Some Dostoyevskian Themes in the Work of Maksim Gorky
Richard A. Peace, University of Bristol
Gorky's hostile attitude to Dostoyevsky's work and his influence is well-known. It is an attack which he launches on many occasions. Thus in "Zametki
o meshchanstve" printed in 1905 in the Bolshevik journal Novaya zhizn' he berates both Dostoevsky and Tolstoy for what he sees as their bourgeois philistinism, and renews the attack in an article of 1909
Razrusheniye lichnosti. (1) When the following year the Moscow Arts' Theatre staged a version of
The Brothers Karamazov, Gorky gave daily vent to his indignation, but his anger burst into print when he learned in 1913 that, following its success with
The Brothers Karamazov, the company intended to mount a stage version of
The Devils (under the title Nikolay Stavrogin) and that the Nezlyubin Theatre was planning to stage an adaptation of
The Idiot. Gorky wrote a strong letter to the editor of the paper Russkoye Slovo, which was printed on September 22 1913, under the heading of
O "Karamazovshchine". The howl of protest which Gorky's intervention aroused caused him to return to the assault over a month later with a second article in
Russkoye Slovo: Esche O "karamazovshchine"(2).
In general Lenin appears to have approved of this attack on Dostoeyevsky, with one significant exception.
Eshche O "karamazovshchine", as it appeared in Russkoye slovo had a final paragraph concerned with Gorky's own obsession - God-building. This ending was scathingly denounced by Lenin, and Gorky withdrew it when the article was later reprinted in 1917.(3) This hint of party censorship is particularly ironic given the fact that it was precisely the advocacy of censorship, of which Gorky himself was accused in his stand against the staging of Dostoyevsky's novels. Ironic it may be, but the spectre of censorship is ominous. In his speech to the First Congress of the Union of Soviet Writers in 1934, Gorky once more spoke up against Dostoyevsky and pilloried him as 'The Grand Inquisitor' himself.(4) Again ironic and again ominous; for from that time on a strange silence seemed to fall on Dostoyevsky studies in the Soviet Union, and it lasted a long time.
It seems significant that Gorky's criticism of Dostoyevsky centres principally on three works. Thus he attacks the Pushkin Speech, which he sees as a kind of ideological prelude to the political and intellectual defeatism of the 1880's, singling out Dostoyevsky's injunction:
"Смирись, гордый человек, и прежде всего сломи свою
Gorky's comment on this in Zametki o meshchanstve is:
"Терпи - сказал русскому обществу Достоевский своей
речью на открытии памятника Пушкину."(5)
and both in Zametki o meshchanstve and in Razrusheniye lichnosti he links Dostoyevsky's injunction to suffer with the Tolstoyan precept of non-resistance to evil by violence: both are doctrines symptomatic of the times, and, says Gorky, he knows of no more gloomy moment in Russian history than this. The period of the 1880's he sees as that of the triumph of bourgeois Philistinism (meshchanstvo). Its representatives listened to Dostoyevsky's Pushkin Speech with tears of rapture - it soothed them. For the intelligentsia this was the age of the vanquished. Dostoyevsky, so Gorky's argument runs, had been a member of the Petrashevsky Circle and a socialist, but he had also been vanquished by his experiences in Siberia, and the fruits of this disillusionment were to be seen in
Notes from Underground. It was a work which along with the writings of Nietzsche struck a sympathetic chord in the minds of the vanquished intelligentsia of the 1880's and 1890's:
The mood of this intelligentsia may be called the "anarchism of the vanquished". The philosophic formulation of this anarchism was taken partly from Dostoyevsky's
Notes from Underground, but mostly from the books of Friedrich Nietzsche.(6)
A particularly contentious point for Gorky was what he saw as Dostoyevsky's concept of man. Man, as he was portrayed in
Notes from Underground and throughout Dostoyevsky's writing, was prey to irrational forces and there was an innate element of evil within him, an idea which Gorky could not allow! Dostoyevskian man was not amenable to reason and instead of enlightenment and improvement Dostoyevsky seemed merely to offer the world a cult of suffering. Gorky argued that Dostoyevsky's basic human type was that of Fedor Karamazov. It was this figure that was endlessly repeated, both in part and in whole, throughout Dostoyevsky's writings and it seems significant that even when attacking the staging of
The Devils, he does so under the banner of rejecting Karamazovism; for there are three basic texts which Gorky regards as emblematic of Dostoyevshchina:
The Brothers Karamazov, Notes from Underground and the Pushkin Speech.
