ‘Rosanov’s Works.’ “
And over the iron rails the tram is confidently running. (In the Nevsky Prospect; repair of the road.)