Articles, PR 10 (2007)

Lucid Sorrow and Political Foresight: Simon Frank on Pushkin, and the Challenges of Ontology for Literature

Inessa Medzhibovskaya

 

So abounding in its living variety
is the wondrous spiritual reality that
in this world bore the name of Alexander Pushkin.
—Simon Frank, “Lucid Sorrow”[1]


 

Poetry and Philosophy: The Preamble

     Written less than a year before his death in London, these concluding lines of Simon Frank’s last essay on Pushkin (1949) are also his conclusive testament to the existence of spiritual reality. In blatant disregard of Plato, nearly all big philosophers who believe in such existence sought and found their ideal poets. It is impossible, for example, to imagine Schopen­hauer without Hesiod, or Heidegger without Hölderlin. Our time “after theory” inaugurates the renewed, rather affectionate, one might say, tug of war between philosophy and poetry. Terry Eagleton’s declaration in 2003 that the God of poetry was not a structuralist, or a post-structuralist, or a deconstructionalist, or a member of any other institutionalized sub­species begotten by critical theory, fell on fertile soil.[2] Since Mark Ed­mundson’s strongly issued challenge to philosophy in 1995—denying it the right to offer denotative categorical explanations of poetry—the ontologi­cal realization that literature merely is began to gain in strength.[3] In literary studies, the continuing popularity of philosophers of being, such as Nietzsche and Heidegger, invites us to think in earnest about the role of ontology in the study of poetry and literature. Consider Simon Critch­ley’s book on Wallace Stevens (2005), which celebrates the “mere there­ness” of poetic things.[4] In the same year Alain Badiou made an equally powerful ontological claim warning fellow philosophers against dissolving the power of language by means of imposing on poetic thought the func­tion of the “thought of thought” and therefore depriving it of the singular mystery of its being of being, its being unnameable.[5] Finally, Stanley Cav­ell announced in 2006 that the future of philosophical thought, or philoso­phy “the day after tomorrow,” would be in its passionate utterance, in its momentary lyricism caught in the life of the ordinary.[6]

     In Pushkin studies as well, especially after the poet’s bicentennial in 1999, we may observe a slow but steady, philosophically-informed interest in his spirituality and involvement with Being. It would be an exaggera­tion to say that we are experiencing something like a philosophical Push­kin boom, yet the examples of excellent scholarship on Pushkin’s creative philosophy and historical wisdom, important subspecies of ontology, are already too numerous for parenthetical mention.[7] However, a more sys­tematic philosophical examination of Pushkin may be in order. By the very sweep and depth of their representation of Pushkin’s lyric, critical, dramatic, epic, fictional, belletristic, political, domestic, cosmopolitan, and other identities, the two fundamental collections that have come out in the past few years (edited by David Bethea [2005] and Andrew Kahn [2007]) imply that we are already investigating the core of Pushkin’s Being.[8] The Pushkin Review makes its own significant contribution to the philosophi­cal investigation of Pushkin. In 2000, David Powelstock argued for the re­vival of our interest in Pushkin’s “thinking in styles” due to his existence in the world that is a series of concentric spheres (body/mind/imagina­tion).[9] Lina Steiner has written an investigation of Pushkin’s trial by the individually posited task of Bildung.[10] Finally, Alyssa Dinega Gillespie has provided us with a thorough study of Pushkin’s most philosophical poetic cycle of the 1830s, the so-called Stone Island Cycle.[11] Dinega Gilles­pie also issued a cautionary word against overemphasizing or simplifying either Pushkin’s humanism or his Christianity. She rightly sees products of such readings in the evaluations of Pushkin offered by “leading figures in the Russian Orthodox Church” and adds Simon Frank to the list of treasonable clerics.[12]

     This essay will offer the first systematic discussion of Pushkin against a single philosophical system with a necessary contextualization and cor­rection of the above view taking the example of Frank. Frank was no Orthodox cleric. Rather, he was a cleric in the idiom of Julien Benda, his contemporary, one of the great minds of his century who oscillated, much as we do in the fashion of today, between the contradictory calls of his pro­fession.[13] He was suffering from the symptomatic disease of the last cen­tury, from “lack of faith in a transcendental truth” whose presence, he be­lieved, could amend the quality of our Being and inoculate us against the spiritual tetanus issuing from social and political ideologies.[14] The burden of this essay will be to argue that through Pushkin Frank attempted to overcome the intellectual trap described by Benda, much like Heidegger attempted to enhance and rescue his ontology after 1945 by means of po­etry, and much like the leading philosophers of today attempt to take flight into poetry from the idée fixe of critical theory.[15]

 

Frank’s Path to Pushkin

     Of all Russian philosophers, Frank appears a nearly ideal test case in the examination of how philosophers find their poets. Why of all poets Push­kin became Frank’s choice is interesting not merely from the point of view of the history of thought; this question significantly helps clarify the crea­tion of a philosophical and political myth surrounding Pushkin in Russia and Central Europe in the interwar period. Rather than fulfilling some primordial longing or answering the obscure call of metaphysical intui­tion, Frank’s path to Pushkin and his use of Pushkin in his thinking belie the received opinion that philosophical explanations of poetry deliver iron­clad and logically superior arguments. Perhaps the opposite would be cor­rect should we allow ontology to serve as the methodological and heuristic vehicle in sorting out the relationship between poetry and philosophy. As he was rejecting one by one the answers supplied by other artists, Russian and foreign, Frank sought out his Pushkin to overcome the inconsistencies of philosophical thought, get out of the nightmare of history, and escape from the clutches of religious and political nationalism. 

     By common consent, Simon Frank (1877–1950) was one of the most systematic representatives of the Russian school of philosophy. He started as a political economist and a legal Marxist.[16] After a short but powerful crisis of belief in 1895–96, Frank relinquished Marxism without dropping the topic as a scholar and two years later entered into a lifelong friendship with Petr Berngardovich Struve, the founding father of the Constitutional Democrats and a sworn liberal.[17] Before their expulsion from Russia on the philosophical steamer of 1922, Frank and Struve had been involved in the editing and publication of the three seminal condemnations by Rus­sian idealism of the politically doctrinaire and spiritually volatile intelli­gentsia: Problemy idealizma (Problems of Idealism, 1902), Vekhi (Land­marks, 1909), and Iz glubiny (De profundis, 1918).[18] Frank also actively participated in the leading venues of political theory and culture.[19] His first collection of essays, Filosofiia i zhizn´ (Philosophy and Life, 1910), contained essays on the philosophy of culture and attended to problems of power, morality, science, religion, and social being while also featuring a characteristic mix of pointed critiques of Nietzsche and Stirner with the subtlest analysis of Goethe, Tolstoy, and Russian religious thinkers like Konstantin Leontiev.[20]

     These elective affinities in philosophy led Frank into discipleship with Nikolai Losskii’s school of intuitivism in Russia and with representatives of existential phenomenology and social ontology in Germany (he studied with Max Weber, Hermann Cohen, and Georg Simmel, and was a close friend of Max Scheler and Lüdwig Binswanger). In Germany, Frank com­pleted his master’s thesis, The Subject of Knowledge (1915), and wrote most of his doctorate, The Soul of Man (1917).[21] A secular Jew, he con­verted to Russian Orthodoxy in 1912 and considered the choice of this religious home with its “naïve realism” and “we-mentality” a return to the God of the Old Testament and the best spiritual decision of his life. [22] Frank explains the attractions of being a pious and necessarily a Russian philosopher by the fact that the Russian religious consciousness knew the shortest way to salvation:

The famous dispute between St. Augustine and Pelagius about a correlation between grace and free will … is based upon a certain division and tension between man and God, between a moment that is subjective, inner, and personal, on the one hand, and objec­tive, external, and suprapersonal, on the other. Precisely this ten­sion is … alien to the Russian metaphysical sensibility.… Not a striving towards God, but a being in God is the essence of this ontologism.… What we call “man” is in fact … a mysterious world of colossal powers, which are potentially infinite … which are grounded in the bottom layers of the abyss of being and connected immediately with God Himself – or with Satan.[23] 

     Despite his conversion, Frank continued to be condemned for his Western professionalism by nationalist thinkers such as Vladimir Ern and Evgenii Trubetskoi, a result of the education he received at Marburg and Freiburg. In a lively dispute with Ern in 1910 regarding nationalism in philosophy, Frank argued that the philosophy of being knows no nation­ality.[24] He believed it was impossible to carry out Ern’s and Trubetskoi’s program because the immediate perception of integral being through Rus­sian philosophical Logos favored by these authors of the nationalist peri­odical Put´ (Path) could not embrace all provinces of life. Frank’s collection of essays Zhivoe znanie (Living Knowledge, 1923), which came out in Ber­lin in his second year of exile, exudes the optimism of survival through the practice of emotionally rich and objective metaphysics of lived experience and the culture that is not elitist, but is high-brow, ontologically speak­ing.[25] Chapters on Schleiermacher, Tiutchev, and Goethe show this expe­rience in action.

     These complex inspirations explain well why Frank was perhaps the best candidate to write philosophy as a form of literature among other major Russian thinkers wearing “fiction’s overcoat,” to borrow Edith Clowes’ felicitous phrase.[26] Starting from his earliest philosophical mas­terpiece in praise of moral responsiveness and creativity and against the dogmatism of near-sighted or selfish attachments, “Friedrich Nietzsche and the Ethics of Love for the Distant” (1902), lengthy quotes from litera­ture and references to predominantly Russian and German poetic texts accompany nearly every book and essay by Frank, including his densely argued philosophical works.[27] From his touching and still perceptibly Marxist obituary for Chekhov (published in Osvobozhdenie in 1904) to “Lucid Sorrow,” his swansong for Pushkin, almost every year Frank produced full-length essays on important literary artists.

     Between 1908 and 1933, Frank wrote five definitive essays on Lev Tolstoy, and several Tolstoy-centered works on existentialist ethics, his most challenging inspiration and rival for the definition of religious and social being.[28] Bolshevik appropriation of humanistic learning for its own gain, which was almost complete by the late 1920s, and the alarming rise of Nazism, forced Frank to intensify his effort to rescue Russian and German artistic genius from the tight grip of historical evil. Tolstoy’s cen­tennial jubilee in the year 1928, which the Soviet authorities converted into a state-sponsored propaganda spectacle, was a defining moment for Frank. In that year, he wrote a German apology to Tolstoy, “Tolstoj und der Bolschewismus,” stressing the decisive antagonism of Tolstoy and the Soviet regime in relation to personal responsibility and the nature of faith.[29] From that point on, Frank added in quick succession dozens of shorter and longer comparative investigations of Blok, Gogol, Rilke, Goethe, Gorky, and Dostoevsky, all of which focused on identifying and protecting from extinction those spiritual methods by means of which art triumphs over darkness and expands the sphere of light. Equally powerful were the cautionary tales Frank delivered about art’s capitulation to evil or bowing out of the struggle. Despite his arguments with Ern, like most of the Russian and German thinkers whom he prized (Cohen, Windelband, Binswanger, Dilthey, Scheler, Rickert), Frank believed that culture ex­presses the spiritual essence of the nation and that literature—in which he included metaphysical poetry, ideologically innocent folklore, and phi­losophy—offers its quintessence.[30]

     For Frank, writings on literature were no mere incidentals dropped off-the-cuff in the ring of counterrevolutionary demagoguery or read from the makeshift pulpits of “Herr Doktor Professor of Exilese” at academic venues in Berlin, Paris, or Prague.[31] It is true that after his deportation from Russia this former Dean of the short-lived Academy of Spiritual Cul­ture hastened to join the Religious Philosophical Academy of Russian émi­grés and rarely missed a chance to lecture on the role and place of Russian literature in shaping the Russian worldview.[32] However, the deformities and breakthroughs of this worldview had provoked his thinking from the outset of his career. The fact that he became a political dissident deraci­nated from the homeland of his adoptive culture changed little in his gen­eral orientation towards the meaning of literature (and Russian litera­ture) for philosophy.


History of Publication of Frank’s Essays on Pushkin (and Their Background in Brief)

     Frank’s Pushkin cycle begins in 1933, the year of the Nazi takeover of power in Germany. By method of trial and error, Frank and Struve had disputed since 1918 and throughout the 1920s the place of artistic person­ality and public intellectualism in the cause of preventing historical catas­trophe or healing its effects. In 1918, Frank and Struve contributed essays to De profundis, a collection of despair that in the style of Smerdiakov pointed an accusing finger at the intelligentsia (its “Ivan Karamazov”) for stirring up sedition and murderous revolutionary rampage.[33] The line “You are the main killer” was aimed at Russian literature, Gogol and Tol­stoy in particular, for fomenting revolt in the mind of the intelligentsia, and at Blok, for adding wood shavings to the rampant fire. Only Dostoev­sky could triumph at the cinder-box for having predicted it all.[34] Frank and Struve overcame this shameful episode in their careers fast enough. In 1922, Frank clashed with Struve’s militant anti-Bolshevism, impress­ing on this sponsor of General Denikin and former member of Baron Wrangel’s Provisional Government that the Bolshevik evil could not be eradicated by military force and hatred alone.[35]

     Having passed through a period of considerable disagreement as to the correct employment of political measure—civic disobedience or armed struggle, expeditionary foreign intervention or an all-out war of ideas against Bolshevism—in 1933 Frank and Struve arrived at a long-sought consensus: Pushkin’s worldview, which inspired both. Frank reminisces:

At that time, I published in the German journals a series of essays on Russian literature, on Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Pushkin, and Gogol.… Soon I received an invitation to contribute an essay to the journal [Archiv für Kultur und Geschichte der Slaven], to which I responded by sending them my essay, “Pushkins geistige Welt” [Dukhovnyi mir Pushkina], which was published in 1933.… Around the time of Pushkin’s Jubilee in 1937, P[etr] B[erngardo­vich] and I became engaged in a lively correspondence. “Pushkin” was one of those topics that had kept us tightly united for a long time. Both of us belonged to that circle of Russian “pushkinisty” [Pushkin buffs], quite narrow really, who honor not only Pushkin’s poetry, but also his spirit and the direction of his ideas. In those years, I was preoccupied with the study of literature on Pushkin and wrote a number of essays on him. Meanwhile, P.B. … became nothing short of a real pushkinoved [an expert on Pushkin] and he wrote, by the way, the most valuable essay, “The Spirit and Word of Pushkin” [“Dukh i slovo Pushkina”]. Struve commissioned from me an essay for the collection of essays on Pushkin that he was supposed to edit in Belgrade. I offered him two essays … to choose from, “O zadachakh poznaniia Pushkina” [“On the Tasks of Push­kin Cognition”] and “Pushkin kak politicheskii myslitel´” [“Push­kin as Political Thinker”].… In this way our longtime cooperation has resumed and our spiritual solidarity … has received its liter­ary expression at the sunset of our days, achieving its respectable culmination with our reunion thanks to Pushkin.[36]