Although Gorky claimed that he read Gleb Uspensky in the way that others were supposed to read Dostoyevsky, there can be little doubt that he did read and re-read Dostoyevsky. Indeed as an artist he rated him extremely high, and even while denouncing him in the speech to the First Congress of Soviet Writers in 1934, he is still capable of comparing Dostoyevsky to Shakespeare. There are other similar admissions of Dostoyevsky's greatness. In a letter to R. V. Ivanov-Razumnik (29th October 1913) Gorky writes:
The more I study him the more he disturbs me. This does not, however, mean that in reading him I do not spiritually suffer along with him in fear and pain for Russia. I
and Gorky added, "He is more genuine than Tolstoy".
do not like his thought. His perverted sensibility is hostile to me, but taking the whole of him in the round, he is the greatest of our Russian great martyrs(7)
The Soviet critic Boris Byalik points to the great contradictions in Gorky's attitude to Dostoyevsky: "One can state without any exaggeration that it is to him (i.e. Gorky) that belong the most negative and the most rapturous evaluations of this writer."(8)
Indeed in Gorky's negative statements on Dostoyevsky, there is often, one feels, something wilfully disingenuous, perversely misconstruing. Thus his objection to:
"Смирись, гордый человек, и прежде всего сломи свою
in the Pushkin Speech completely neglects the context.(9) The concept of
gordyy chelovek was appropriated by Gorky himself, as is only too well known, but Dostoyevsky is not appropriating and generalising this term, as Gorky seems to imply, he is commenting quite specifically on a quotation from Pushkin's poem The Gipsies:
"Оставь нас гордый человек!"
The gipsies' judgement on Aleko, and Dostoyevsky's statement goes on:
"смирись, праздный человек, и прежде всего потрудись
на родной ниве."
Thus, here, Dostoyevsky is not concerned with man in general, the Man of Satin's speech in
Na dne (Chelovek... eto zvuchit gordo) or the abstract man of Gorky's rhapsodical prose-work
Chelovek, (10) - rather, he is pointing to the need for a certain social type, the noble
lishniy chelovek, to humble himself and reunite with the common people -
narod. Gorky's interpretation seems all the more strange, when it is borne in mind that earlier he had himself reworked Pushkin's poem
The Gipsies, and in the character of Larra in The Old Woman Izergil' , had himself attacked a similar noble pride.
Nor is Dostoyevsky the advocate of suffering in the way in which Gorky suggests. Indeed contrary to a widely held belief, Dostoyevsky does not propose suffering for suffering's sake. The argument on punishment which runs throughout the whole of
The Brothers Karamazov makes it clear that it is only suffering freely and consciously taken on as an atonement for guilt which is valid - not suffering imposed from without: the mechanical justice of the state. Indeed there can be no more eloquent rebuttal of suffering than Ivan Karamazov's rejection of God's world, because of the suffering of little children. Gorky, of course, will have none of this.
Ivan's refusal to accept the world, he argues in Eshche о "Karamazovshchine", is merely the verbal rebellion of an indolent man; his 'pub argument'
(traktirnoye rassuzhdeniye) on children is the greatest falsehood and repellent hypocrisy. It is given the lie by Ivan's own words 'I could never understand how one can love one's neighbours.'(11) Such simplification of Ivan Karamazov's dilemma, the inability to appreciate the interplay of contrary ideas within the novel, is all the more strange in that one of Gorky's principle arguments in this very same article is the assertion that he is not against the reading of Dostoyevsky's novels as such, but very much against the inevitable simplification of the paradoxes and contradictions that would be involved in any staging of such complex works.
There must have been much that Gorky recognised as his own in The Brothers Karamazov. The family life of the Kashirins, described in
Detstvo is hardly more elevating than that of the Karamazov household. Both works contain the strikingly dramatic scene of the irruption of a frenzied son into the patriarchal home to commit violence against the father. And the Karamazov father himself, old Fedor, for all that Gorky rejected him, he nevertheless did not deny his truth:
It is without doubt the Russian soul, formless and motley, at one and the same time both cowardly and bold and above all morbidly wicked. The soul of Ivan the Terrible, of Saltychikha, the landowner who hunted children with dogs, of the peasant who beat to death his pregnant wife, the soul of that
petit bourgeois who violated his bride and then allowed her to be violated by a crowd of hooligans.(12)
If Gorky regarded Fedor Karamazov as Dostoyevsky's basic type, it was another work,
Notes from Underground, that he saw as the basis for all Dostoyevsky's writing. It contained in embryo all the ideas developed in his later works.
