DOSTOYEVSKY/ Kasatkina: The great “lesson” the Inquisitor teaches Christians
Caravaggio, The Calling of Saint Matthew
Tat’jana Kasatkina, a scholar of Russian literature, among the world's leading experts in Fyodor Dostoevsky, participated in a series of conferences held in several Italian cities. She agreed to talk with Ilsussidario.net about the "Legend of the Grand Inquisitor", a chapter, and masterpiece, of the novel that Dostoevsky finished shortly before his death, The Brothers Karamazov. At the time of this interview, Kasatkina has just concluded a conference that featured a dialogue, improvised and engaging, with Gustavo Zagrebelsky on the “Legend” as an "enigma of freedom".
Tatyana Kasatkina, how did you "discover" Dostoevsky?
We Russians are brought up in a world without God, and the horror of reality reduced to its material dimension, perhaps not for adults but for children is certainly intolerable. For me, it was like living in a situation of cognitive dissonance because I always knew there was something "other" behind the appearance of things, but around me, everyone conspired to keep it quiet. When I read Dostoevsky for the first time at age eleven, I realized that this man was talking about what I had been looking for for a long time, the fact that everything is just the beginning, an introduction to something eternal. From that moment, I loved him the rest of my life.
What is Dostoevsky’s path to discovering the nature of man, and what role does evil play in this discovery?
Dostoevsky discovers the nature of man by penetrating the evil that he calls the "mud overlay". This is very unusual because usually writers, when speaking of man, either stop at the surface of this mud, or try to ignore it. Instead, in the man who we would refuse at first glance, Dostoevsky shows us Christ, the most beautiful face that could be in a man.
In Ivan Karamazov’s “Legend”, good, of which the Inquisitor makes himself the guarantor and guardian, is a pure object of power. Does his design win or is it unhinged?
And if the Inquisitor is simply wrong? If this question did not come up, the “Legend” would not be a text that everyone continued to read and reread. It would be too simplistic to say that the Grand Inquisitor is only wrong when he describes the situation of man in the world. We ourselves know how we would like to give up our freedom, how we would like to give up the continuing responsibility of having to decide, how we would like to have a set of rules at our disposal, which would give us the certainty of being right. For this we should thank him...
Thank the Inquisitor?