     Struve published Frank’s “O zadachakh poznaniia Pushkina” as planned in the Pushkin collection that came out in Belgrade in 1937. As for “Pushkin kak politicheskii myslitel´,” Struve thought this essay to be truly groundbreaking, and it inaugurated the publication of the future series Voprosy istorii i kul´tury (Questions of History and Culture) edited by Struve.[37] The corpus of Frank’s major Pushkin contributions also in­cludes his “Puschkins geistige Welt,” originally published in German in 1933 and reprinted in Russian in the same year as “Religioznost´ Push­kina” (Pushkin’s Religiosity) in the periodical Put´.[38] Two years later Frank placed a very brief analytical observation about Pushkin’s reception among Soviet youth in Russia in Hochland, a prestigious monthly haven for estranged intellectuals, mostly anti-Nazi Catholics and Jews.[39] In ad­dition to “Pushkin kak politicheskii myslitel´” and “O zadachakh pozna­niia Pushkina,” Frank’s expositions on Pushkin’s spirituality and political views, which coincided with the Jubilee of 1937, were complemented by “Pushkin i dukhovnyi put´ Rossii” (Pushkin and the Spiritual Path of Russia), which appeared in a Paris-edited newspaper with a daylong run.[40] Frank’s final significant essays on Pushkin, “Pushkin ob otnoshe­niiakh mezhdu Rossiei i Evropoi” (Pushkin on the Relations between Russia and Europe) and “Svetlaia pechal´” (Lucid Sorrow), were both written in London in 1949 and placed with the journal Vozrozhdenie (Resurrection).[41]

     Frank was well read in the tradition of Pushkin’s historical biography (Annenkov, Bartenev, Shchegolev, Gershenzon, and Veresaev). He also en­joyed an extensive knowledge of the memoirist heritage and quoted liber­ally from the notes of Aleksandra Smirnova-Rosset and Prince Viazemskii. At the same time, Frank showed little or no interest in crossing swords with the Pushkin tradition of civic critics. He never summoned Belinskii’s authority either for praise or for questioning. The rather dismissive pas­sim reference or two that he metes out to Pisarev convince this reader that Frank made no distinction between literary utilitarianism and the politi­cal nihilism of “militant monks preaching the atheist religion of earthly prosperity.”[42] Frank was more considerate of but at the same time critical toward the contributions of his older contemporaries (Dostoevsky, Solo­v´ev, and Rozanov), who were the first to put Pushkin’s religiosity under scrutiny. In spite of his appreciation of critical attitudes that questioned the myth of Pushkin the “pure poet,” Frank disliked the revivalist noise and prophetic sham surrounding this campaign in the first generation of Russian religious thinkers of the fin de siècle. Likewise, his hostile posture vis-à-vis the new religious consciousness and the Nietzscheism of the sym­bolist movement and the avant-garde turned him against reinterpreta­tions of Pushkin, through their special blend of protean aesthetics, mild Satanism, and paganism (as represented by Briusov, Blok, Belyi, or Ivanov).

     Frank showed a clear preference for more balanced and scholarly ap­proaches. During his tenure at the University of Saratov (1917–21), Frank’s closest friends and colleagues were Viktor Zhirmunskii and Niko­lai Piksanov, both notable scholars of Pushkin. The former was a member of the Opoiaz group and a theorist of Romanticism and of poetic meter, and the latter a literary historian and founder of the professional study of bibliography and textology. It was only Frank’s deportation that cut their incipient collaborations short.[43]

     In exile, Frank’s enduring love for the study of poetry through German phenomenology and his continuing closeness to the tradition of Russian intuitivism forcefully and of necessity placed Pushkin in the center of his radar. Pushkin the constructivist and experimenter with form, whom Frank recognized in the theories of the matured Formalist school based in Prague and Berlin as a follow-up to the already familiar arguments of Opoiaz, gave him impetus for investigating how Pushkin’s philosophical universe operated.[44] The debate about the spiritual mechanics of the uni­verse and the nature of the first cause that moves the cosmic, poetic, and material life of humanity was again made relevant to Frank the same year by the appearance of Teilhard de Chardin’s and Vladimir Vernad­skii’s theory of noosphere and living substance. (Vernadskii was Frank’s old colleague from the journal Logos.) Ernst Cassirer began the serial publication of Philosophie des Symbolischen Formen (The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms) in 1923 as well, and Carl Gustav Jung’s innovative studies of the psychology of the unknown similarly intensified in the 1920s.[45] For an old adept of Marburg philosophy and student of psychol­ogy like Frank, these developments pushed with renewed energy the world of figural realism, mystical and religious thinking, and artistic con­templation, always his favorite themes, to the forefront of his philosoph­ical attention. 

     His place in the politically and culturally divisive Russian diaspora, where each faction claimed “its” own Pushkin, compelled Frank to think about whether art with universal appeal could define or service ideology or be a “member of the party.” Vitriolic disputes about social democracy and parliamentarianism taking place in Germany after Walther Rathenau’s assassination in 1922 could not have escaped the attention of the newly arrived Russian Jew. Like Rathenau, a prominent assimilated German Jew, Frank hoped to change the course of politics in the dominant culture that had assimilated them by means of worldly intellectualism and moral compromise between left and right. The erstwhile author of “Politika i idei” (Politics and Ideas, 1905), “Problema vlasti” (The Problem of Power, 1905), and “O blagorodstve i nizosti v politike” (On Nobility and Baseness in Politics, 1917), where these ideas were promulgated, witnessed a lively discussion by Germany’s leading writers and journalists about whether art can remain apolitical when reality solicits their unequivocal affiliation.[46]

     Frank arrived in Germany in the year when Thomas Mann gave up his apolitical stance of 1918 in favor of republicanism and in response to Max Weber’s “Politics as a Vocation,” which in the 1920s competed with proletarian and Nazi programs of cultural reconstruction and national leadership. Mann’s seminal “Goethe und Tolstoj” (also published in 1922) enticed Frank into the sphere of Weber’s ideas on politics and art.[47] Like his German colleagues, Frank attended to the question of cause and effect in political action, and the determining role of the material base or super­structure in assigning the artist’s or intellectual’s place in history; he re­sumed his study of Marxism in relation to culture and politics.[48] In his sobering work, The Fall of the Idols (1924), a bitter parody of Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols, the leitmotif of the superman enjoying the grim fruits of his labor after political debacles gives way to Pushkin-inspired submission to the necessity of religious rejuvenation. In the desert with the crushed idols of the revolution, politics, culture, and moral idealism painted by Frank in imitation of the grimmest surreal painting, Pushkin’s lucid wisdom in anticipation of his meeting with God is the act of replac­ing the idols with the hope of life.[49] 

     His growing appetite for ontology in the 1920s produced Frank’s con­vincing document The Meaning of Life (1926), which claims that spiritual reality is manifest in our concrete and practical embodiment of being. This work endows human life with a task of “making-sense” (osmyslenie) for the sake of a meaningful synthesis of mundane and spiritual toil.[50] In answer­ing Chernyshevskii’s, Lenin’s, and Rozanov’s question—“What is to be done?”—Frank counters theories of violence and Rozanov’s “tea-with-jam-drinking” guidelines for nonviolently sitting-out the apocalypse. Spurred by Heidegger’s Being and Time (1927), Frank’s move from mere ontology toward the engaged, fundamental ontology of Lebenswelt (living world) resulted in his other seminal work, Dukhovnye osnovy obshchestva (The Spiritual Foundations of Society, 1929–30), which especially emphasized the weight of conservatism, care, and responsible planning as guarantors of spontaneity in creative life.[51]

     Despite his casual reading of Being and Time as a book on fear, Frank understands fundamental ontology in much the same way Heidegger does, but not completely. First, just as in Heidegger, Frank’s focus is on what it is to be human in our concrete moment of time and in relation to our predecessors, things around us, and other beings endowed, like us, with free choice or projection. Secondly, he is not interested in being that is real only as material or only as spirit. Thirdly, he is equally indifferent to what is known as the regional ontology of scientific, metaphysical, sociological, literary, etc. investigations of being. Strongly unlike Heidegger, Frank’s version of an engaged, socially responsible and loving being would not be complete if it did not include along with being-towards-death, this horizon of the unknowable and the unnameable, the theology of evil, salvation, and of God as well.[52]

     Against this backdrop, it is clear that the two critics whom Frank credits partially as his Russian forerunners in rehabilitating Pushkin’s philosophical and religious mind are neither Dostoevsky nor Solov´ev nor Rozanov, but Dmitrii Merezhkovskii (despite their bitter polemics around Logos and Vekhi) and Mikhail Gershenzon (despite their near fall-out after Vekhi).[53] In their “Pushkin” in Vechnye sputniki (Eternal Compan­ions, 1896–97) and “Mudrost´ Pushkina” (Pushkin’s Wisdom, 1917–19), respectively, both opened a new conversation on Russia’s greatest spiri­tual teacher.[54]

 

Frank’s Method in Approaching Pushkin

     In selecting the best methodology for the interpretation of Pushkin’s relig­ious seriousness and his poetry as the most ontologically pristine form of communication about the unknowable, Frank would like to continue the tradition of Merezhkovskii and Gershenzon rather than that of Annenkov. Frank explains the predominance of biographical and historical ap­proaches in Pushkin studies as a reaction to the naïve spontaneity of his “simple girl” (prostushka) of a muse.[55] Pushkin’s spontaneity, nonetheless, is more philosophical in Frank’s view than the glum seriousness of the Russian intelligentsia, forced upon us every time one of their “accursed questions” is raised. Pushkin’s main themes and ideas, as Frank under­stands them, have as little to do with the “accursed questions” of Russian thought as true philosophy has to do with broadsheet screeds. Frank sup­ports this bold assertion with an impressive list of Pushkin’s philosophical themes. Whether he deals with the indifference of nature, the strict voice of mundane necessity, or with the impossibility of happiness, Pushkin trusts in destiny and lives in humble acceptance of it. Given this sub­missiveness, Pushkin’s world defies inertia, especially when his freedom is curtailed, and he is attracted to danger and risk seeking. Pushkin’s relig­ious mindset shows in most ordinary situations, but most clearly in his sacral treatment of women, friendship, origins, and home. Pushkin is a master of religious moods. Even when plunged into regrets about the fruit­lessness of his former pleasures, the insignificance of fame, and temporal­ity of life, he knows how to savor the quiet joys that come with the passage of sorrow. Pushkin is attuned to nature and understands “a special signifi­cance of autumn as the cosmic state most closely linked to the tragedy of the human life.”[56] Finally, it is the motifs of repentance and moral purifi­cation, especially in Pushkin’s later poetry, and his “willing-of-grace” (blagovolenie) in relation to other people that truly consummate the phe­nomenon of Pushkin’s wisdom.[57]

     Frank states with regret that in relation to Pushkin Russian criti­cism—even at its best—displays negative characteristics first noted by Pushkin himself: tendentiousness, ad hominem attacks, and didacticism.[58] In denying the significance of the contentof Pushkin’s poetry, the formal­ist and “professional” criticism of Pushkin shares the vice of its predeces­sor, dilettante aestheticism, or Solov´ev’s ethical utilitarianism and ration­alist bias. Moreover, its take on the concept of form does not allow the investigation of what is most meaningful for Frank: the inseparable rela­tion of poetic form to Pushkin’s spirituality.[59]

     The traditional academic-style “pushkinovedy” (Frank’s persistent use of quotation marks exposes his irony) deserve praise for their indomitable assiduity and intense curiosity. These foot soldiers of literary studies, argued Frank, flooded the market with their sea-wideoutput that deals in biographical, textological, and bibliographic criticism and trades in themes like “Pushkin and.…” Leaving the truly untalented critical drones aside, Frank must be leveling his satire at a more formidable opponent, his for­malist friends. From this decisive point of disagreement that matters to us because for Frank it is inconceivable to relegate structuralism to verse me­chanics, to “themes,” or to psychic phenomena, Frank proceeds to elabo­rate his true contribution to the study of Pushkin and the study of poetry in general.

     Frank sees a difference between the “unsolved” (nerazreshennoe), on which pushkinovedenie and twentieth-century literary scholarship in gen­eral are largely focused, and “the unsolvable” (nerazreshimoe), which is the province of metaphysics and ontology. He is not inspired by the pros­pect of exploring every step of Pushkin’s earthly existence, so common for pushkinovedenie, because such investigations do not extend the threads that form the ontological unity of living reality, remaining only a dead cat­alogue of Pushkin’s acquaintances or places that he visited. Such ubiqui­tous presence will be little different from bad infinity, “immeasurable and clueless bulging” rather than the expanding unity of true ontology. Frank proposes to utilize the techne of pushkinovedenie in “solving the unsolved,” but insists that their fact-finding missions remain subsidiary to true cog­nition of Pushkin (poznanie Pushkina).[60]

     The study of poetic personality for a philosopher of Frank’s back­ground should hinge on the necessity of overcoming the law of contradic­tion. As a complete spiritual reality and an instance of creativity, Pushkin is simultaneously a subject of knowledge and an object of inquiry, al­though of a very special sort. Instead of going to the other extreme in mat­ters of ontological praxis that should be working on the unsolvable rather than on the unsolved and pointing in the direction of pure epistemology, Frank thinks that the Pushkin of his discussions should not be abstract. To begin with, any inquiry into the unsolvable equally decries in Frank’s mind the Platonic separation of the material world and ideas, the Aristo­telean hylozoism, Spinoza’s pantheism, and the Cartesian division into subject and object. Nor is he happy with Kant’s forms of contemplation and thinking, which are separated from being because they do not signify the objective conditions of being. Instead, they only provide the default conditions for reasonable experience. In The Subject of Knowledge, Frank adopted the effort of his Marburg teachers in overcoming Kant’s formal­ism. Their ideas he found to be more productive in establishing the roles of subordination rather than complementarities of “various particular achievements towards the solution of one common task,” of “mastering the All-Unity” that they have borrowed from Nicholas of Cusa.[61]

     Could the intuitivist system of his teacher Losskii be more successful in achieving “exact results without the available vision of the whole com­pleteness of the system of All-Unity”?[62] Frank adopted from Losskii a con­viction that the essence of knowing consciousness consists precisely in illuminating those spheres of the material world where this light does penetrate. He also noted that Losskii’s theory has a significant drawback: “Although it guarantees real understanding of the object of knowledge through consciousness this happens, essentially, only at the moment of perception. The understanding of being as such, in its complete transcen­dence, i.e., in its independence from all cognition, is therefore insuffi­ciently explained.”[63]

     The study of the poet’s spiritual personality, meanwhile, could repair this drawback and explicate Pushkin’s poesis as a more stable instancing of illuminations into and against the unknown. “Pushkin’s ideas are al­ways simple fixations of intuitions and insights about life, something like bolts of lightning which suddenly illuminate particular regions and as­pects of reality.”[64] Frank admits that Pushkin’s elliptical mind, his predi­lection for laconic self-expression, and his devout Russian common sense favoring the prosaic way of thinking over the poetic, pose a problem as a case study of the spiritual. In this Bakhtinian moment, Frank suggests taking every Pushkin utterance to be polyphonically complete, formally finished, yet open-ended. “Because of the simplicity, vitality and unpre­tentiousness of his thoughts, Pushkin is able to include them in his poetry without any detriment to pure artistry and without fear lest poetry be burdened with heavy-handed superciliousness [tiazhelovesnoe legkomys­lie].”[65] Commonsensical wisdom and Goethean objective thinking save Pushkin from the trap of abstract philosophizing.

