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October 13, 2004 by AK

Shestov to Fowles to Shvarts

A few weeks before I rushed through A Maggot, I dashed into Kierkegaard and the Philosophy of Existentialism by Lev Shestov, also known as Léon Chestov. A fortunate juxtaposition in time, I think: Fowles’ amazing women are somehow related to Shestov’s message, vanity of reason–call it Cartesian, Euclidean, whatever. In Emmanuel Levinas’ words, “Shestov interprets the philosophy of Kierkegaard as a combat undergone by a soul abandoned to despair in a world ruled by reason and the ethical.”

From there, on to a poem (1994) by one of the best living Russian poets, Elena Shvarts.

Shestov tells me: don’t trust

Lying reason. Trust the pit

From whence you called out to the Lord,

Count up to Him–what He is guilty of before us.

My Lord I will not take to court,

Even though He… On the contrary,

From out a black pit I’m crying out,

Earth spills into my mouth.

But you cry out, knock, cry,

Not hearing your own voice–

Yet He will hear in the deaf of the night:

You are in His heart’s pit.


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