An Aesthetics of Transcendence
It was rare for an issue of Time to appear without one of Dostoevsky's articles or an installment from one of his works in progress, and his presence was also constantly felt in the form of introductions to translations, as well as editorial notes appended to the articles of other contributors. Understandably concerned over the impression that would be created by the first issue of the journal, Dostoevsky rewrote almost entirely an article originally assigned to the poet D. D. Minaev. The result was the feuilleton “Petersburg Visions in Verse and Prose,” a unique mixture of Dostoevsky's prose text with Minaev's verse.
The piece has been recognized as a work of rare autobiographical value, containing a precious account of how Dostoevsky viewed the process of his own literary maturation from the days of his early Romanticism up to his discovery of the theme of his first novel. One immediate aim of the feuilleton was certainly to reintroduce himself to the Russian reading public by this evocative résumé of his literary past, but when he returns to the present, we catch a first glimpse of the changes that are already faintly discernible in his artistic outlook. In the revelatory passage that has come to be known as “the vision on the Neva,” the writer recalls how, at the beginning of his career, he had once walked across a bridge over the Neva during a bitterly cold winter day, looking at the frozen expanse sparkling and gleaming in the rays of the setting sun “so that it seemed as if … a new town was taking shape in the air”:
It seemed as if all that world, with all its inhabitants, strong and weak,
with all their habitations, the refuges of the poor, or the gilded palaces for
the comfort of the powerful of this world, was at that twilight hour like a
fantastic vision of fairyland, like a dream which in its turn would vanish
and pass away like vapor in the dark blue sky…. I seemed to have under-
stood something in that minute which had till then been only stirring in
me, but was still uninterpreted…. I suppose that my existence began
from just that minute…. (19: 69)
Dostoevsky attributes an extraordinary importance to this imaginary transformation of the majestic city of Peter the Great into a dissolving phantasmagoria that might have been a waking dream. And this fusion of the fantastic and
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time. Contributors: Joseph Frank - Author, Mary Petrusewicz - Editor. Publisher: Princeton University Press. Place of publication: Princeton, NJ. Publication year: 2010. Page number: 298.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.