Notes from Underground was Dostoyevsky's revenge on the socialists and radicals, but as such it was hardly the work of an arch-conservative :
Dostoyevsky became the poet of the elemental rebellion of the individual, he became the poet of rebellion for the sake of rebellion.
Notes from Underground, his basic work, in which all the ideas of his works of genius are condensed, he devoted to the defence of the full, and boundless arbitrary will of the individual.(13)
This is what Gorky wrote in his preface for the French translation of Leonov's
The Badgers, yet Gorky himself could well be described as poet bunta the poet of rebellion .(14)
"Я в мир пришел, чтобы не соглашаться."
His autobiographical portrait of the child in Detstvo is that of the instinctive rebel, and his interest in
bosyaki, social misfits and criminals reveals a continuous fascination with the romantic figure of the rebel. Of course, Gorky's criticism
of Dostoyevsky is that he is the poet of rebellion for rebellion's sake. In Gorky himself, such rebellion may have its social implications, but it is not always clearly directed, as can be seen from such stories as
Ozornik, Chelkaah, Konovalov and novels such as Foma Gordeyev and
Delo Artamonovykh. The fascination of bunt radi bunta 'rebellion for the sake of rebellion' was there for Gorky too.
There is something else which may have drawn Gorky towards Dostoyevsky - a sense of religious equivocation. Gorky's God-building -Bogostroitel'stvo is anticipated in certain of its essential features in the writings of Dostoyevsky. Gorky is a latter-day Shatov, the socialist turning to a religion of man. In
The Devils the God-seeker (‘bogoiskatel') Shatov says: 'God is the synthetic personality of the whole people, taken from its beginning to its end' a concept which does not seem far from the ideas of the God-builders in Gorky's novel Confession (Ispoved1), who see God to reside in the concept of the whole people, and who actually produce a 'god-buildinq' miracle at the novel's end.(15)
Related to Gorky's own religious equivocation is the lure of the 'elevated deceit' - an idea clearly expressed at the beginning of his writing career in the parable of
The Siskin who lied and the Woodpecker the Lover of Truth. It is present too in many of his later works, notably in the speeches of Luka in the play
Na dne. It is the very same idea which is expressed in Pushkin's famous couplet:
"Тьмы низких истин мне дороже
// Нас возвышающий обман."
Gorky uses this quotation in Besedy o remesle to explain his early
preferring of fiction to fact. But the idea is also Dostoyevskian. The hero of
A Raw Youth who says 'blessed is he who has an ideal of beauty, even though it be a false one', also regards the Pushkin couplet as 'a holy axiom'.(17) The superiority of the high ideal to the baseness of mere facts is associated, too, with Stavrogin. Shatov taxes him with an earlier statement: 'Was it not you who told me, that if it were mathematically proved to you that the truth lay outside Christ, then you would more readily agree to remain with Christ than with the truth1.(18) Gorky was himself a victim of the 'elevating deceit', and if in his case we were to substitute
Stalin for Christ in Shatov's statement, we might more easily appreciate his behaviour and understand the tragedy of his later years. Thus the attitude of Gorky to Dostoyevsky is far more ambiguous than may at "first sight appears. There is between them a literary and spiritual kinship which Gorky could not willingly acknowledge. Leonid Andreyev could see it, and tried to persuade Gorky that the best aspects of his art derived from Dostoyevsky and his 'revolutionary' spirit of rebellion.(19) Yet this feature, which in many ways united them, was also the force by which Gorky rejected his predecessor. Like a true Karamazov he was in rebellion against a figure whom he refused to see as a worthy father. As Byalik says:
One may even assert that in the field of literary creativity, Gorky had no antagonist with whom he struggled
so persistently and so passionately, for all his understanding of Dostoyevsky's genius, and all his acknowledgement of the social significance contained in the best aspects of his work.(2O)
Gorky, who claimed in Besedy o remesle that for a long time he just could not understand why the student Raskol'nikov killed the old woman, nevertheless himself turned to this theme in
Izvozchik (1895) and in Troye (1900). Critics also see polemics with Raskol'nikov in Satin's speech on Man in the play
Na dne. It is not difficult, in fact, to see a running polemic with many aspects of Dostoyevsky's work through-out Gorky's own writing.(21) For instance, in his classic study on
The Underground man in Russian Literature, Robert Jackson has closely examined the underground theme in at least two of Gorky's later stories
Rasskaz o geroye and Karamora (both published in 1924). As Robert Jackson has shown, Gorky uses his underground material in these stories in a politically suggestive way.(22) I too would like to look at Gorky's polemics with this work, which he regarded as containing the basic ideas of all Dostoyevsky's writing, but I have chosen one of the early stories, which seems to me to be far more ambivalent at this stage in its treatment of the underground theme.