     From Khodasevich, another master of aphorism, Frank borrows the principle of studying Pushkin’s poetic inventory (poeticheskoe khoziaistvo) and thinks that similarly it is possible to take stock of Pushkin’s spiritual inventory (dukhovnoe khoziaistvo).[66] Frank’s proposition of a methodology for collecting the harmony of Pushkin’s Weltanschauung from his elliptic observations, poetic lines, diary entries, letters, and oral communications causes him to consider the nature of poetic thought and its relation to the form of expression: “thoughts expressed in a poetic act form an essential and substantive content of this act.”[67] In considering poetic speech acts, Frank’s ontological method of literary criticism is, thus, of necessity linked to contemporary debates on inner and outer speech and forms of poetic communication examined by Vygotskii, Jakobson, and the Bakhtin circle.[68] Nevertheless, his method is closer to the German philosophy of empathetic phenomenology stemming from Husserl and his disciples than to the coded spirituality of Russian Marxists or Formalists. The following thought of Frank’s expresses this attitude: “Given the difference between the empirical life of the poet and his poetic activity, his spiritual person­ality nonetheless remains the same; his creations are born from the depths of the same personality as his personal life and his views as a human being. However, it is not the personal empirical experience of a creator that lies at the basis of creative activity, but always his spiritual experience.”[69]

     In Frank’s laboratory of the unknowable, the emergence of this Push­kin was more than timely. By 1933, Frank ran out of choices for consider­ing other Russian artists for this role. Tiutchev, the most metaphysical of all Russian poets, always struck Frank as too abstract. In his last long es­say on Tolstoy of 1933 (published in German, 1935), Frank concluded that because of his struggle with the abstracted phantoms of evil that were underestimating its living reality, Tolstoy did not expose his own spiritual vulnerabilities to attain the ontologically-rooted goodness (ontologisch-verwurzelte Gute).[70] Gogol did cover all the way from empirical to relig­ious realism, but his journey culminated in despair and a party-call for joining the Church, prefiguring Russia’s age of indignation and strife.[71] Frank argued that Dostoevsky went further than Gogol in explaining the danger of evil’s everyday plainness and that he explained the crisis of humanism by the defunct and discredited ideals of natural right and popu­lar will.[72] Frank thinks, however, that Dostoevsky’s path to God is too cataclysmic and that his explanation of the unbearable burdens of freedom may service humanity of the twentieth century only as wild guesses and groundbreaking creative anxieties of spirit.

 

Pushkin’s Religious Consciousness

     Having established that Pushkin is the embodiment of “concrete being and living knowledge” because “poetry was for Pushkin an expression of the religious perception of life,” Frank was finally ready to examine the life of his soul as the unifying locus of his spiritual life.[73] All the same, Frank has to deal with another difficulty. On the one hand, there is the elliptical and capacious presence of Pushkin’s wisdom, in which each element is al­ready an expression of limitless ontological unity. Yet Pushkin made it available to the observer only in its fragmentary form. On the other hand, Pushkin is so seamlessly connected with the All and so responsive and plural in his poetic incarnations that this echo quality of his poetry could invite Gogol’s double-crossing compliments. Gogol notoriously argued that Pushkin’s perfect poetic transformations of an echo were so complete as to become morally empty for they precluded any personal involvement.[74] Indeed, a moral echo is moral because it does not replicate the injustice; at the very least it supplies an indignant reaction, comments over with an in­junction, or imposes a voice-over with a moral norm. Frank considers this backhanded critical compliment in earnest, and disagrees. Although Push­kin’s spirit may be evasive, it is tenacious in that it concentrates on the spiritual life of man. Pushkin is no abstract philosopher, but a “thinker-sage” (myslitel´-mudrets), his main thinking quality being “insightfulness in relation to life” (zhiznennaia pronitsatel´nost´). Pushkin’s intuitions about life transcend the moment of perception as only personally mean­ingful, or as plain didactic response. His spiritual integrity is achieved thanks to its complete investment in the life of the All, a home within larger home.

     At the same time, the plurality of Pushkin’s responses allowed him to be “a wondrously powerful and insightful historical and political thinker, perhaps even a sociologist.”[75] Pushkin does not cogitate in vain. Unlike most poets, his thinking (soobrazhenie) is not given on loan to random va­garies of ecstasy (vostorg), but to the organizing force of inspiration (vdokhnovenie). Pushkin’s thinking supplies explanation (ob´´iasnenie); therefore, he is able to recapture his own experience and share it as he did in the preface to Eugene Onegin, a product of “cold observations of wit and sad notches of the heart.”[76] The sadness above is a memory of real en­counters. Frank thinks that no weight of biographical evidence could com­pete with the facticity of Pushkin’s “lust of lofty thoughts and poems” or the voluptuous passions of his lonely and ponderous delights. Pushkin’s responsiveness is not slavish or imitative because it follows the calls of his free mind (svobodnyi um) and his choice “to live and suffer.”[77]

     Frank sees the principal quality of Pushkin’s religious consciousness as its lucid sorrow. In the eponymous essay, he debunks the myth of Push­kin’s merry lightness and maudlin optimism and calls him, alongside Tol­stoy, Russia’s main existentialist artist. Pushkin’s uniqueness lies in the fact that he never attempted to change the world in order to render it beautiful and more acceptable. Given the predominance in Pushkin’s po­etry of words like “dejection,” “despair,” and “sorrow” to describe his moods, “arduous path” and “arduous thought” to describe his loneliness in enduring life’s burden, and “petty breed” in relation to humanity, Push­kin’s poetic world is not ugly, wicked, or depressing, but beautiful, lucid, and uplifting. In touching on the question of fundamental ontology, like Heidegger in Being and Time, Frank uses “The Death of Ivan Il´ich” and quotes indirectly from Tolstoy’s A Confession and the beginning of Being and Time itself to comment on Pushkin’s spiritual reality in the Elegy (1830):

Isn’t our whole everyday existence based on the oblivion of the fact of death? Do we often have the living consciousness that we too, and the whole majority of the people whom we encounter will, a dozen or so years later at the most, lie dead in the ground? Do we often build our own life or our relations to other people on the basis of this undeniable truth?[78]

     As soon as the reader is lulled into the familiar tones of Simmel’s, Heidegger’s, and Tolstoy’s refined despair, Frank sharply breaks the pitch and continues as a Russian Orthodox thinker, or as his ideal, Pushkin, would: “The church prays about the gift of ‘mortal memory’ as the grace that is necessary for spiritual wisdom [dukhovnaia umudrennost´].” Pre­cisely this mortal memory Pushkin expresses most distinctly. He sees the whole scope of human life to be “shielded by the wing of the inevitable death.” This transcendent, sad, and pacifying light illumines the picture of life in Pushkin’s representation. Like Heidegger, Frank agrees on the for­mative rather than de-forming quality of death, which shapes life and gives meaning to the goals of being.[79] Yet precisely because dying bestows wholeness upon Da-sein only at the moment when Da-sein itself is no more, Frank moves away from Heidegger as he brings Pushkin into the community of other mortals by enclosing him in the Ecclesia of Orthodox faith.

     Frank brushes aside the possibility that Pushkin’s line “bezumnykh let ugasshee vesel´e” (the extinguished merriment of frenetic years) might be a poetic gist of Schopenhauer’s pessimism, a condemnation of the delu­sional instinct for happiness. Pushkin does not demonstrate the dead end of despair; instead, he unfolds the process of a deep psychological experi­ence that ends in the spiritual maturation of man (dukhovnoe sozrevanie cheloveka), someone who determines to go on living and hopes to find con­solation only in spiritual joys.[80] The sorrowful resignation to necessity taking place in Pushkin is not the same as a simple resignation to despair or the cynical denouement of an offended reason. The cycle of Pushkin’s resignation is never complete without the recapturing of the pure inno­cence of the beginning of his days. The description of the suffering, sinful human soul is inseparable from his descriptions of the pangs of conscience and remorse (raskaianie). The innocence of the origins of life is restored only at the apex of repentance (pokaianie), followed by such states favored by Pushkin as tender emotion (umilenie), pure thought, and the calm of oblivion. In this deepest layer of Pushkin’s spiritual life, which is inspired by the tragic character of life that persists in its lucid sorrow without the characteristic metaphysical rebellion of Ivan Karamazov’s type, and in this sort of “ontological meaningfulness,” Frank sees the astounding lesson of Pushkin’s philosophical wisdom.[81]

 

Pushkin and the Method of Fundamental Ontology

     It is already obvious that in his discussion of Pushkin’s ontology, Frank employs a number of Heidegger’s notions and terms. Heidegger introduces the idea of ontological difference at the very beginning of Being and Time. According to his discrimination, Being (that there is) is not reducible to either ontic beings (what there is) or to any measurement of life. Heideg­ger calls his ontology of the being of being authentic and “fundamental”: “fundamental ontology, from which alone other ontologies can originate, must be sought in the existential analysis of Da-sein,” his term for being-in-the-world.[82] In the closely related Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics (1929), Heidegger is even more explicit: “So far as the ground of the possi­bility of metaphysics is established in ontology—the finitude of Da-sein being its foundation—ontology signifies fundamental ontology.”[83] In the mode of Heidegger’s juxtaposition of authentic being and the inauthentic life of the “they,” those forgetful of their finitude, Frank stresses Pushkin’s courageous loneliness. His acceptance of the deep abyss that separates the authentic, inner life of man from the “collective world of the human mass and its superficially ordered life” is singularly and fundamentally ontologi­cal.[84] He who has tasted from the phial of tragic anxiety should be lonely. However, in his visionary letter to Lüdwig Binswanger during the war, Frank criticized Heidegger for his lack of attention to morality and his relegation of all norms to the realm of the inauthentic being and for his succumbing to anxiety.[85] Frank relieves Pushkin from the stigma of such solipsism. His Pushkin knows that there is no release in loneliness or despair as such: “in the depth of his own being man’s spirit is subject to dangers coming from the irrational, chaotic, rebellious passions of the human soul itself luring her toward destruction.”[86] Therefore, Frank’s con­sideration of Pushkin’s fundamental ontology begins with matters of method rather than with the discussion of his tragic worldview and loneli­ness. Frank stresses Pushkin’s connection with other threads of Being: “From every point of being there extend the threads that connect it in space and time, directly or indirectly, with the infinite number of other points of being—and in the final reckoning, with the whole immeasurable and inexhaustible fullness of being, or All-Unity. These threads extend, consequently, from Pushkin as well.”[87] 

     So how should he make the literary study of his Pushkin part of fun­damental and not “regional” ontology, such as biography, versification, and so on if we translate philosophy into philology? Frank attends to the question of autobiography and universalism as they were tackled by for­malism, to his mind not very satisfactorily. The regionalism of “newly posed and passionately debated” questions in this despised “pushkino­vedenie,” concerned the so-called autobiographic element (avtobiografizm) of Pushkin’s poetry. Frank agrees with Goethe and Heidegger that all po­etry dealing with the unfathomable is determinedly incidental or contin­gent, Gelegenheitsdichtung.[88] Rooted in the everyday, it remains tangen­tial to the fundamental questions only in matters of superficial resem­blance but expresses the very essence of being even if it only describes attendant features of the familiar. The question is not about what is described, but about how. Frank brings in Pushkin’s own view to the rescue. Pushkin spoke prophetically against both extremes of the auto­biography debate: either everything in poetry matters for the recon­struction of the poet’s life and is subject to base sleuthing, or nothing counts because poetry is fantasies and mirages of imagination about the Absolute.[89] In short, Frank argues that Pushkin is universal when he is autobiographical and he is universal when he is not. By Pushkin’s univer­salism, Frank understands more than Dostoevsky implied in his famous Pushkin speech of 1880. “By universalism we understand not only and not just the formal and artistic universalism of which Dostoevsky spoke—the capacity to transform, and the empathetic perception of cultures foreign and past.”[90] This sort of universalism, which transcends autobiographism in its own life and the life of its nation, is certainly present in Pushkin, but is not the only form of universalism in his work.

