Only if the jokes became too unbearable would he say: ‘Leave me alone, why do you insult me?’ There was something strange in these words and the way he said them. His voice had a peculiar sound which made you feel sorry for him, so much so that one clerk who was new to the department, and who was about to follow the example of the others and have a good laugh at him suddenly stopped dead in his tracks as though transfixed, and from that time onward saw everything in a different light. Some kind of supernatural power alienated him from his colleagues whom, on first acquaintance, he had taken to be respectable, civilized men. And for a long time afterwards even during his gayest moments, he would see that stooping figure with a bald patch in front, muttering pathetically: ‘Leave me alone, why do you insult me?’ And in those piercing words he could hear others: ‘I am your brother.’ And the poor young man hid his face in his hands, and many times afterwards in his life he shuddered, seeing how much inhumanity there is in man, how much savage brutality lies hidden under refined, cultured politeness, and, my God! even in a man whom the world accepts as a gentleman and a man of honor…
From The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol (via hush-syrup)
The tongue can conceal the truth, but the eyes never! You’re asked an unexpected question, you don’t even flinch, it takes just a second to get yourself under control, you know just what you have to say to hide the truth, and you speak very convincingly, and nothing in your face twitches to give you away. But the truth, alas, has been disturbed by the question, and it rises up from the depths of your soul to flicker in your eyes and all is lost.
Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita (via fyodors)

Tolstoy himself, it is true, occupies a dual position. From the point of view purely of form (a point of view which, in Tolstoy’s special case, cannot possibly do justice to what matters most in his vision or in his created world) he must be seen as the final expression of European Romanticism. However, in the few overwhelmingly great moments of his works—moments which must be seen as subjective and reflexive in respect of each particular work as a whole—he shows a clearly differentiated, concrete and existent world, which, if it could spread out into a totality, would be completely inaccessible to the categories of the novel and would require a new form of artistic creation: the form of the renewed epic.

This world is the world of pure soul-reality in which man exists as man, neither as a social being nor as an isolated, unique, pure and therefore abstract interiority. If ever this world should come into being as something natural and simply experienced, as the only true reality, a new complete totality could be built out of all its substances and relationships. It would be a world to which our divided reality would be a mere backdrop, a world which would have outstripped our dual world or social reality by as much as we have outstripped the world of nature. But art can never be the agent of such a transformation: the great epic is a form bound to the historical moment, and any attempt to depict the utopian as existent can only end in destroying the form, not in creating reality. The novel is the form of the epoch of absolute sinfulness, as Fichte said, and it must remain the dominant form so long as the world is ruled by the same stars. In Tolstoy, intimations of a breakthrough into a new epoch are visible; but they remain polemical, nostalgic and abstract.

It is in the words of Dostoevsky that this new world, remote from any struggle against what actually exists, is drawn for the first time simply as a seen reality. That is why he, and the form he created, lie outside the scope of this book. Dostoevsky did not write novels, and the creative vision revealed in his works has nothing to do, either as affirmation or as rejection, with European nineteenth-century Romanticism or with many, likewise Romantic, reactions against it. He belongs to the new world. Only formal analysis of his works can show whether he is already the Homer or the Dante of that world or whether he merely supplies the songs which, together with the songs of other forerunners, later artists will one day weave into a great unity: whether he is merely a beginning or already a completion. It will then be the task of historico-philosophical interpretation to decide whether we are really about to leave the age of absolute sinfulness or whether the new has no other herald but our hopes who are signs of a world to come, still so weak that it easily be crushed by the sterile power of the merely existent.

Georg Lukács, The Theory of the Novel (via fyodors)

Я сжечь ее хотел, колдунью злую,Но у нее нашлись прокляные слова, И увидал ее опять живую,Вся в пламени и в искрах голова.И говорит она: «Я не сгорела, —Восстановил огонь мою красу.Огнем упитанное телоЯ от костра к волшебству унесу.Перебегая, гаснет пламя в складкахМоих магических одежд.Безумен ты! В моих загадкахТы не найдешь своих надежд». Фёдор Сологуб
I wanted to burn her, the wicked witch, But she found cursèd words —I saw her, alive again, Her head wreathed in flame and sparks.And she said: “I did not burn — The fire only renewed my beauty.I take my fire-nourished fleshFrom the bonfire to my sorcery.The licking flame expiresIn the folds of my magic garments.You are mad! You will not findYour hopes in my enigmas.”


Я сжечь ее хотел, колдунью злую,
Но у нее нашлись прокляные слова,
И увидал ее опять живую,
Вся в пламени и в искрах голова.

И говорит она: «Я не сгорела, —
Восстановил огонь мою красу.
Огнем упитанное тело
Я от костра к волшебству унесу.

Перебегая, гаснет пламя в складках
Моих магических одежд.
Безумен ты! В моих загадках
Ты не найдешь своих надежд».

Фёдор Сологуб

I wanted to burn her, the wicked witch,
But she found cursèd words —
I saw her, alive again,
Her head wreathed in flame and sparks.

And she said: “I did not burn —
The fire only renewed my beauty.
I take my fire-nourished flesh
From the bonfire to my sorcery.

The licking flame expires
In the folds of my magic garments.
You are mad! You will not find
Your hopes in my enigmas.”