Gorky's early stories are often considered to be some of his best writing. They exhibit a blend of romanticism and realism, and they frequently weave together three quite disparate strands: real autobiographical experience; folklore, and motifs and themes from Russian literature itself. Thus
Makar Chudra and the story of Larra in Starukha Izergil' owe an obvious debt to Pushkin's poem
The Gipsies; Chelkash has overtones of Lermontov's story Taman', and
Konovalov, as I hope to show, has more than a backward glance at Dostoyevsky's
Notes from Underground.
At first sight the literary debt might not seem so obvious, since the story is based on a real character and a real experience, and Gorky himself appears in the story both as narrator and protagonist. It takes the form of an authorial reminiscence sparked off by a newspaper report of Konovalov's death (in reality it proved to be a case of mistaken identity, and five years later the real Konovalov, lying on his deathbed in hospital, managed to contact Gorky through a doctor to tell him that he had learned of the story in which he figured).
Gorky started work as a bakery assistant in 1885 at Semyonov's bakery in Kazan', which, as in the story, was situated in a basement. In the spring of 1886 he and Konovalov began visiting down-and-outs in an old dilapidated glass factory, just as in the story. There was also, as in the story, a second meeting with Konovalov in Fedosiya in 1891. All this seems to be the recording of fact, and yet to achieve a starker focus, Gorky has reduced the numerous bake house employees to just two - Konovalov and himself. Fact, however, is far from being Gorky's chief concern in this story. Its central theme is the impact of fiction on an illiterate and uneducated mind - the elevating deceit which is dearer than a whole host of base truths.
The young Maksim reads books to Konovalov, and the two stories which impress him most are Reshetnikov's novel
Podlipovtsy, concerned with the harsh conditions in the east of Russia which force its heroes to wander in search of work. It is obvious that Konovalov can see in these elements of his own life. But if
Podlipovtsy offers Konovalov the base truths of his own existence, the second book, which impresses him even more, seems to represent the 'elevating deceit' - it is Kostomarov's History of the Rebellion of Stenka Razin, and Konovalov identifies so much with it that he even starts calling the everyday objects of the bakery by the names of its protagonists. Typically for Gorky the elevating deceit is the spirit of rebellion, for it is the figure of Stenka Razin himself which not only attracts Konovalov but actually seems close to him:
It seemed that some bonds of blood, which for three centuries had not been broken or grown cold, still linked this tramp with Stenka, and the tramp with all the strength of his robust living body, with all the passion of an anguished soul without a 'point of support' felt the pain and the anger of the free spirit, who had been caught three hundred years ago.(23)
There is a suggestion here that there is something in the figure of Konovalov which is age-old and typically Russian -the rebellious free spirit of the Russian people.
But if Konovalov is impressed by Podlipovtsy and overwhelmed by the Rebellion of Sten'ka Razin, he is highly critical of Dostoyevsky's
Poor Folk and its hero Makar Devushkin. It is at this point that we begin to suspect that Gorky is not merely recording factual experience, but is also engaging in literary polemics. Konovalov's reaction reads like the parody of a key moment in
Poor Folk itself, implying Dostoyevsky's own rejection of his great predecessor Gogol; for Dostoyevsky ' s Makar Devushkin, in his turn, was a great reader, and he, in his turn, had strongly resented the portrait of the poor clerk in Gogol's story
The Overcoat. In fact Poor Folk is Dostoyevsky's answer to The Overcoat. In
Konovalov Gorky is carrying the literary polemics a stage further and criticizing the legacy of Dostoyevsky himself.(24)
Nevertheless, Konovalov is not a poor clerk, he is not objecting to his own distorted literary portrait, as was Devushkin in the figure of Akakiy Akakiyevich. It seems to be the letters to which the illiterate Konovalov principally objects in
Poor Folk, and to the love relationship which Devushkin tries to carry on through letters. The irony is that Konovalov himself has a similar relationship with Kapitolina. Indeed on first getting to know Maksim, he asks him to write a letter for him to Kapitolina.