     The innate universalism of Pushkin’s spirituality greets its brother in every worldly incarnation. Pushkin is above parties (sverkhpartien) be­cause he does not lock himself in one worldview:

When we read Pushkin we always get the impression of some infinite breadth of his spiritual horizon. His soul is open to everything—to life’s joys and morbid dejection and sadness; to the harmony and disharmony of life; to wild and insane passions and to wise, stoic calm; to loneliness and to communication; to aristo­cratic refinement and to the simplicity of common life; to Epicure­anism and to sacrificial heroism; to quietism and to creative en­ergy; to pride and to humility; to the unbending defense of freedom and to the wise understanding of the meaning of power and subjugation.[91]

     Another significant component of Pushkin’s fundamental ontology ac­cording to Frank is that his “wisdom of life is built on the principle of coincident oppositions [coincidentia oppositorum], the unity of heterogene­ous and antagonist potencies of being.”[92] The unity of oppositions is as much accountable for the infinite sweep of Pushkin’s horizon as it is for the following hierarchical arrangement in the phenomenology of Pushkin’s spirit. Frank identifies as the most apparent and surface level of this phe­nomenology—so antithetical to Heidegger’s morose rejection of curiosity, chatter, and merriment—Pushkin’s “physiological soulfulness,” his tem­perament for enjoying life, his Dionysian rebelliousness, and his contag­ious laughter. The next level is occupied by Pushkin’s dejection, which is not a transient whim, but an objective response to the “tragic contradic­tion between spirit and ‘indifferent nature’ and the senseless crowd.” From here, Pushkin develops his cult of proud loneliness and the anarchy that often turns to the slogan of lawlessness (net zakona) and demonism.[93]

     Pushkin could be the picture of Hegel’s unhappy and divided con­sciousness or fallen-ness away from the life of the spirit if he did not develop his form of synthesis, his conciliatory religious spirituality that in itself is Pushkin’s best creative act: moral suffering and a prodigal life are justified because they lead to home-coming and religious ascent. Pushkin’s pessimism itself has many layers (from dejection to stoic resignation and asceticism), and it leads towards the sphere of “religious conciliation and enlightenment.” Even Pushkin’s villains yearn after the attainment of lucidity and they know that “at the end of this route there lies pure and simple-minded bliss.”[94] 

     Together with his teacher, Nikolai Losskii, Frank created one of the most perceptive Russian treatments of theodicy, which differs radically from Heidegger’s existentialism.[95] In his Nepostizhimoe: Ontologicheskoe vvedenie v filosofiiu religii (The Unknowable: An Ontological Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, 1939), Frank developed his notion of the double nature of the spiritual being of man.[96] In his spiritual life, man effects transcending without (transtsendirovanie vo-vne) for the experience of revelation I-Thou and within (transtsendirovanie vo-vnutr´), which is the world of his soul, his unconscious, his irrational. The essence of God and the essence of evil are hidden in the course of either path of transcending. What man experiences from the reality of God or evil may only be experienced as a certain particular entity, but both God and evil are more than something or someone. As Frank puts it, “The responsi­bility for evil is borne by that primordial and primary reality which though in God (for all things without exception are in God) is not God Himself… The place of the groundless birth of evil is that place of reality where evil, born of God and abiding in God, ceases to be God.[97]

     What kind of responsibility is borne by man if the authority respon­sible for evil is unknowable and the all-pervading, ineradicable atmos­phere of evil whose center is located everywhere in the fallen world is also contained “in my own being as well”?[98] Frank thinks that this antinomy is not the responsibility of man or his freedom. “Only good is chosen freely,” but evil attracts fatally against our will, and we are “pulled, drawn, or chased to evil.”[99] Frank’s response is paradoxical. Like all antinomies of existence, the antinomy of evil that acts upon a human being should be solved not through its “elimination in new rational concepts” but only through its “courageous transrational acceptance.… The only way we can know evil is by overcoming it and extinguishing it through the conscious­ness of guilt.”[100]

     It is this specific ideal response to evil that Frank ascribes to Pushkin. In “Pushkin i dukhovnyi put´ Rossii,” Frank explains that Pushkin was the only Russian writer to accept “the devil alongside the pope.” On the strength of the idea that everything that exists bears an imprint of the divine and demands love, Pushkin found a solution that purifies and makes lucid our indignation against all that contradicts the divine nature of reality. Where indignation is not permeated with love, it subsists only on pure anger and hatred, undergoes fearsome transformation, and de­scends into a satanic rebellion against the world and its Creator, such asthe transformations of Gogol and Dostoevsky. Here Frank puts forward one of his most intriguing insights. The real rift between Pushkin and Gogol and Dostoevsky is not that the latter eschewed religious searches. On the contrary, since Gogol’s conversion, Russian literature had taken a very militaristic stance against evil and walked the path of indignation at evil in the world (po puti negodovaniia na mirovoe zlo). It saw its task in exposing evil and fighting with an irresolvable theodicy, never taking for granted the imperfection of the empirical world. In Frank’s view, this prodding towards indignant pathos paved the way for the arrival of Bol­shevism.[101] Pushkin teaches a different lesson, of well-willing and freedom (blagodat´ i svoboda), and in this way lifts the unbearable contradiction of life.[102] 

     In this manner, Frank explains the nature of Pushkin’s authentic philosophy of Being. With his shield of wise ignorance after the encounter with the transcendent, Pushkin has the rare ability to live unscathed. Evil or new knowledge do not burden him. That is because through his coura­geous trans-rational acceptance and through the consciousness of guilt he returns home penitent, calm, and absolved. Repeatedly and almost in every essay, Frank returns to Pushkin’s treatment of the Penates, of hearth and home, and of accepting rootedness in his native realm. Push­kin accepts his homeland in the same way that he accepts the world fraught with evil and injustice. The worse Russia is, the deeper Pushkin is rooted in the soil of his native culture, and the wider is the appeal for him of the whole world.[103] In the 1930s, such an interpretation clashed with all major ideologies explicating “rootedness” in culture, leftist and rightist alike. We can even push this Heideggerian implication of Pushkin’s dwell­ing in the world made by Frank a bit further. Pushkin’s genius loci, his favorite phrase, becomes a form of hereditary and obliging presence in the world. This may be true because Pushkin bestows liability on man’s pres­ence in places real or imaginary—where his muse, that brisk prankster, hovers in the poet’s dream or wherever sad and fond memories may bring the wanderer in pursuit of his personal past, and of his most distant origins.

 

Pushkin’s Artistic Freedom

     Frank builds his discussion of Pushkin’s artistic freedom on his conception of Pushkin’s willing bondage to life and its eternal contradictions. Push­kin’s un-Dostoevskean universality is found in his use of vocabulary that is often oxymoronic and antinomic, where flame and ice, rebellion and bashful reverie coexist necessarily, conditions that well express his har­monious being in the mode of coincidentia oppositorum.[104] Like “all true Russian Christians,” Pushkin boasts “dogmatic fullness” (dogmaticheskaia polnota) that can embrace without peril essentials of pagan religiosity in singing hymns to the elements with biblical poetry and Talmudic wisdom. Pushkin can combine the writing of Mohammedan lyrics with dark Slavic folklore, and he can achieve purely Christian epiphanies in his rendition of Bunyan and erotic songs of moribund origins. [105]

     In an approach strongly reminiscent of Benedetto Croce’s theory of dynamic externalization and coincident opposition of intuition and expres­sion, Frank takes the discussion of poetic freedom further by engaging energetically in the debate dominated by the Formalists.[106] Although it is commonly believed that a poetic work has content (thoughts, theme, plots) and form (imagery, vocabulary, sounds, rhythm, etc.) and arguments are usually voiced in favor of one or the other as the most significant poetic element, Frank held that this position is inadequate for the understanding of poetry and art in general:

Every artistic creation expresses a certain integral consciousness or feeling of the world which pours forth from the soul of the poet and which is perceived by us as organically whole, as some indi­visible unity of perception of reality in thoughts, images, feelings and words, meter, alliteration. The what and the how of poetic activity, its theme and style, develop its “essence,” its “idea” or its “meaning” only in their unity.[107]

     Given the profusion in the European thought of the 1920s and 1930s of innovative ideas about the relationship in the creative process of form and content (Dada’s anti-form, the surrealist automatism, theories of formism, symbolic and pure form, and so on), Frank’s treatment of form and content strikes us as too conservative. In Pushkin, according to Frank, the indivisibility of content and form does not merely signify that both elements jointly shape the substance or meaning of his poetic crea­tion. Their indivisibility means that both categories are unified in such an intimate way that they mutually penetrate each other and establish the harmony between the contents and the style. The style, the sounds, and the tones belong in the very meaning of the creation, for they express what the poet wishes to express. In this sense, by submitting to the inevitable, Pushkin again expresses trust in fate and in the fact that his writing can, therefore, be not free (nevolen) and “as implacable as fate.”[108] In this onto­logical unity, which is a very special form of bondage, is the secret of Pushkin’s artistic freedom; thus his art is the “self-revelation of integral reality” (samootkrovenie tselostnoi real´nosti), the expression of “the living knowledge of the poet [zhivoe znanie poeta] or, what is the same, of life that has been comprehended by him.”[109] In such a simple, even simplistic take on the providential interplay of form and content in Pushkin’s work, Frank attains the longstanding ends of his own philosophy. Like Ernst Cassirer, Frank seeks transcendent gnoseological interpretations of sym­bolizing activities inherent in the creative and thinking processes. How­ever, he is reluctant to construct a cultural arc making explicit the inter­relation of myth, language, art, science, and religion in creative activity. It is safe to say that in his interpretation of Pushkin’s works Frank attempts to find proof to the august postulates of his brand of ontology understand­ing the task of knowledge as revelation of the apophatic truth by artistic means conveying the living knowledge of the poet. Thus, the meaning of The Bronze Horseman is not confined to some thought or idea or their mere combination—neither moral, political, nor any other. It is rather a “revelation of the immanent tragedy of the life of the spirit” and the indivisible unity therein of the elemental lack of restraint and the creative formation of the will, the same tragedy as it is concretely embodied in the elements of St. Petersburg and its creator.[110]

 

Pushkin’s Political Foresight Vis-à-Vis the Universalism of the Russian Idea

     Frank’s discussion of Pushkin’s political views is an attempt to overcome the limitations inherent in the available ontological theories, including Heidegger’s, which subjugates the grave dignity of Da-sein’s temporality to the historicizing amends when it comes to explaining man’s being in the world of politics and institutions. Arguably, Frank seeks recourse to The Bronze Horseman as another saving element of Pushkin’s ontological free­dom, his political foresight, to which he and Struve gave its name, the principle of liberal conservatism.[111] Struve prefaced the first volume of his politics and culture series in which Frank’s “Pushkin kak politicheskii myslitel´”first appeared with substantive correctives that this new prin­ciple should introduce into Pushkin debates. Pushkin was a liberal not be­cause he was vaguely free-thinking, but because he held the principle of freedom to be the foundation of life and because he simultaneously valued power, respecting Nicholas I for his disciplined effort to make Russia strong. In interpreting Pushkin, Frank sees the possibility for a productive ontological method of solving problems in terms personal and political. The two main lessons that Pushkin teaches him is that political might is strong when it knows its limit and measure and that spiritual might dem­onstrates its reality best when it kneels in bashful gratitude before the inexpressible and recognizes God’s presence in everything most ordinary.[112]

     In his discussion of Pushkin’s political opinion, Frank quickly moves away from the clichés of the freethinking Pushkin, with his love of liberty (vol´noliubie), humane spirit (gumannyi dukh), and “kind feelings” (chuvstva dobrye).[113] Frank explains Pushkin’s liberal conservatism as follows. Pushkin combines his conservatism with a demand for personal inviolability, the right to privacy at home and in the family and to the protection of personality in all matters of public life. He is an elitist who despises the mob and he opposes democracy in principle. He is proud about the past of his country and cannot conceive of national life without history. Usually, he considers the history of the nation to be identical with the history of the nobility, that is to say, “no nobility, and no history.” He recognizes merit as a complete assimilation of the ways and culture of the nobility and only in such cases approves of social mobility. An enemy of revolutions, above all Pushkin treasures order and believes in the peaceful course of political life. If based on strict adherence to the sacred, time-honored and just laws of the land, the demand for personal independence in such a state will never contradict its interests and will ensure the nec­essary safeguard for the cultural and spiritual growth of an individual.

     Pushkin believes as much in self-reliance as he believes in the role of the government in guaranteeing the protection of its subjects. For in­stance, censorship is necessary because when exercised correctly it pro­tects the public from debauched, slanderous, and abusive literature and journalism or the kind of writing that threatens the state. However, the poet should be allowed to exercise aesthetic control and be his own moral judge. Writing that has not passed the poet’s own aesthetic and moral cen­sorship should never be made public. It oddly but logically follows from Frank’s analysis of Pushkin’s ontology that his spiritual universality, achieved thanks to his overcoming of clichés, made him lonely in the “we-reality” of Russia not only in his personal religion but in his political opinions. As Frank explains, this is because Pushkin’s political opinion evolved from the exuberant radicalism of the 1820s, common to many, to the unique wisdom of an historian-statesman (around 1826–27). This ma­ture Pushkin displayed a complete inability for party fanaticism and looked on history with the “eyes of Shakespeare,” caring as much about being a grateful and loyal subject as he cared about personal freedoms and world order in general. In a tour de force exposition, Frank demonstrates that as a constitutional monarchist in his ambition, Pushkin was less depressed by autocracy, which was still Russia’s most revolutionary and efficient tool of reform. He was utterly depressed, however, disgusted even, by the absence of political consciousness in the Russian educated classes and aristocracy, and by their cheap sentimental cosmopolitanism, which invited hatred of Russia and bred an imbecilic lightness regarding questions of state power.[114]

     Frank also ably demonstrates that the rudiments of this unique liberal conservatism had already shown themselves during Pushkin’s southern exile. In Kishinev, Pushkin’s sympathy for an antiliberal popular democracy was the result of his indignation against the “Asiatic illiteracy” of the Russian reform movement from the top, beginning with Peter the Great, and an antidote for his bitter irony, after Mme de Staël, regarding “strangulation,” the preferred form of Russian constitutionalism to deter its homegrown Caligulas.[115] In Odessa in 1823–24, Pushkin befriends Alexander Sturdza, a very religious monarchist, and, in a famous letter that sent him to a new exile further north, regrets that atheism supplies its proofs more convincingly. Frank draws attention to the most important word in this letter that was read and misunderstood by the authorities, that the Englishman with whom Pushkin supposedly discussed matters of faith was the “only smart atheist” (edinstvennyi umnyi afei) who came Pushkin’s way.[116] Pushkin’s growing esteem during the writing of Boris Godunov for honest rule built on heredity, respect of the aristocracy’s loyal independence, and reverence for the religion of the fathers—and his conse­quent low opinion of the people (narod) and the mob—invites Frank’s next intriguing suggestion: he thinks that Pushkin’s letter to Zhukovskii from Mikhailovskoe with a request for pardon may be sincere. For, aside from a line about Pushkin’s willingness to make peace with the government “com­pletely and sincerely,” Pushkin confesses that out of all imprecise charges hurled against him, among his political and ideological crimes he could only admit to atheism and that too without defiance but with regret.[117] Taking Pushkin’s word for this at Frank’s prompting makes sense. Other­wise, it is impossible to explain Pushkin’s nearly chameleon-like transformation after his return to Moscow in 1826 into a moderate consti­tutionalist. Not only does he openly, by word of mouth and in his writing, reiterate his dislike for revolutions and rebellion, but he also presses the government to exercise clemency to the Decembrists. He also expresses utter contempt for the filthy farce of the bourgeois democracy in France and reads Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America as a condemna­tion of this public institution.

