Dostoïevski, Fiodor – Les Possédés

  • demons. The demons are not the heroes, but their ideas that are of a special kind. The heroes are intellectuals alienated from their traditions, soil and earth, and they are borrowing ideas without roots in the reality where they are living. So, these ideas take a life of their own, becoming a God and more real than reality itself (Bakhtin, 1984: 22). Also, Richard Rohr explains the phenomenon without referring to Dostoevsky: “Most people become their thoughts [and feelings]. They do not have thoughts and feelings; the thoughts and feelings have them. It is what the ancients called <being possessed> by a demon”. (Rohr, 2003: 104) In short, the “demons” are “appearances” without “essences”, some kinds of “simulacra”.
  • Pyotr Stepanovich Verkhovensky. He is the son of Stepan Trofimovich. As a nihilist, he was inspired by the revolutionary Sergey Nechayev. He “was a young man of twenty-seven or thereabouts, a little taller than average, with thin, rather long blond hair and a wispy, barely evident moustache and beard. Dressed in clean and even fashionable clothes, but not foppishly; a bit hunched and slack at first sight, and yet not hunched at all, even easygoing. Seemingly a sort of odd man, and yet everyone later found his manners quite decent and his conversation always to the point” (1994: 179)
  • Stepan Trofimovich Verkhovensky. He is the father of Pyotre Stepanovich. As a liberal, he is based on Timofey Granovsky and Alexander Herzen. “[Varvara Petrovna Stavrogina] invented a costume for him, in which he went about all his life. It was an elegant and characteristic costume: a long-skirted black frock coat, buttoned almost to the top, but with a white batiste cravat with a big knot and hanging ends; a cane with a silver knob; and shoulder-length hair to go with it all. His hair was dark brown and only recently had begun to go a bit gray. He shaved his beard and moustache. He was said to have been extremely handsome as a young man. But, in my opinion, as an old man he was also remarkably imposing. And how old is fifty-three? Still, out of a certain civic coquetry, he not only did not try to look younger, but seemed to flaunt the solidity of his years, and in his costume, tall, lean, with hair falling to his shoulders, he resembled a patriarch” (1994: 19)
  • Nikolai Vsevolodovich Stavrogin. He is the son of Varvara Petrovna. Like Pyotr Stepanovich he is a nihilist belonging to the new generation. “Just as four years ago, when I saw him for the first time, so now, too, I was struck at the first sight of him. I had not forgotten him in the least; but there are, it seems, such physiognomies as always, each time they appear, bring something new, as it were, which you have not noticed in them before, though you may have met them a hundred times previously. Apparently he was still the same as four years ago: as refined, as imposing, he entered as imposingly as then, even almost as youthful. His faint smile was as officially benign and just as self-satisfied; his glance as stern, thoughtful, and as if distracted. In short, it seemed we had parted only yesterday. But one thing struck me: before, even though he had been considered a handsome man, his face had indeed “resembled a mask”, as certain vicious-tongued ladies of our society put it. whereas now – now, I don’t know why, but he appeared to me, at very first sight, as decidedly, unquestionably handsome, so that it could in no way be said that his face resembled a mask.” (1994: 181-182)
  • Varvara Petrovna Stavrogina. She is the mother of Nikolai Vsevolodovich. Like Stepan Trofimovich she is a liberal pertaining to the old generation of the novel’s heroes. She “in no way resembled a beauty: she was a tall, yellow, bony woman with an exceedingly long face recalling something horselike” (1994: 18)

The map:


  • Mikhail Bakhtin (1984): “Problems of Dostoevsky’s poetrics”, University of Minnesota Press
  • Richard Rohr (2003): “Everything belongs”, The Crossroad Publishing Company
  • Fiodor Dostoïevski (1886): “Les possédés. Tome premier”, La Bibliothèque électronique du Québec
  • Fiodor Dostoïevski (1886): “Les possédés. Tome second”, La Bibliothèque électronique du Québec
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky (1994): “Demons”, Everyman’s Library

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