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Smerdyakov on Napoleon: Karamazovian defence policy 
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Post Smerdyakov on Napoleon: Karamazovian defence policy
From Smerdyakov With A Guitar
Quote:
“I don’t want to be a hussar, Marya Kondratyevna, and, what’s more, I should like to abolish all soldiers.”

“And when an enemy comes, who is going to defend us?”

“There’s no need of defense. In 1812 there was a great invasion of Russia by Napoleon, first Emperor of the French, father of the present one, and it would have been a good thing if they had conquered us. A clever nation would have conquered a very stupid one and annexed it. We should have had quite different institutions.”

“Are they so much better in their own country than we are? I wouldn’t change a dandy I know of for three young Englishmen,” observed Marya Kondratyevna tenderly, doubtless accompanying her words with a most languishing glance.


How does he get away with it? The man who wrote this treasonous treacherous sedition was celebrated by Russia as its greatest novelist, with tens of thousands attending his funeral in the bitter cold. Does he say what Russians secretly believe? Are some nations clever and some very stupid?



Thu Mar 10, 2011 11:42 am
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Post Re: Smerdyakov on Napoleon: Karamazovian defence policy
Being from Australia, your question holds more weight than meets the eye. No one can really call the first nation in space "stupid". Russians do seem to have an issue with government and corruption. There are worse cases out there such as our Native Americans, Polynesians, your Aborigines, and almost a whole continent of Africans who were and in some cases still are very much behind the power curve of certain aspects of human progress and have never set up a successful government on the scale of Russia's.

Russia is trying to hold themselves up to European achievements and ideals. What if they were to hold themselves up to Indian, African, or Aztec achievements? They'd be super human.



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Thu Mar 10, 2011 5:04 pm
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Post Re: Smerdyakov on Napoleon: Karamazovian defence policy
I think you have to consider the source of this passage, this is Smerdyakov talking. Although Smerdyakov resented his heritage, held his father in distain, he was still his father's son. Smerdy's (I almost wrote: Swarmy) thoughts on Napoleon are consistant with how he and his father felt towards religion. Fyodor and Smerdy's distain for religion is almost as strong as their disgust for each other. Neither father or son believed in God, albeit for different reasons, however, Napoleon saw a value in religion, and this may have made France look weak in Smerdy's eyes.

Quote:
Religion
In terms of religion, Napoleon bordered between deism and atheism. I suppose you could say that Catholicism as a religion of salvation had little meaning to him. But, like Machiavelli, Rousseau, and Marx, Napoleon believed that religion was little more than the cement which held society together. Again, we are reminded of Marx when he remarked that "religion is the opiate of the people." According to Napoleon, religion promoted national unity and prevented class war -- it kept the people meek and mild instead of strong and independent. He made every effort to close the divide between the State and the Church, a divide created by the Revolution. The Temples of Reason (i.e., the churches) and the Cult of the Supreme Being, erected in the early 1790s, were too abstract for Napoleon. How could he expect the French common people to have understood them? So, his desire was to reconcile Church and State. Such a reconciliation would gain for Napoleon even greater approval of his people.

Shrewd, calculating and intelligent, Napoleon knew exactly what he was doing. It was for these reasons that he negotiated an agreement with the Pope. The Concordat of 1801 recognized Catholicism as the favored religion of France -- not the state religion. The clergy would be selected and paid by the State, but consecrated by the Church. So, in terms of religion, Napoleon basically guaranteed one of the rights mentioned in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen -- religious freedom (see Lecture 12). However, the Church did not regain land confiscated during the Revolution, nor did they have the right to collect the tithe and the French clergy, though consecrated at Rome, remained under state control. Napoleon had achieved another of his aims -- Jews, Protestants and Catholics could freely practice their religion. But the Church was under state control. Although the people seemed to get what they wanted, so too did Napoleon.


http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/lecture15a.html

I have finished BK, and what I have found is that the characters may not represent Russia and certain qualities, but rather, the focus is on the characters belief or non belief in faith and religion and how this affects the lives of the characters.

If you take Russia out of the characters and see them for their religious beliefs only, the above passage is not treasonous because it comes out of the mouth of a character, it is not the voice of Russia. It is however treacherous, because Dostoevsky views those who do not have faith in God to live a treacherous life.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Does he say what Russians secretly believe? Are some nations clever and some very stupid?


Smerdy believes that yes, those who have faith in God are not clever. Napoleon encouraged the French to pracice religion making it a country of stupid people in Smerdy's eyes. I don't think FD is writing about Russia, I think he is writing about people, and the universal personal conflict between faith and doubt.



Thu Mar 10, 2011 7:23 pm
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Post Re: Smerdyakov on Napoleon: Karamazovian defence policy
Smerdyakov reminds me of the fool in Shakespeare's King Lear. He is highly intelligent and perceptive, but is regarded generally as an idiot. As a result he can say things that no one else could get away with. As in Lear, Smerdy makes outrageous political comments like this one about Napoleon, and the comments I mentioned earlier about Genesis. You have to wonder if Dostoyevsky is using Smerdy as a fool device to present ideas that he could not suggest any other way.



Thu Mar 10, 2011 9:32 pm
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Post Re: Smerdyakov on Napoleon: Karamazovian defence policy
D. does present a wide range of political and religious views in this book which are expressed by various characters throughout the story. It's pretty obvious that smerdy is sneaky and tries to be clever but is of incredibly mean descent and is uneducated beyond knowing how to cook and read. His views are radical because, in my opinion, he's so uneducated. He's likely to be highly opinionated and champion whatever takes his fancy. His thoughts on there not being any light on the first day that god made the world came from Ivan if I remember correctly. I don't think these were his own thoughts.

He read Gogol and never smiled, although Gogol can be extremely funny. This book, Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka, is about peasant life. Smerdy remarks that it's about a lot of things that aren't true. I've never read the book but if anyone knew about peasant life it would be Smerdy. To me, this could possibly mean he rejects or hates peasant life. Anyway, he tries to read a non-fiction book but it's too boring. He doesn't understand the reason behind poetry, thinks a nation can depend on its weather phenomenon for protection, and thinks another nation coming to take Russia over wouldn't be such a bad idea. He hates Russia an everything about it and says so in these exact words. He is extremely vain in respect to his appearance and never steals from his benefactor. Fyodor has complete trust in him.

This character is an enigma. He's 24, extremely proud - possibly too proud to steal. He dates a peasant girl that used to be wealthy and still has her dresses. The most I can tell about Smerdy is that he's trying to come up in life. He doesn't have all the answers, is more than willing to try and figure things out for himself, and is highly independent. He probably feels he is Fyodor's son and wants the respect he deserves but also knows who his Mother is and realizes he will never be a gentleman. He wants to escape stinking Lizaveta and become a success. He's very ambitious.

I still think he represents the upwardly mobile peasant. He is uneducated but ambitious. He is low brow but also displays some virtuous behavior. He wants nice material possessions and cares little for god. He's probably someone that every socialist wants to see squashed. He seems a capitalist to me.



Fri Mar 11, 2011 11:39 am
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