Explorations in Materialist MetaphysicsnVladislav Krasnov: Solzhenitsynnand Dostoevsky: A Study in thenPolyphonic Novel; University ofnGeorgia Press; Athens, Georgia.nby Juliana Geran PilonnTo call a work of fiction a symphonynin prose is to risk pathos. Unless, perhaps,none happens to be referring tonDostoyevsky and Solzhenitsyn, twongiants of Russian literature whose sensitivitynto human suffering is equalednonly by their astute knowledge of thenarchitecture and harmony of plot andndrama. And just as unraveling the subtlentapestry of a fugue enriches the listener’sndelectation, so analyzing symbols andnsubplots brings a novel into focus,nheightening its significance. But just asna suite whose crescendos may appeal universallynwill not be fully appreciatednwithout an understanding of its localnleitmotifs, so even the greatest literaturenis of necessity set in contingent—hencento some extent esoteric—time and place.nIt is preferable, therefore, that a booknon Russian literature be written by anRussian and, in the case of Solzhenitsyn,nby someone who appreciates both the artnand the philosophical underpinnings ofnSoviet dissent. Vladislav Krasnov, a formernRadio Moscow correspondent whondefected to the West over a decade andna half ago, presently a professor ofnRussian literature at the Monterey Institutenof Foreign Studies and a fellownat the Hoover Institution, is well qualifiednfor his project. His book does notndisappoint: Krasnov offers the Englishspeakingnpublic a painstaking, interestingncomparison between the works ofnSolzhenitsyn and those of his formidablenpredecessor, Dostoyevsky. Despite itsnimpeccable scholarship, the study presentsnits evidence in elegant and clearlynDr. Pilon is a visiting scholar and EarhartnFellow at the Hoover Institution innStanford, California.nargued language, demonstrating Solzhenitsyn’snunquestionable debt to thengenius who gave us the Karamazovs, thenartist who understood the main reasonsn—political and, ultimately, psychological—fornRussia’s eventual collapse intonthe hands of “the possessed.” Far fromndetracting from the spontaneity of Solzhenitsyn’snworks, Krasnov’s study onlynenhances it. For one cannot but marvel,nby appreciating the complexity of motifsnand symbols, at the grace with whichnSolzhenitsyn has been able to create inneach of his novels a cathedral of humannpassions with no trace of the scaffolding.nThe cathedral metaphor belongs, innfact, to Heinrich Boll—Solzhenitsyn’snfriend and fellow Nobel Prize winner—nwho used it to contrast The first Circlenwith other, Western, novels: even thenbest among them are mere “decorativenside chapels,” “niches” or “elegantnsingle-family homes” in comparison.nSolzhenitsyn, on the other hand, buildsna grand—indeed, spiritual—edifice thatnallows him to “sum up and illuminate annenormous amount of suffering and history.”nThis not without an Aristoteliannregard for drama and suspense: the entirenspan of the action in The FirstnCircle, for example, takes place in onlynthree days. Like the masters of old whosencathedrals were not only the productnof inspiration and otherworldly aspirationsnbut also of superlative scientificnacumen, so Solzhenitsyn fashions hisnmasterpieces with the precision of anmind trained in mathematics and phy­nnnsics—which were, after all, his firstnprofessions. Nor could science fail tonleave him without ontological commitments.nThus Boll remarks with admirationnthat The First Circle is founded onnan integrated and intriguing “materialistnmetaphysics.”nKrasnov realizes the self-contradictionnhere—materialism being the verynrepudiation of metaphysics. Yet, farnfrom faulting Boll for it, Krasnov agreesnwith him: Solzhenitsyn’s Weltanschauungnis by no means simple or literal.nIndeed, claims Krasnov, the very tensionnof such a paradox “suggests the coexistencenof two realities” in Solzhenitsyn’snwork. And that is the essence of polyphony:nthe coexistence of several—evennmutally exclusive — approaches tonreality.nAccordingly, the book’s subtitlenbrings into focus Krasnov’s main theme:n”A Study in the Polyphonic Novel,” thenstyle of fiction “distinguished by thenstrong presence of consciousnesses andnvoices other than the author.” In contrast,nthe homophonic novel puts forthnthe author’s “viewpoint” through one ofnthe main characters—a paradigm beingnTolstoy’s Levin in Anna Karenina. Thenpolyphonic style is interesting not onlynfrom a purely aesthetic point of view butnfor philosophical reasons as well. Accordingnto the Russian critic MikhailnBakhtin, Dostoyevsky used the device innorder to illustrate his own commitmentnto the autonomy of the individual and tonpluralism, his antipathy toward a monolithicnworldview and the authoritarianismnthat results from too simple-mindedna conception of human motivations andnhuman values. In Bakhtin’s words, Dostoyevsky,n”like Goethe’s Prometheus,ncreates not speechless slaves (as Zeusndid), but free men capable of standingnside by side with their creator, of disagreeingnwith him and even rebellingnagainst him.” It is Krasnov’s thesis thatnthe same is true of Solzhenitsyn, who isnwmmm^mmm^nJuly/Atigusl 1980n