     Still, one of the thorniest issues in Frank’s interpretation of Pushkin is the necessity to explain the dual existence in his spiritual life of funda­mental ontology and of inspiration derived from his strong nationalism and respect for political power. This difficulty also defines the true origin­ality of the Russian problem and of Pushkin’s way of resolving it. Frank is adamant in defending Pushkin’s right to dislike Russia’s foes and seek their defeat, a concept that not only had met with incomprehension in Pushkin’s circle of friends but also spelled some trouble for Frank. How­ever, there is no contradiction for Frank. As elsewhere, Pushkin expresses the independent judgments of a man who does not belong to any party, who is neither with the Eurasians of Frank’s day nor with men of the West, neither with democratic radicals nor with adepts of uninhibited ab­solutism. In Pushkin’s famous rebuttal to Nikolai Polevoi—saying that Russia never had anything in common with the rest of Europe and re­quired “another thought”—Frank finds confirmation of Pushkin’s third way principle.

     Although he admires Pushkin’s “striking foresight” and his rejection of both competing political creeds of his century, “monarchy-estates-despotism” and “democracy-equality-freedom,” opting instead for his lib­eral conservative scheme of “monarchy-estates-freedom-conservatism,” Frank admits that Pushkin was wrong in his historical prognosis. The Russian monarchy did not enter into a union with the lower classes versus the higher classes. It perished because it tied its destiny too tightly in the 1880s and after with the dying ruling class and with this false step under­mined its popularity with the peasantry. However, Pushkin’s main insight held despairingly true:

Whatever our political ideas personally, simple historical objectiv­ity demands that we acknowledge that the falling standard of Russian culture went hand in hand with the “democratic inunda­tion,” which Pushkin foresaw and which became an obvious fact since the 1860s. With the crushing fall of the Russian monarchy, the educated class of Russia, and liberty with it, were consumed by the sudden downpour of “democratic Jacobinism,” that elemen­tal and popular “Bolshevism,” Pugachev-style, which … comprised the social substance of the Bolshevik revolution and elevated com­munism to power, and which forever destroyed freedom and cul­ture in Russia.[118]

     Frank corrected this desperate conclusion of the year 1937 after the war, in 1949, when he simultaneously worked on the explication of Push­kin’s bright sorrow in “Svetlaia pechal´” and in I svet vo t´me svetit (The Light Shineth in Darkness), the most optimistic work of his last decade. As if apologizing for his spell of despair, Frank summoned Pushkin to the rescue against the “momentary worshipers of success,” the cheap Polly­annas who forget that the magnitude of spiritual force is “wholly inde­pendent of its practical effectiveness…. How often a genius—a being who astonishes us with his spiritual force … is without influence on his envi­ronment! And on the contrary, how often, especially in our epoch of dema­gogic dictatorships, spiritual nonentity and powerlessness have, at least for a time, the deceiving likeness of all-powerful force, bewitching the whole world and bringing it to blind obedience!”[119] To live with such a con­viction would be tantamount to succumbing to Ivan Karamazov’s despair at his watching the “vaudeville of devils.”[120] Frank concludes his medita­tion on the task of perfecting the world in the present historical epoch with Pushkin’s solution, or at least with how he explained Pushkin’s atti­tudes over the years. If Frank were to do what he preached then it meant not being obsessed by the fact that the light shines in darkness, but see that the light shines in order to take measures that it shine lucidly and brightly.“Living in darkness, not only can we be consoled by the fact that the light abides in the superworldly Divine element, but we can also place our hopes upon its creative, illuminating power in the world itself.”[121]

 

Returning to the Question: Why Does Frank’s Pushkin Matter?

     It is tempting to end the discussion of Pushkin’s place in Frank’s philo­sophical quests with this rhetorical conquest of light over darkness. It is clear why Frank may have needed Pushkin to end one of his best works on such an incantation in a most un-philosophical manner. In presenting a critical analysis of Frank’s interpretations of Pushkin, it is important to remember how much Frank despised philosophical didacticism and buf­foonery. As an attempt to avoid those pitfalls, he sharply rebuked Solov´ev, whether it concerned Solov´ev’s condescending analysis of Push­kin’s ethics or his sending up of Tolstoy’s principle of nonviolence in an apocalyptic buff of “Three Conversations on War, Progress and the End of World History with a Short Story of the Antichrist” (1900). Despite his lively and seriously deployed imagery of light and dark forces in a state of permanent warfare, Frank’s literary criticism is devoid of any sort of panic-stricken or out-of-control pathos and clairvoyance of other philo­sophical considerations of Pushkin’s religiosity.

     Frank succeeded in offering the most serious methodology so far for studying Pushkin’s spiritual reality. He continued Khodasevich’s precept of taking Pushkin as a “series of tasks” (riad zadanii) (1921), which corre­sponded to his neo-idealist background as Hermann Cohen’s disciple.[122] His Pushkin was not a given (geben), but morally assigned (ausgegeben). One of Frank’s very special qualities is his ability to build from other good ideas. Disagreeing with Gershenzon’s point that in Pushkin sin is incur­able, Frank acknowledged his debt to Gershenzon’s discussion of a special co-existence in Pushkin’s world of tranquil fullness (polnota) with restive incompleteness (nepolnota) and the tragic encounters of the two.[123] He also brilliantly placed Pushkin in the tradition of Russian liberal conserv­atism, stressing his indebtedness to Gradovskii and Kavelin’s polemic with Dostoevsky around Pushkin, and to Struve. Additionally, Frank made the first serious attempt in the twentieth century to examine Push­kin as an important public intellectual, concrete, and engagée in Sartre’s sense; serving humanity and spiritual reality without being subservient to a single ideology, philosophical or political. Frank’s examination of Push­kin’s public intellectualism outside schools, political or academic nomen­clature, places Pushkin in the developing tradition of Kant’s and Fou­cault’s definition of responsible public discourse of a critically informed intellectual in their two essays, “What is Enlightenment?” This lone standing intellectual passes responsible judgment on current events by dint of immense erudition applied critically, without seeking personal gratification, and who feels it right to intervene where opinions are mis­led. In a word, Frank sees in Pushkin Julien Benda’s solution to the avoidance of intellectual treason, namely how this formerly Bohemian man of letters and a matured citizen has tempered his political passions in the cauldron of Being.[124]

     Most of Frank’s thoughts on Pushkin’s political views are hardly dis­putable today. They have become part of Pushkin’s worldview in contem­porary reception. If the time should come for them to be revised, it is not yet quite upon us. Judged by the high standard and steep competition within the circle of compulsive literary critics from the generation of key Russian philosophers of the first half of the twentieth century, Frank’s contribution is an achievement enviable in terms of both quantity and quality. Frank’s religious Pushkin is quite far from Briusov’s demand of non-ending sacral sacrifice, Belyi’s idea that Pushkin’s apocalyptic quality is best seen through Tiutchev’s philosophical depth, Sergei Bulgakov’s stress on self-revelation in the Pushkin of the Russian popular genius, or Anton Kartashev’s attempt to paint the holy and iconic Pushkin, and so on. Frank bypassed many traps and clichés that the first half of the twen­tieth century added to the existing Pushkin myth(s): of Pushkin’s “aes­thetic responsiveness” to what may defy aesthetic reaction (Vilenkin-Minsky), his indiscriminate curiosity (Rozanov), his poetry of petty devils (Sologub), and his Hellenic lack of inhibition (Voloshin). If Frank’s writing on Pushkin was a campaign in the dual struggle against Bolshevism and Nazism, he abstained from simplistic sociopolitical reactions in Russia of the later Gershenzon or of Shchegolev’s Pushkin and The Moujiks (1928) or Blagoi’s The Sociology of Pushkin’s Art (1929).[125] He likewise abstained from politicized responses outside Russia, such as Sergei Oldenburg’s “The Singer of Empire” (1937), George Fedotov’s version of the “singer of free­dom and empire” (1937), and Vladimir Weidle’s “Pushkin and Europe.”[126]

     All these comparisons remain valuable to a point. Blok’s, Gershen­zon’s, Merezhkovskii’s or Belyi’s beliefs in Pushkin’s providentialism or “secret freedom,” which Frank shared, could not conceal their ineradicable political differences around the cause of revolution, eschatology, or anthro­polatry. At present, however, questions remain to be asked of Frank him­self. In one instance, Frank is fascinated by Pushkin’s adherence to spiri­tual universality and therefore praises his praise of Protestantism. As Pushkin informed Chaadaev, only Protestantism combined the Christian spirit with the spirit of true republicanism.[127] Characteristically for his elliptical treatment of Pushkin’s ellipses, Frank never develops the preg­nant analogy because he fears that public intellectualism is fruitless in Russia. In his work “The Religious and Historical Meaning of the Russian Revolution” (1924), Frank repeats Pushkin’s thought almost verbatim, adding that Russian intellectuals knew neither Renaissance nor Reforma­tion and were fed on a few stale crumbs of European Enlightenment with its belief in the natural rights and eternal perfectibility of man. The social and political creativity of the Russian intellectual class has been tradi­tionally stumped by strong government power and control of public opin­ion, forcing intellectual ambition to implode and practice a demonism of indivisible yet injured self-love that is transferred to its ungrateful bene­ficiary, the people.[128]

     The student of Weber who joined the Russian intellectual elite despite Pushkin’s contempt for democratic and non-patrician upstarts in that field did little to protect the importance of his intellectual class. While he no­ticed Pushkin’s contempt for French bourgeois values after the revolution of 1830, Frank never addressed seriously the issue of Pushkin’s great in­terest in the wide promotion and practice of the principles of bourgeois intellectual exchange and entrepreneurship patterned on British and French journalism and literary rules of the trade. The absolute faith in absolute values whose absence Frank bemoaned in the Soviet and Euro­pean intellectual culture of his time could only be a result of the poor edu­cation of the spirit in the humanities. Pushkin knew that the campaign takes time and that he, the “bourgeois-aristocrat,” the “Feofilakt Kosich­kin” of Russian letters, had a role to play in it. Frank completely misun­derstands this point of Pushkin’s polemic. He takes Pushkin’s phrase “filthy farce” (gadkaia farsa) to mean that Pushkin rejects the whole expe­rience of the French revolution. In fact Frank misquotes a segment from Pushkin’s long and complex conversation on the meaning of criticism (a synonym for mature intellectual forums), which distorts Pushkin’s thought. Pushkin calls the excesses of the guillotine and the slogans “aris­tocrats on the lantern” to be just one petty episode of the French revolu­tion, a “filthy farce of an enormous drama.” He immediately attends to the issue of France’s four leading writers (Voltaire, Montesquieu, Diderot, and Rousseau) and their possible implicit guilt in the lawless anarchy follow­ing the Revolution. The whole magnitude of the great and majestic drama, Pushkin implies, is that the refinement of the French mind and style could have been hypothetically associated with such an outburst of violence. What could one expect of the Russian revolution, he asks, if its public intellectuals are so crude and unrefined?[129] Pushkin understands what could have caused Radishchev’s horror at the bloodbath in France. How­ever, what should one make of Radishchev’s “semi-Enlightenment,” his materialist thoughts on immortality, unintelligent wonder at the intellect of his age, and especially his habit of “irritating supreme power with his malignant tongue”?[130] Pushkin leaves these questions addressed polemi­cally to the reader, but Frank thinks that Pushkin praises Radishchev’s sacrifice and reserve, disregarding Pushkin’s points about the poet’s tasks Radishchev lacked—his absence of bias, scruple, and restraint in the task of justification or rebuke.

     Frank’s analysis of Pushkin’s universalism and nationalism in the state of internal exile adds great critical momentum to our understanding of Pushkin. Frank manages to steer clear of inaccurate conflations of Pushkin’s human situation with the rootless cosmopolitanism and the state of political refugees of the nineteenth century and of superimposing on Pushkin the experiences of displacement of the twentieth century. Nonetheless Frank does commit some follies. There is a problem with Frank’s calling Pushkin’s state of internal exile a rooted state of the “man of the soil” (pochvennik), even if this cognomen is enclosed in quotation marks. There is little to be gained from a hypothetical association of Push­kin with the movement and beliefs of Dostoevsky’s group, which nurtured hopes of messianic utopianism. After all, Frank condemned the latter, with its “on the off-chance” (na avos´) socialist humanism of the dreaming ridiculous men, one of the Russian heresies against God’s law, the “sur­passing of the preordained divine and cosmic laws … that is invariably punished.”[131]

     It must be borne in mind that Frank’s thinking on Pushkin’s liberal conservatism as a new solution to the practical ontology of political being was taking place against the background of other political theories, for ex­ample, Ivan Il´in’s theory of just wars, and German theories with far greater resonance. Karl Mannheim’s Ideology and Utopia (1929) reconsid­ered the meaning of ontological judgments for social being. Due to “con­stant reorganization of criteria” and of the “mental processes which make up our worlds” under the conditions of modernity “it has become extremely questionable whether, in the flux of life, it is a genuinely worthwhile intel­lectual problem to seek to discover fixed and immutable ideas or abso­lutes.”[132] Mannheim came up with a solution in perspectival thinking: “It is necessary to concentrate our attention with greater intensity upon the task of determining which of all the ideas current are really valid in a given situation.” [133] Carl Schmitt’s vastly influential yet contentious works such as Political Theology (1922) and The Concept of the Political (1932) claimed that certain realities of political existence are beyond justification. Since no legitimacy or legality could justify men’s killing one another, only one justification was possible that is exempt from all justification, i.e., an “existential” or “ontological” state of affairs, justification by mere exis­tence: “As long as the state is a political entity this requirement for in­ternal peace compels it in a critical situation to decide also upon the do­mestic enemy.”[134] We canot help noticing Frank’s nods in the direction of the controversial social ontologism of his German colleagues as he attri­butes to Pushkin’s perspectival liberal conservatism the ontological wis­dom with his respect for power and perfect hatred of the enemies of Rus­sia’s statehood.

