‘Beauty and Sodom’

‘- And so, here is where the problem lies: how will I seal an eternal pact with nature? I do not embrace the earth, I do not tear her breast apart: or perhaps I should become a peasant, a farmer? I go forward and do not know whether I took the way of filth and infamy, or light and joy. Here is where the problem is: it’s that everything, in this world, is an enigma. And when it happened to me to drowninto the blackest infamy of vice (and to me only this has happened), each time I resorted to this poem about Ceres and mankind. Did it perhaps justify me? Never again! The thing is that I’m a Karamazov. The thing is that even if I sinkin the abyss, even then, like this, to the bottom and with the plants in the air, I would be happy to be falling right into that most humiliating position, and I would find some beauty in it for myself. And it is then in such infamy that I, suddenly, begin a hymn. May I be damned, may I be abject and vile, but may I too kiss the hem of that mantle, in which my God is wrapped; may I go too, in the meantime, in the demon’s footsteps, but still I am Your son, o Lord, and I love you, and that joy invades me, without which the world cannot exist. […]

Now I want to tell you about insects; yes, those to which God gave voluptuousness…

 To the insects – their Venus!

 I, brother, am nothing but one of such insects, and the thing seems to be said  just for me. And us Karamazov, we are all like that, and even in you, my angel, such insect lives, and inside the blood it broods tempest. Storms they are, because lust is a storm, worse than any other storm! Beauty: what a tremendous and horrible thing! Tremendous, because impossible to define: and defined it cannot be, because God did not propose us anything but enigmas! There the opposites touch, all the contradictions live together. I, brother, am anything but educated, but I have much reflected on this. It is terrible how many mysteries! Too many enigmas oppress man on this earth. Solve them as you can, and get out of the water dry. Beauty! What I cannot bear is that a man, maybe noble in heart and of elevated intellect, would start with the ideal of the Madonna and end with that of Sodom. Even more terrible is that someone, who already has in his soul the ideal of Sodom, would neither reject the ideal of the Madonna, and would burn in his heart for it, sincerely, sincerely burn for it, as in the young innocent years. No, really man is vast, even too vast: I would shrink him! Only the devil, then, knows what sort of thing that is: this is what I say to you! What is presented to reason as abominable, for the heart is beauty! In Sodom is therefore Beauty? Believe me, that right in Sodom she resides for the majority of men: did you know this secret? What’s terrible is that beauty not only is a tremendous thing, but also mysterious. Here the devil battles with God, and the battlefield are men’s hearts.’

F. Dostoevskij, The Brothers Karamazov


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