Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"The devil -- or hell -- is in the details!"


A few days ago, I blogged on finding the devil in the details of Dostoevsky's writings, only to discover -- through the assistance of regular reader and redoubtable scholar, Erdal -- that the devil was missing in one of the details! With Erdal's help, followed up by research of my own, I've rectified that problem, so here is a list of selected quotes from nine of Dostoevsky's novels:
1. The Brothers Karamazov: "I am Satan, and nothing human is alien to me." (Satan sum et nihil humanum a me alienum puto.)

2. Notes from Underground: "Devil only knows what desire depends upon . . ." (хотенье . . . черт знает от чего зависит)

3. The Idiot: "Devil knows what's going on now . . ." (черт знает что такое теперь происходит)

4. The Eternal Husband: "I can go to the devil, sir, but let's first have a drink!" (Я могу убраться к черту-с, но сперва мы выпьем!)

5. Demons: "This town is like hell carried in a basket, but shaken." (здешний город -- это всё равно, что черт в корзине нес, да растрес.)

6. The Gambler: "To hell with this wretched zero!" (Брось этот пакостный зеришко к черту!)

7. Humiliated and Insulted: "To hell with philosophy! Drink, my dear!" (К черту философию! Buvons, mon cher!)

8. Crime and Punishment: "When reason fails, the devil helps!" (Не рассудок, так бес!)

9. The House of the Dead: "It's truly got the devil in it . . ." (точно бес в него влез)

The attentive reader will have noticed that the devil still doesn't appear in all of these details. That's partly because the Russian term chjert/chjertu (черт/черту) can be translated as "devil" or "hell." Numbers 6 and 7 could say "devil," as in "to the devil." Even number 5 is sometimes translated as "devil," as in "It's as if the devil carried this town around in a basket and shook it." One could thus get the devil into nearly all of the details. In the Latin quote from The Brothers Karamazov, however, we find "Satan," which is not exactly "devil," but is of course the proper name for the chief of the devils (though in Hebrew, the word simply means "adversary"). The Russian term bjes (бес) can be translated as "demon," "devil," or "fiend," and I obviously prefer "devil."

Thus the revised saying: "The devil -- or hell -- is in the details!" Thanks again to Erdal for his work in finding several of these for me and for inspiring me to figure out how to check the original Russian myself. Russian experts are welcome to offer better translations for the quotes.

The secret behind this obsession with the devil and hell in Dostoesky will be revealed sometime in the not-too-distant future . . .

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8 Comments:

At 4:08 AM, Blogger dhr said...

a scholar and his tols-toy ;-)

 
At 4:21 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Spielzeug sind toll, steuer nicht. Don't overtax me with punning!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:32 AM, Blogger dhr said...

Das Übertaxmensch...

*sigh*

 
At 6:29 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

As Zoroaster also said, "The only sure things in life are death and taxes."

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:49 PM, Blogger dhr said...

But, as an Italian saying teaches, "To pay and to die, we'll have time later."

 
At 2:51 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

True, there are death taxes . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:12 PM, Blogger dhr said...

but, after that, you can write Notes from Underground!

 
At 4:07 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Banknotes drawn on my mortgage . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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