     Pushkin’s unorthodox political views and the “third way” of his liberal conservatism responds to Frank’s idea that political reality is often a pic­ture of confusion and that a neat distinction between left and right, good and wrong may be problematic if attached to clearly defined political con­frontations and parties. Like the unscrupulous democracy of Pushkin’s time, against whose excesses he warned, communism and Nazism, the two mass-political movements of the twentieth century, took advantage of chaos and the collapse of law. In such situations, and Frank correctly in­terprets Pushkin’s solution, one should identify the struggle between fun­damental approaches. In this sense, rationalism, a limitless state of des­potism, the rule of the lower and the uncultured masses, and the abuse of culture should be considered “wrongs.” They should be replaced by Push­kin’s political values of legacy, the religion of the fathers, traditions, and principles of justice.[135] Nonetheless, in his evaluation of Pushkin’s politi­cal persona, Frank often ascribes to him the gravitas and solemnity that Pushkin actually avoided. In general, Frank is not a strong critic of Push­kin’s humor, irony, and verbal pranks. For example, in reading Pushkin’s imaginary conversation with Alexander I, written from Alexander’s point of view and voice, Frank remains blind and deaf to its magnificent per­formance quality and interprets the piece as an expression of Pushkin’s penitence. Such a reading is surely problematic. At the end of the conver­sation, the character of Pushkin is provoked by the narrator tsar to such an extent that he is about to tell the tsar new indignities and be sent to Siberia, where he would write poems about the Russian conquest of this far-flung region.[136]

     Frank’s ontological bias and infrequent professional shallowness of opinion is even more apparent than what one espies in his sociopolitical debate. In many moments, Frank’s dissembling and then weaving of leit­motif-threads of Pushkin’s ontology into a cohesive if contradictory whole deprives Pushkin of a true sense of the dynamic and turns him into a col­lection of aphorisms. At one point, Frank regretted that such compendium did not yet exist.[137] Compared to Heidegger’s Holzwege, in which Heideg­ger’s essays on poetry first appeared and which Frank liked immensely, the humble attention of the philosopher is not on threads and ontological directions of his system, but on the individual work, which “opens up in its own way the being of beings.”[138] Regrettably, Frank never analyzes Push­kin’s works individually or in their completeness, although he routinely and extensively reviews individual works of philosophy or religion. Frank’s fundamental ontology sown as a yarn of connections leaves ample space for other opinions on Pushkin.

     A good illustration of shifting patterns in Pushkin criticism on the issue of Pushkin’s ontology comes from a fairly recent work by Svetlana Evdokimova. Commenting on Pushkin for the post-modern age, without necessarily arguing with Frank, Evdokimova thinks that instead of Cusa’s coincidentia oppositorum principle with its “simultaneous coexistence of contraries and the union of opposites in God,” Pushkin practices what she terms “complementarity.” Complementarity is a constantly self-correcting and mobile worldview of “both … and.” It is not a form of containment of smaller truths within a larger truth. Neither is it a form of nihilism of truth, wherein each new truth cancels those formerly discovered. The principle of complementarity is a complex of evolving visions rather than a set of preconceived plans or competing ideas.[139] Such immensely liberating epistemology recalls Rozanov’s description of Pushkin’s selective vora­ciousness in picking new ideals as he was walking the inexhaustible Gar­dens of Being: “and here is what else you can love.”[140]

     Ultimately, the overcoat that Frank sews for the “fundamentally-onto­logical” Pushkin is as threadbare and unwearable for every occasion of life as that made by Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus (1833–34), for it fur­nishes the same “everlasting yea” of Romantic contradiction that Pushkin knew how to master and modulate, the unquenchable and inconsolable hunger for the infinite.[141] One of the gaping holes in Frank’s overcoat is his contempt for alleged Formalist sightlessness in the realm of the un­knowable and their concentration on the humdrum X of the more tactile forms of the unknown. Frank neglected to see that those who revived po­etics for the twentieth century, like all students of poiēsis, knew that the retreat into the dark for the recovery of divine light is the foundation of poetry and an indispensable part of human phenomenology. After all, “the cultural, or form-giving, work of poetry is to counter the oblivion of darkness.”[142]

     Some critics contemporary to Frank, Soviet, Russian-born, and foreign had illuminating things to say about the form-giving ontological trium­virate of techne, praxis, and poiēsis. We can leave aside Eikhenbaum’s and Shklovskii’s concentration, at times dogmatic, on the technicalities of Pushkin’s verse or prose, all those artful interruptions, retardations, and ellipses of solely parodic and self-ironic intents. It is better to revisit Roman Jakobson’s passionate struggle in the 1920s and 1930s for the “au­tonomy of the aesthetic function” in honor of its salvation from the infla­tion of the word. Jakobson would agree with Frank or Gadamer that the division into Wahrheit and Dichtung is indecent, seeing a double blessing in the fact that “no nook or cranny, no activity, landscape, or thought stands outside the pale of poetic subject matter” of his day, and that the intrusions of sociology, philosophy, politics, positivism, and linguistic phe­nomenology contaminate the world of poetry instead of making it a home of the Absolute.[143]

     The more insightful Formalists or representatives of practical criticism understood the tasks of dealing with the unknowable much in the spirit of Pushkin: “the prime obstacle in general education is a feeling of helplessness before the unintelligible.” While attending to the similar complaints that Frank made about classics read but misunderstood in the same 1930s, I. A. Richards developed methods for teaching students that word choices are not arbitrary, but bear the same responsibility as a relig­ious person would bear to the absolute.[144] Or take John Crowe Ransom’s passionate appeal of 1938 to explore the “sense of the real density and con­tingency of the world in which arguments and plans have to be pursued” by allowing oneself to be submerged in the reality of the poem’s being.[145] Iurii Tynianov saw the critic’s task as informing the student that Push­kin’s choice of semantic systems is not an act of subconscious mechanics, but a reasonable and well thought-out choice that opens celestial chasms through which it is easier to converse with Homer or Dante. For the sake of this dialogue, and in his literary cosmology of All-Being, in distinction to Frank, Tynianov relegated philosophy, religion, sociology, and psychol­ogy to the class of secondary disciplines, alongside chronologies, textol­ogies, and biographies, in the sorting out of poetic laws (art’s absolutes) and their background (the necessary ballast).[146]

     Even critics who do not consider politics and philosophy a ballast that weighs down on the truest appreciation of poetry may have found more re­spectable ways of dealing with the canon standing in need of rediscovery so that it could offer new revelations. Repeating Frank’s complaints about reading verbatim and badly, but in relation to Shakespeare, in his classic work on Shakespeare’s politics Allan Bloom took the liberal-conservative method to the next level. With apologies for his philosophical clumsiness and amateur approach, Bloom demonstrated through masterful close readings of several plays that politics shapes man. Yet even in a political author like Shakespeare, who, like Pushkin, supported monarchy, any perfection of political life is only as good “as may fall within our human compass” in the relationship of “the political to the human and of the human to the divine.” Bloom is a reader sensitive to the text’s political im­plications; he nonetheless concluded that there were some aspects of Shakespeare’s vision that simply could not be defined politically. Oddly enough, in his hunger for ontological definition, Frank stayed too much within a deductively political horizon.[147]

     Frank’s philosophical schooling taught him to believe that a philosoph­ical system can be understood through the person of its creator and vice versa. He also believed that in the interdisciplinary humanistic purview of literature and philosophy one should allow a degree of dilettantism, the prying loose of Husserl’s tight phenomenological bracket.[148] Ontologism would differ and views on provinces of inquiry as much. For literary schol­ars of nearly every persuasion, in the beginning was the word and the work, its author, and the realms it described, distorted or concealed. To­ward the end of his life, Frank arrived at the idea of the “impossibility of philosophy.” Even Aquinas failed to enjoin theology to obey the laws of reason and vice versa, because even the best philosophy is “an attempt to caulk with deliberations the hollows, cracks, and the chasms of being.” Frank confessed that he preferred Goethe’s Urphänomene.[149] Like the Orthodoxy that he chose because in it the doctrine allowed for the pres­ence of Christ “whom we need,” the gift of the “eternal light of love, which can’t be extinguished by darkness,” so in poetry Frank sought divine phi­losophy and in philosophy he sought lyrical proofs of the first and the final cause.

     Frank’s most important interpretations of Pushkin, often prophetic and visionary, and always a magnifying reflection of the Russian philo­sophical mindset at its best and worst, also prove that he was a man of his time. He belonged to the generation that had squandered its poets and in that, he betrayed Pushkin’s lessons. In strange oblivion, he looked away from the amazing poets of his generation (Ivanov, Maiakovskii, Khodase­vich, Mandel´shtam, Pasternak, Tsvetaeva, Khodasevich). When he re­viewed Blok, it was not Blok’s poetry, but the poet’s diaries of 1917–21, in which Frank was almost glad to observe the “deep spiritual suffering and doubts” of someone who approved of the revolt and the “anarchic revelry” of mistaken revolutionary passions.[150] In Rilke, Frank mostly appreciated Rilke’s ties with the Slavic idea, and with Viacheslav Ivanov he corre­sponded about the Russian idea and the eclipse of the European spirit, but not about its possible rebirth through poetry once the dirty foam of the historical ocean settles. In especially bad times, when all the languages that he knew became especially stifling houses of being and “God no longer gathered men and things unto himself,” Pushkin (not Khodasevich) became for Frank what Hölderlin (not Rilke) became for Heidegger.[151]

     Looking for his poet of choice, Frank did not suggest living with or by Pushkin. Instead of Tertz’s casual saunter, Frank invokes Pushkin as “the third way” (tretii put´) or the synthetic “median line” (sredniaia liniia), in the hopes of reversing the inevitable devastation of spirituality and cul­ture.[152] Hiding from the Nazis in the French Alps during the war to avoid inevitable deportation, Frank kept a diary which he called Mysli v strash­nye dni (Thoughts in Terrible Days, 1942–44). In this diary, in one of his loneliest moments, Frank remembered Pushkin’s “magic crystal,” allowing us to see the inviting contours of eternity during the journey ridden with suffering and despair.[153] With all his flaws and imperfections, in the astounding variety of the responses that he elicited, Frank’s Pushkin is one of the most instructive philosophical echoes of that “wondrous spiri­tual reality that in this world bore the name of Alexander Pushkin.”

 

Eugene Lang College (The New School for Liberal Arts)

 


Download:

Medzhibovskaya, Inessa. "Lucid Sorrow and Political Foresight: Simon Frank on Pushkin, and the Challenges of Ontology for Literature." Pushkin Review 10 (2007): 59 - 102.


* I would like to thank the editors of the Pushkin Review for their enthusiasm for this essay and their wise counsel. My special thanks also go to the anonymous reviewers of the journal for their constructive and supportive comments.

[1] Simon Frank, “Svetlaia pechal´,” in Russkoe mirovozzrenie (St. Petersburg: Na­uka, 1996), 302. Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations from Frank’s essays on Pushkin will be from this edition, hereafter abbreviated RM and followed by page number. Frank’s essay “Pushkin kak politicheskii myslitel´” will be referenced to S. L. Frank, Pushkin kak politicheskii myslitel´, Voprosy istorii i kul´tury, vol. 1, introduction and addenda by P. B. Struve (Belgrade: Tipografiia S. Filonova,1937).

[2] Terry Eagleton, After Theory (New York: Basic Books, 2003).

[3] See Mark Edmundson, Literature against Philosophy, Plato to Derrida: A Defence of Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).

[4] Critchley argues that poetry celebrates its hubris and its triumphant failure, since, unlike philosophy, it can afford to oscillate between its eternal temptations when imagination reduces reality to itself, and reality reduces the power of imagination to impotence. See Simon Critchley, Things Merely Are: Philosophy in the Poetry of Wallace Stevens (London: Routledge, 2005), esp. 73–75 and 85–87.

[5] See Alain Badiou, “What is a Poem? Or, Philosophy and Poetry at the Point of the Unnamable,” in Handbook of Inaesthetics, trans. Alberto Toscano (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005), 16–27. In the adjoining essay, “A French Philosopher Responds to a Polish Poet,” Badiou took to task Czesław Milosz’s bent toward Platonizing (ibid., 28–35). Badiou’s attitude is symptomatic of the new rev­erence with which today’s major philosophers treat the autonomy of poetry.

[6] See Stanley Cavell, Philosophy the Day After Tomorrow (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006).

[7] If representative works of the past decade should be named, I would suggest Vladimir Golstein’s fine study of the principle of tempestivistas, “Time or Money: The Paradoxes of Aging in ‘The Covetous Knight,’” in Alexander Pushkin’s Little Tragedies: The Poetics of Brevity, ed. Svetlana Evdokimova (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2003), 147–73; or Robert Louis Jackson’s “Moral-Philosophical Subtext in ‘The Stone Guest’” in the same volume (191–208). On Pushkin’s philoso­phy of creation, see M. L. Gasparov, “Pushkin i problemy poeticheskoi formy: Iazyk i stikh,” in The Pushkin Handbook, ed. David Bethea (Madison: University of Wis­consin Press, 2005), 60–79; Brett Cooke, Pushkin and the Poetic Process (Gaines­ville: University Press of Florida, 1998), 106–27; and Oleg Proskurin, Poeziia Pushkina, ili podvizhnyi palimpsest (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 1999). On Pushkin’s Christian poetics, see Olga Sedakova, “Non-Mortal and Mysterious Feelings: On Pushkin’s Christianity,” in Two Hundred Years of Pushkin, ed. Robert Reid and Joe Andrew, 3 vols. (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2004), 3: 33–45. The vast majority of philosophically inspired interpretations of Pushkin over the past decade have arguably been written about his political and historical thought, which often presupposes a discussion of his drama. See Svetlana Evdokimova, Pushkin’s Historical Imagination (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999); Cath­erine O’Neil, With Shakespeare’s Eyes: Pushkin’s Creative Appropriation of Shake­speare (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2003); Chester S. L. Dunning et al., The Uncensored Boris Godunov: The Case for Pushkin’s Original Comedy, with Annotated Text and Translation (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006); P. N. Griunberg, “Pushkin i poznanie istorii (Pushkin-istoricheskii myslitel´),” in Pushkin v XXI veke: Sbornik v chest´ Valentina S. Nepomniashchego (Moscow: Russkii mir, 2006), 111–39; David Bethea, “Pushkin as Historical Thinker,” in The Pushkin Handbook, 266–82; and V. Skvoznikov, “Gosudarstvennye mysli istorika,” in Pushkin cherez dvesti let: Materialy mezhdunarodnoi konferentsii iubileinogo (1999) goda, ed. V. Nepomniashchii (Moscow: Ran-IMLI, 2002), 18–30.

[8] Andrew Kahn, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Pushkin (Cambridge: Cam­bridge University Press, 2007). For full citation of Bethea’s Pushkin Handbook, see n. 7 above.

[9] See David Powelstock, “Burying the Elegiac Corpse: Selfhood in Pushkin’s Late Lyrics,” Pushkin Review 3 (2000): 80–132. 