Konovalov's relationship with Kapitolina hints at further literary polemics with Dostoyevsky; for Kapitolina is a prostitute, and Konovalov, like Dostoyevsky's underground man has promised to save her. Unfortunately, however, and again like the underground man, when Kapitolina turns up at his underground residence (the cellar-bakery of fact) Konovalov
Like the underground man
Konovalov is a man of extremes. On the one hand he propounds the values of free
untrammelled individuality, acknowledging to ties, either physical (hence his
life as a wanderer) or emotional (hence his rejection of Kapitolina). His ideal
is the free rebellious spirit of Stenka Razin, and he objects to the idea that
man can be conditioned by society. The chief debate in the story is between
Konovalov and Maksim on this very point. Maksim argues for social conditioning
and lack of individual responsibility, but Konovalov rejects such ideas, much as
the underground man refuses to acknowledge any restriction of man's freedom,
either by society or by laws of nature.
Like the underground
man, Konovalov wishes to do good, but only succeeds in doing harm. He regrets
his own treatment of Kapitolina:
"Желал я человеку оказать добро - и вдруг... Совсем
Along with the
self-assertion of the free individual, there is also self-abasement. There are
even, as with the underground man, the periods of debauchery. Moreover,
Konovalov's self abasement has very clear Dostoyevskian overtones: he actually
But he felt
pleasure in castigating himself (bichuya sebya). It was actually pleasure
with which his eyes shone when he shouted to me in his ringing baritone voice: -
Every man is his own boss, and no one's to blame if I am a scoundrel!(25)
The phraseology of
Konovalov's self-castigation is at times remarkably close to that of the
underground man. We may recall the famous opening of Dostoyevsky's work:
Я злой человек. Непривлекательный я человек."
Here is Konovalov in
"А просто я есть заразный человек ... Не доля мне жить на свете... Ядовитый дух
от меня исходит Как я близко к человеку подойду, так сейчас он от меня и
заражается. И для всякого я могу с собой принести только горе... Ведь ежели
подумать - кому я всей моей жизнью удовольствие принес? Никому! А тоже, со
многими людьми имел дело... Тлеющий я человек..."
The relationship between literature and life is a central issue in both
works. The underground man in so divorced from real life, so dependent on
literature, that he himself is aware that his behaviour is not real - it is
'literary', it is 'bookish'. The impact of literature on life for Konovalov, in
the story, is also
very great, but the impact is presented as positive. It has an educative
role. The over-civilised underground man condemns the world at large for
sins that are
his own: 'leave us alone without a book', he says, 'and we would not know how to behave, what to think, what to attach ourselves to.' By contrast the unlettered Konovalov feels the need for just such a book:
Isn't there some book or other about the way life is ordered? Instruction on how to live? I would like actions to be explained, what is harmful and what is all right. (27)
The author says about people like Konovalov:
людей много в русской жизни,"
but, he goes on 'they are all more unhappy than anyone else, because the burden of their thoughts is increased by the blindness of their minds.'(28)
The underground man may also be described as zadumavshiysya ('consumed by thinking'). He, also, is unhappier than anyone else, yet he cannot be said to show
slepota uma (mental blindness) . He has, after all, some claim to be a philosopher. Yet when
Konovalov was first published it contained a passage which gave a far more positive evaluation of the
brodyagi 'consumed by thinking' - they were philosophers in their own right:
Every man who has struggled with life, who is defeated by it and suffers in the pitiless captivity of its filth, is more a philosopher than Schopenhauer himself, because abstract thought can never be poured into such a precise and graphic mould, as the one into which thought directly squeezed from a man by suffering is poured.(29)
Gorky later removed this comparison of bosyaki thinkers to Schopenhauer, apparently in response to criticism from Mikhaylovsky, but it is a striking passage. The philosophy of the 'conquered' (pobezhdennyye) seems close to that later formulation of the philosophy of the underground man, mixed with that of Nietzsche, in
Besedy o remesle: the anarchism of the defeated - anarkhizm pobezhdennykh. Indeed in
Besedy o remesle Gorky admits that he consciously ascribed this 'anarchism of the defeated' (with its Nietzschean overtones) to many of his earlier tramp figures, because he noticed certain elements of psychological similarity between them and the representatives of the intelligentsia for which he coined the term. This admission taken together with the excised passage from
Konovalov provides a pretty clear hint that Gorky did have the underground man in mind when seeking to portray the real-life Konovalov, and Gorky's image of abstract thought poured into a precise and graphic mould is in itself suggestive; for this is surely the relationship between Part I and Part II of Dostoyevsky's
Notes from Underground.