[10] Lina Steiner, “Pushkin’s Vision of the Enlightened Self: Individualism, Author­ity, and Tradition Beyond Karamzin,” Pushkin Review 6–7 (2003–04): 1–23.

[11] Alyssa Dinega Gillespie, “Sidestepping Silence, Ventriloquizing Death: A Recon­sideration of Pushkin’s Stone Island Cycle,” Pushkin Review 6–7 (2003–04): 39–83.

[12] Ibid., 40–41.

[13] Julien Benda’s celebrated book, titled in French La trahison des clercs,first ap­peared in 1927. See Julien Benda, The Treason of the Intellectuals, trans. Richard Aldington(New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1969). Richard Aldington pro­vides a stimulating explanation for his rendering of the word clerc as “intellectual” (ibid., ix–x).

[14] Benda prefaced his book with a quote from Charles Bernard Renouvier: “The world is suffering from lack of faith in a transcendental truth.”

[15] On this topic, see Noah Isenberg, “Theory Out of Bounds,” Raritan 27: 1 (Summer 2007): 82–103.

[16] Frank started in the faculty of law at Moscow University. His first significant study was on a Marxist topic: Teoriia tsennosti Marksa i ee znachenie (Marx’s Theory of Value and Its Significance). For the best Anglophone biography of Simon Frank, see Philip Boobbyer, S. L. Frank: The Life and Work of a Russian Philos­opher, 1877–1950 (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1995).

[17] Struve was another defector from Marxism, like many other representatives of the Russian intellectual elite among the people close to Frank, including Berdiaev and Bulgakov.

[18] See the following contributions by Frank in these works: “Fr. Nietzsche i etika liubvi k dal´nemu” (posviashchaetsia P.B.S.), in Problemy idealizma: Sbornik pod redaktsiei P. I. Novgorodtseva (Moscow: Izdatel´stvo Moskovskogo Psikhologiche­skogo Obshchestva, 1902), 137–95; “Etika nigilizma,” in Vekhi. P/red. Mikhaila Gershenzona (1909; repr., N. A. Kazakova, comp., Vekhi: Intelligentsiia v Rossii. Sborniki statei, 1909–1910 [Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 1991]): 153–84; and “De profundis,” in Iz glubiny: Sbornik statei o russkoi revoliutsii. P/red. Petra Struve (1918; repr., S. A. Askol´dov, ed., [S.I.]:Izdatel´stvo Proekt, 1988), 275–96.

[19] Already before 1917, Frank had been one of the leading public intellectuals of Russia. He published in the journals Voprosy zhizni and Novyi put´, and in Struve’s liberal journal Osvobozhdenie and Poliarnaia zvezda. In 1906 Frank was editor-in-chief of the journal Svoboda i kul´tura and he guest-edited the first issue of the prestigious journal of literature and philosophy Russkaia mysl´, after which he remained on board and supervised its philosophical section. 

[20] S. L. Frank, Filosofiia i zhizn´: Etiudy i nabroski po filosofii kul´tury (St. Peters­burg: Izd-vo D. E. Zhukovskago, 1910).

[21] Both works were recently reissued in S. L. Frank, Predmet znaniia. Dusha cheloveka (St. Petersburg: Nauka, 1995).

[22] “Russkoe mirovozzrenie” [The Russian worldview, 1926], in RM, 171, 179.  

[23] Ibid., 170, 173, 175 (italics mine).

[24] See S. L. Frank, “O natsionalizme v filosofii” [On nationalism in philosophy] (RM, 103–11) and “Eshche o natsionalizme v filosofii. Otvet na otvet V. F. Erna” [Once more on nationalism in philosophy. My response to V. F. Ern’s response], in RM, 112–18.  

[25] S. L. Frank, Zhivoe znanie (Berlin: Obelisk, 1923).

[26] See Edith Clowes, Fiction’s Overcoat: Russian Literary Culture and the Question of Philosophy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004).

[27] See S. L. Frank, “Fr. Nietzsche i etika liubvi k dal´nemu.”

[28] On this topic, see Inessa Medzhibovskaya, “Dogmatism or Moral Logic? Simon Frank Confronts Tolstoy’s Ethical Thought (1902–1909),” Tolstoy Studies Journal 16 (2004): 18–32; and idem, “Simon Frank Confronts Tolstoy’s Ethical Thought (The Later Years),” Tolstoy Studies Journal 17 (2005): 43–58.

[29] “Tolstoj und der Bolschewismus” was originally published in Die Tat: Wege zu freiem Menschentums, band 20 (1928): 470–73 and reprinted in Zeitschrift für Individualpsychologie 6(Vienna: Perles, 1933–36).

[30] In Dusha cheloveka (The Soul of Man, 1917) Frank took scientific psychology to task for not accepting literature and writers “as the only teachers of psychology of our time.” He also rebuked Berdiaev for going to the opposite extreme and insisting on the non-philosophical and unscientific nature of creativity (Frank, Predmet znaniia. Dusha cheloveka, 423–24, 427).

[31] In using this phrase, I am slightly paraphrasing William Gass. See William H. Gass, “Exile,” in Altogether Elsewhere: Writers on Exile,ed. Marc Robinson (San Diego: A Harvest Book, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1994), 222.

[32] After the revolution, Frank took his family to Bashkiria, where he assumed deanship and chaired the department of philosophy at the University of Saratov. In the hungry year 1919, Frank took a leave of absence and spent a year in the German colony Rovnoe on the Volga. He returned to Moscow in 1921 and headed the Institute of Philosophy at Moscow University, becoming also dean of the Academy of Spiritual Culture (Akademiia dukhovnoi kul´tury). In 1923, Frank joined the émigré Religious Philosophical Academy (Religiozno-filosofskaia Akademiia).

[33] In his “Dukhi russkoi revoliutsii” (Spirits of the Russian Revolution), the most controversial essay in the collection, first published in the last issue of Russkaia mysl´ (1918), Berdiaev argued that the Russian revolution resolved the religious question in the spirit of Shigalev and Smerdiakov. He blamed Tolstoy for the de­struction of Russian culture and for corrupting the soul of the nation with the germ of anarchism. The same anarchic corruption of the nation (the narod, the Smerdiakovs) by the atheistic and nihilistic propaganda of the intelligentsia (the “Ivan Karamazov”) Berdiaev observed in the events of 1917–22. See Struve, Iz glubiny, 47–82, esp. 49, 51, 61, 68–71.

[34] In this same collection, Sergei Askol´dov chastises Blok for his hatred of culture and his participation in the anarchy of destruction (Iz glubiny, 24–25). The same memorable comparison of the intelligentsia to Smerdiakov belonged also to V. N. Muraviev (ibid., 213). Frank’s “De profundis” confirmed the view that the Russian revolution was corrupted by its writers (275–96). Pushkin was spared in this pageant of accusations.

[35] On the history of Frank’s and Struve’s disagreement, see Nikolai Plotnikov’s “Revolution and Counter-Revolution: The Conflict Over Meaning Between P. B. Struve and S. L. Frank in 1922,” Studies in East European Thought 46(1994): 187–96.

[36] Frank, “Vospominaniia o P. B. Struve,” in NeprochitannoeStat´i, pis´ma, vospominaniia (Moscow: Shkola politicheskikh issledovanii, 2001), 525–28.

[37] The series “Voprosy istorii i kul´tury”was published alongside a second series, “Politicheskie voprosy tekushchego dnia” (Current Political Issues). Both series came out under the aegis of “Pravda i svoboda,” a series of brochures by leading Russian intellectuals abroad

[38] The essay came out in issue 40 of Put´ (1933).

[39] “Die Sowjetrussische Jugend und Puschkin,” Hochland (October 1935–36): 473–76.

[40] “Pushkin i dukhovnyi put´ Rossii” was first published in Pushkin 1837–1937. Odnodnevnaia gazeta (Paris, 1937): 273–77.

[41] The former essay was originally published in German as “Puschkin über das Verhältnis zwischen Russland und Europa,” in Solange Dichter leben: Puschkin Studien zum 150 Gerburtstag des Dichters, ed. Arthur Luther (Krefeld: Scherpe Verlag, 1949). Vozrozhdenie was the major organ of post-war Russian emigration, continuing from a pre-war Paris-based newspaper founded in 1925 by Struve.

[42] As branded in his brilliant essay, “The Ethics of Nihilism,” which he wrote for the 1909 collection Vekhi.

[43] After Briusov’s death, Piksanov and Zhirmunskii were involved in the publica­tion of the Complete Works of Pushkin initiated by Briusov at Vengerov’s commis­sion in the series “Biblioteka velikikh pisatelei.” They also edited and published Briusov’s essays on Pushkin and published evaluations of Briusov’s contribution to Pushkin studies.

[44] Frank made regular trips to Prague, Warsaw, Paris, and other European capi­tals where expatriate conferences on Russian literature convened.

[45] Frank had been following these authors and quoted their earlier work in Pred­met znaniia (The Subject of Knowledge, 1915) and Dusha cheloveka (The Soul of Man, 1917). Cassirer’s The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms is available in English translation and published in four volumes by Yale University Press (1986).

[46] These essays were recently reissued in Frank, Neprochitannoe: Stat´i, pis´ma, vospominaniia. 

[47] The last bequest of Weber, Frank’s teacher, was in favor of patience and lucid judgment for the new heroic leader. The recovery of spiritual leaders in Goethe and Tolstoy by the greatest living German writer dared Frank to repair the biases and lack of lucidity of De profundis.

[48] According to the reminiscences of Frank’s son, Vasilii, Germany and the Ger­man language were Frank’s second skin and he felt at home in Berlin, caring as much about salvaging German culture from the Nazis as he cared about salvaging Russian culture from Bolshevism (Neprochitannoe, 9).

[49] See especially Frank’s chapter “Dukhovnaia pustota i vstrecha s zhivym Bogom” [The spiritual void and an encounter with the living God], in S. L. Frank, Kru­shenie kumirov, in Frank, Sochineniia (Moscow: Pravda, 1990), 161.

[50] Frank, Smysl zhizni (Paris: YMCA Press, 1926).

[51] Frank’s work was first published as S. L. Frank, Dukhovnye osnovy obshchestva: Vvedenie v sotsial´nuiu filosofiiu (Paris: YMCA Press, 1930). Hitler’s Mein Kampf (1927) and Goebbels’ publications in the 1920s on a difference between National Socialist theories of culture and those of Bolshevism and abstract philosophy should have served as a negative inspiration. Frank and Struve considered Hitler an ignoble savage and a dangerous lunatic. They thought Stalin a match for Hitler in savagery and paranoia, but superior to him in cunning. See Frank, Neprochi­tannoe, 534.

[52] Because of Frank’s strong focus on the social and political life of man, his ontol­ogy cannot be what is known as onto-theology, that is, the twin study of beings and the highest being. Frank strongly adheres to the Orthodox doctrine of apophasis, or the unknowable nature of God and evil. Consider this strong insistence on the primordial element of morality in Frank’s The Spiritual Foundations of Society for a vivid illustration of his difference from Heidegger: “Man in his essence is not ex­hausted by and satisfied with his given factual state or the entire aggregate of natural properties and possibilities of which he consists. In addition to all that man himself wants and is able to do … he is also acted upon by the ideal force of the obligatory, the voice of conscience—a call which he experiences as coming from a higher authority.” The translated passage is quoted from S. L. Frank, The Spiri­tual Foundations of Society: An Introduction to Social Philosophy,trans. Boris Jakim (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1987), 83.

[53] Merezhkovskii delivered as a speech and then published “The Seven Meek Ones,” his famous diatribe against the authors of the Vekhi collection. Frank re­sponded in 1909 with criticism of Merezhkovskii’s “new religious consciousness” that guided Merezhkovskii’s attack and conflated politics with the mystic owner­ship of power. See Frank’s “O tak nazyvaemom ‘novom religioznom soznanii’” [On the So-Called New Religious Consciousness], in RM, 542–54. Frank also criticized Gershenzon, his co-author in Vekhi, for his rejection of intellectual culture and politics and for his position of withdrawal from the politics of culture around 1909 (Neprochitannoe, 454–55).

[54] Frank gives credit to Merezhkovskii and Gershenzon in “O zadachakh poznaniia Pushkina,” in RM, 251.

[55] In nearly every essay, Frank writes about the universal acceptance of Pushkin’s poetic world and almost as universal indifference toward his spiritual world. The narrowness of the Russian criticism compares unfavorably to Pushkin’s breadth and width. See “Pushkin i dukhovnyi put´ Rossii,” in RM, 273. See also Pushkin kak politicheskii myslitel´, 11.

[56] Frank, “O zadachakh poznaniia Pushkina,” 258–61.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Here one is certainly reminded of Pushkin’s jocular definition of the key tenet in the methodology of Russian criticism, the principle “beat it!” (sam s´esh´). See “Oproverzhenie na kritiki” [Refutation of criticism] (1830) and “Opyt otrazheniia nekotorykh neliteraturnykh obvinenii” [An attempt in countering some non-liter­ary accusations] (1830), in A. S. Pushkin, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 19 vols. (Moscow: Vozrozhdenie, 1994–97), 11: 151, 169.

[59] Frank, “O zadachakh poznaniia Pushkina,” 261.

[60] Ibid., 248–49.

[61] Frank, Predmet znaniia. Dusha cheloveka, 248–49.

[62] Ibid., 248.

[63] Frank, “Russkoe mirovozzrenie,” 171.

[64] Frank, “O zadachakh poznaniia Pushkina,” 253.

[65] Ibid., 253.

[66] Ibid., 258.

[67] Ibid., 255. Frank refers to Khodasevich’s work of 1924: Vl. Khodasevich, Poeti­cheskoe khoziaistvo Pushkina (Berlin, 1924). Khodasevich published a revised and expanded version, O Pushkine, in 1937. At the time he was writing his essay, Frank was not yet familiar with the new version. See Vadim Perel´muter’s com­mentary in Pushkin v emigratsii: 1937,ed. Perel´muter (Moscow: Progress-traditsiia, 1999), 686.

[68] On the juxtaposition of these forms of speech in Vygotskii and Bakhtin, see Caryl Emerson, “The Outer Word and Inner Speech: Bakhtin, Vygotsky, and the Internalization of Language,” Critical Inquiry 10: 2 (1983): 245–64. A surprising revival of the idea to dynamically juxtapose form and content occurs in Terry Eagleton’s latest book, in which he writes that “language is a window separating the inside from the outside.” See Terry Eagleton, How to Read a Poem (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2007), 69.

[69] Frank, “O zadachakh poznaniia Pushkina,” 257.