The excised passage on the zadumavshiyesya brodyagi did not, however, specifically refer to Konovalov himself, but to the
brodyaga commune the steklyannyye lyudi, so called because
they lived in an old deserted glass factory. The existence of this factory and its commune is a matter of fact, not fiction. It is described again in
O tom kak ya uchilsya pisat'. But why is it called 'steklyannaya' fabrika (i.e. made of glass) rather than, as one would expect,
stekol'naya fabrika? Does this hint at the fragile nature of this commune, or is it Gorky once more polemicising with a motif in
Notes from Underground - the rejected ideal of the Crystal Palace?
The steklyannaya fabrika is certainly idealized, yet it is not of crystal nor is it a palace; the material is glass and it is a lowly factory whose only product is a free society of tramps. It represents an ideal of life that appeals not merely to Konovalov but to Maksim himself; for he claims that he can only take the cultural life of civilization in small doses: it chills the feelings and corrupts the mind - a critique of civilization reminiscent of the underground man, even in the very phrases that are used:
"чрезмерная сложность и болезненная утонченность.
We can therefore see that it is possible to regard Gorky's Konovalov as a
lumpenproletariat version of Notes from Underground, in which the dubious, ideal society of the Crystal Palace has been replaced by that of the
Glass Factory; the 'underground' by a cellar bakery and in place of the anarchical 'thought-consumed' intelligent we have the rebellious
In polemicising with Dostoyevsky Gorky is not totally rejecting Notes from Underground: he is substituting a different set of images and values, taken from his own experience, for those put forward by Dostoyevsky - it is, rather, an attempt to make
Notes from Underground his own. Why he should wish to do so, can perhaps best be seen by looking at the central discussion between Maksim and Konovalov, which is in essence the old dispute over free-will and environmental conditioning.
Maksim uses good socialist arguments to persuade Konovalov that he is not responsible for his own actions: he has been entirely formed by the conditions of his birth and his upbringing - society is to blame. Konovalov, for his part, will have none of it; his brother, who grew up with him, is quite different; he, Konovalov, accepts full responsibility for who he is and how he behaves. In Dostoyevsky's work the 'underground man' rejects any idea that he might be constrained by 'laws of nature' or that his behavior owes anything to anyone or anything outside himself, and yet there is another voice, that of the author himself, who in an introductory footnote seeks to give a sociological explanation for the behaviour of his hero:
Such people as the writer of these notes not only can, but must even exist in our society, taking into account the circumstances under which our society was formed.(33)
It is this contradiction between the authorial voice and the assertions of the chief protagonist, which Gorky is taking up and dramatizing in his story
Konovalov, and it is a clash
of ideas which has personal significance for Gorky himself. In one sense Konovalov is merely developing the argument on freedom found elsewhere in the early stories, such as in The Old Woman Izergil' and
Chelkash, but the theme in Konovalov is freedom versus conditioning, and this represents for Gorky a personal dilemma - one which he would have to confront, when some years later as a rich and world-renowned author, he set about writing the account of his own childhood. The squalid and terrible acts committed by the adults in
Detstvo are those of his own family. As such their behavior and attitudes must be excused - they are the product of the society in which they were formed. Yet if Gorky's socialist philosophy provided the means of coming to terms with that unpleasant truth, there was one big fact, which stood out against such a conciliating view. How was it that he alone had been able to rise above all this squalor, like Konovalov take full responsibility for himself, and through books and a supreme effort of the will, make himself by himself? The way had not been easy, there had been willful quirks, extravagances, self-destructive urges, but the rebellious spirit had won through.
In Dostoyevsky's underground man Gorky could perhaps see characteristics he recognised in himself, but like Devushkin looking at Akakiy Akakiyevich, and like Konovalov faced with Devushkin - he recognised, but could not fully accept.