[70] S. L. Frank, “Leo Tolstoi als Denker und Dichter,” Zeitschrift für Slavische Philologie, no. 10 (1935):66–95.

[71] The essay was published in German in 1934 as “Nikolaj Gogol als religioser Geist,” Hochland 1 (1934–35):251–59. References are provided to the translation of this essay in Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, 301–11.

[72] From 1931 to 1934, Frank wrote five short essays on Dostoevsky, three of which were mostly rhetorical, but the other two, “Dostoevskii i krizis gumanizma,” also published in German as “Die Krise des Humanismus: Eine Betrachtung aus der Sicht Dostojewskijs” (Dostoevsky and the Crisis of Humanism) (both versions 1931) and “Legenda o velikom inkvizitore” (The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor) (1934) belong in the golden fund of Dostoevsky criticism. The quotation occurs in the Russian translation of his German essay, “Aus Dostoevskijs Gestiger Werk­statt” [From the spiritual laboratory of Dostoevsky] (RM, 351).

[73] “Pushkin i dukhovnyi put´ Rossii” (RM, 275). For the explanation of these key moments of Frank’s philosophy, see Frank, Predmet znaniia. Dusha cheloveka, 333–64 and 580–604.

[74] Frank, “Pushkin i dukhovnyi put´ Rossii,” 275.

[75] Frank, “O zadachakh poznaniia Pushkina,”252.

[76] Ibid., 252. Frank is referring to Pushkin’s famous response to Küchelbecker’s confusion of inspiration (vdokhnovenie) and ecstasy (vostorg) in “Vozrazhenie na stat´i Kiukhel´beckera v ‘Mnemozine’” [An objection to  Küchelbecker’s essays in Mnemosine], in Pushkin, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 11: 41–42.

[77] Frank, “O zadachakh poznaniia Pushkina,” 254–55.

[78] Frank, “Svetlaia pechal´,” 293. In his chapter “The Possible Being-a-Whole of Da-sein and Being-toward-Death” of “Division Two. Da-Sein and Temporality,” Heidegger reserves a special footnote for Tolstoy’s story: “L. N. Tolstoy in his story ‘The Death of Ivan Il´ich’ has portrayed the phenomenon of the disruption and collapse of this ‘one dies’” (Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. Joan Stam­baugh [Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996], 409).

[79] Frank, “Svetlaia pechal´,” 293. Like Heidegger’s, Frank’s discussion of death is strongly influenced by Georg Simmel’s earlier essays on the metaphysics of death, on it being a boundary, a form, and a thing.

[80] Ibid.

[81] Ibid., 295–99.

[82] Heidegger, Being and Time, 11.

[83] Martin Heidegger, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, trans. James S. Churchill (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975), 240. For further explica­tion, see the following studies for accessible summaries of Heidegger’s life and thought: Michael Gelven, A Commentary on Heidegger’s Being and Time: A Revised Edition (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1989); Richard Polt, Heidegger: An Introduction (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999); Rüdiger Safranski, Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil, trans. Ewald Osers (Cam­bridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998).

[84] Frank, “Svetlaia pechal´,” 294.

[85] See Frank, Neprochitannoe, 337–40.

[86] Frank, “Svetlaia pechal´,” 294.

[87] Frank, “O zadachakh poznaniia Pushkina,” 248.

[88] Ibid., 255–57. Compare to this statement the attitude of Iurii Tynianov and other Formalists who treat incidental poetry and “occasional art” as the back­ground for the evolution of literary laws, a “noise of time,” to borrow Osip Mandel´­shtam’s phrase. See Tynianov, Istoriia literatury: Kritika (St. Petersburg: Azbuka-Klassika, 2001), 214.

[89] See Pushkin’s “Otvet anonimu” [Answer to an anonymous critic, 1830], in Push­kin, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, vol. 3, pt. 1: 229.

[90] Frank, “O zadachakh poznaniia Pushkina,” 267.

[91] Ibid., 268.

[92] Ibid.

[93] Ibid., 271.

[94] Ibid.

[95] Like most Russian thinkers leaning towards an existentialist worldview, Frank does not share with Heidegger his near indifference toward metaphysical evil, the possibility of immortality, and the question of the existence of God.

[96] Losskii published his Bog i mirovoe zlo: Osnovy teoditsii (God and Evil in the World: Foundations of Theodicy) two years later in Prague (1941).

[97] See his chapter “Bog i mir” (God and the World) in S. L. Frank, Nepostizhimoe, in Frank, Sochineniia, 533–47. The translated passage is quoted from S. L. Frank, The Unknowable: An Ontological Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, trans. Boris Jakim (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1983), 287. Hereafter cited as The Unknowable.

[98] Frank, The Unknowable, 288.

[99] Ibid., 287.

[100] Ibid., 287, 293.

[101] Frank, “Pushkin i dukhovnyi put´ Rossii,” 277.

[102] Frank, “Pushkin ob otnosheniiakh mezhdu Rossiei i Evropoi” (RM, 283); Frank, “Pushkin i dukhovnyi put´ Rossii,” 275, 277.

[103] Frank, “Pushkin ob otnosheniiakh mezhdu Rossiei i Evropoi,” 283.

[104] Frank, “O zadachakh poznaniia Pushkina,” 272.

[105] Ibid., 272.

[106] Croce was frequently reviewed in Logos. For example the triad of aesthetic in­tuition and expressivism, pure concept, and form of practical reality in his Filoso­fiia dello spirito (1909) was met by Logos as an attempt to overcome Hegel. See the review of Croce, possibly by Andrei Belyi, in Logos. 1910, Book 1 (Moscow: Musaget, 1910), 271. The review was initialed with the Russian letter “Б.”

[107] Frank, “O zadachakh poznaniia Pushkina,” 262.

[108] See Pushkin’s explanation of the bondage of the dramatic poet in his review of Mikhail Pogodin’s Marfa Posadnitsa: “O narodnoi drame i drame Marfa Posadnitsa,” in Pushkin, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 11: 181.

[109] Frank, “O zadachakh poznaniia Pushkina,” 263.

[110] Ibid.

[111] Frank, Neprochitannoe, 528.

[112] See P. B. Struve’s preface to Frank’s essay in Pushkin kak politicheskii mys­litel´, 3–10.

[113] Frank, Pushkin kak politicheskii myslitel´, 13.

[114] Ibid., 27.

[115] In his note “Zametki po russkoi istorii XVIII veka” (Notes on Russian History of the 18th Century, 1822), Pushkin attributes to Mme de Staël a maxim allegedly found in her Dix années d’exil (published after her death in 1821) about the state of Russian despotism—a maxim that she apparently never uttered or recorded. In Pushkin’s rendition, the joke sounds as follows: “The reign of Paul proves one thing: the Caligulas do get born in enlightened times as well. The Russian defenders of autocracy disagree, and they accept the glorious joke by Mme de Staël for the foundation of our constitution: ‘En Russie le gouvernment est un despo­tisme mitigé par la strangulation’ [The government in Russia is autocracy miti­gated by strangulation]” (Pushkin, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 11: 17). Pushkin’s hoax may yield several explanations, one of which may be his secret competition with de Staël, his predecessor in political exile and in the practice of mordant wit. For possible sources of the phrase in Chamfort and Pushkin’s knowledge of de Staël, see a combined entry on her influence by B. V. Tomashevskii and L. I. Vol´pert in Pushkin: Issledovaniia i materialy. Vol. XVIII–XIX. Pushkin i mirovaia literatura. Materialy k pushkinskoi entsiklopedii, ed. V. D. Rak (St. Petersburg: Nauka, 2004), 318–20.

[116] Frank, Pushkin kak politicheskii myslitel´, 20. Pushkin’s 1824 letter from Odessa in which he, obsessively circumspect, confessed to taking lessons in pure atheism was intercepted and he was summarily locked up and sentenced to two more years of exile in Mikhailovskoe, near Pskov. See Pushkin’s letter to Viazem­skii, 13 and 15 September 1825 (Pushkin, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 13: 225–27). The only smart atheist described in Pushkin’s letter was William Hutchinson, the family doctor of the Vorontsovs. See L. M. Arinshtein, “Odesskii sobesednik Push­kina,” Vremennik Pushkinskoi komissii 1975 (Leningrad: Nauka, 1979), 58–70. On the history of Pushkin’s exile from Odessa, see L. M. Arinshtein, “K istorii vysylki Pushkina iz Odessy: Legendy i fakty,” Pushkin: Issledovaniia i materialy. Vol. 10 (Leningrad: Nauka, 1982), 286–304.

[117] Frank, Pushkin kak politicheskii myslitel´, 24.

[118] Ibid., 42.

[119] S. L. Frank, The Light Shineth in Darkness: An Essay in Christian Ethics and Social Philosophy, trans. Boris Jakim (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1989), 102.

[120] Ibid., 206.

[121] Ibid., 236.

[122] See Vladislav Khodasevich, “Koleblemyi trenozhnik” [The shaken tripod, 1921], reprinted in Pro et contra: Lichnost´ i tvorchestvo Aleksandra Pushkina v otsenke russkikh myslitelei i issledovatelei. Antologiia, comp. B. M. Markovich and G. E. Potapova, 2 vols. (St. Petersburg: Izdatel´stvo russkogo khristianskogo gumanitar­nogo instituta, 2000), 1: 482–89.

[123] See M. Gershenzon, “Mudrost´ Pushkina,” written 1917, first published 1919. Reprinted in Pushkin v russkoi filosofskoi kritike: Konets XIX–pervaia polovina XX veka, ed. R. A. Gal´tseva (Moscow: Kniga, 1990), 207–43.

[124] For similarly explained recipes for taming the political passions, see Benda, Treason of the Intellectuals, 158–66.

[125] See D. D. Blagoi, Sotsiologiia tvorchestva Pushkina: Etiudy (1929; Moscow: Kooperativnoe izd-vo Mir, 1931); and P. E. Shchegolev, Pushkin i muzhiki: Po neizdannym materialam. S avtoportretom i avtografami Pushkina i illiustratsiami (Moscow: Federatsiia, 1928).

[126] SeeS. S. Ol´denburg, “Pevets imperii”; G. P. Fedotov, “Pevets imperii i svo­body”; and Vladimir Veidle, “Pushkin i Evropa.” All are found in Perel´muter, Pushkin v emigratsii: 1937,167–70, 171–94, and 259–70 respectively.

[127] Frank, “Pushkin ob otnosheniiakh mezhdu Rossiei i Evropoi,” 287.

[128] See Frank, “Religiozno-istoricheskii smysl russkoi revoliutsii” (RM, 131).

[129] Pushkin, “Opyt otrazheniia,” 11: 171.

[130] See A. S. Pushkin, “Aleksandr Radishchev,” in Pushkin, Polnoe sobranie sochi­nenii, 12: 34, 36.

[131] See Simon Frank, “Eres´ utopizma” [The heresy of utopianism, 1946], in RM, 73.

[132] See especially subchapters “Ontological judgments implicit in the non-evalu­ative conception of ideology” and “The problem of false consciousness” in Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia: An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge, trans. Louis Wirth and Edward Shils (San Diego: A Harvest Book, 1936/1955), 90–94, 94–97. Quoted passages appear on pp. 86 and 94.

[133] Ibid., 94.

[134] See Carl Schmitt, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sover­eignty, trans. George Schwab(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005); and Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, trans. George Schwab (Chicago: Univer­sity of Chicago Press, 1996/2007). The quoted passage appears on p. 46 of The Con­cept of the Political.

[135] See Simon Frank, “Po tu storonu pravogo i levogo” [Beyond right and left, 1930–31], Neprochitannoe, 23–47.

[136] See A. S. Pushkin, “Voobrazhaemyi razgovor s Aleksandrom I” (1824), in Push­kin, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 11: 23–24. See Frank’s passim analysis in Pushkin kak politicheskii myslitel´, 24.

[137] Frank, “O zadachakh poznaniia Pushkina,” 258.

[138] See “The Origin of the Work of Art” and “What Are Poets For?” (Wozu Dich­ter?), written to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Rilke’s death. Martin Heidegger, Poetry. Language. Thought, trans. Albert Hofstadter (New York: Perennial Classics, 2001), 38–39, 72, 95. Frank shared his ecstatic reaction to Holzwege in his letter to Binswanger on 30 August 1950 (Neprochitannoe, 344–45).

[139] See Evdokimova, Pushkin’s Historical Imagination, 11–14. Frank does not figure as a topic or connection in the context of this discussion.

[140] Vasilii Rozanov, “O Pushkinskoi Akademii,” Pushkin. Pro et contra, 1: 361.

[141] Carlyle’s Diogenes Teufelsdröckh famously complained that man’s unhappiness comes from his greatness, and the call of the Infinite in him cannot quite bury the finite.

[142] See Susan Stewart’s “The Privation of Night and the Origin of Poiēsis,” in Stewart, Poetry and the Fate of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 1–17, esp. 2.

[143] See Jakobson’s “What Is Poetry?” in Roman Jakobson, Language in Literature, ed. Krystyna Pomorska and Stephen Rudy (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1987), 368–78, here 369.

[144] I. A. Richards, Richards on Rhetoric: Selected Essays. 1929–1974, ed. Ann E. Berthoff (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 86, 99.

[145] See especially the chapter “Poetry: A Note in Ontology” in John Crowe Ran­som’s The World’s Body (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1968), 111–12, 120. The book was first published in 1938 by Charles Scribner’s Sons.

[146] See Tynianov, Istoriia literatury, 147.

[147] See Allan Bloom and Harry V. Jaffa, Shakespeare’s Politics (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1981), 2–12 and 137–38. I would like to thank my colleague Nick Birns for his illuminating remarks on this passage in my essay and for his thoughtful comments made in an email communication of 20 July 2007.

[148] These ideas were frequently repeated by authors of Logos from the dawn of Frank’s days. See Logos 1910, Book1, 88, 281.

[149] See Frank’s “Nevozmozhnost´ filosofii” (The Impossibility of Philosophy, 1943–44), his unattributed Russian letter to an intimate philosophical friend, perhaps Struve, Bulgakov, or Berdiaev (RM, 88–89 and 91).

[150] See Frank’s review of Blok’s diaries (1929) in RM, 605–09; quoted passage 605–06.

[151] See Heidegger’s “What are Poets For?” in Heidegger, Poetry. Language. Thought, 89.

[152] See Frank, “Pushkin ob otnosheniiakh mezhdu Rossiei i Evropoi,” 288.

[153] Frank, Neprochitannoe, 387.

Visitors

We have 91 guests and no members online