Friday, August 31, 2012

Freedom flying

Even as a search item, freedom is a fraught word...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The spine of a book

Another two fellas who had a chance meeting in my mind were Rodion Raskolnikov and Vito Corleone. They also were separated by time, countries and, in this case, were completely fictional. But if anything that is a reason to more easily facilitate dialogue between them.
Rodion was the confused protagonist of Crime and Punishment. He was an odd man in his early twenties, some elements of him I think I could identify with myself at that age. But he had aspirations of something great, and in a fever, went so far as to kill two people. He wasn't of the disposition to live well with the consequences, or the social implications that are entailed by being suspected of murder. He couldn't help but implicate himself, directly and indirectly to the police, his family and friends, despite their being very little in evidence to convict him. One of the interesting pieces of circumstantial evidence against him was an article he wrote proclaiming that some men, meant for greatness, were not bound by laws and rules of man; they're not bound by any Social Contract. Napoleon, Nixon and Mao were such individuals, (One could also argue, however, that reality caught up with all of them to some degree.) Rodion wanted to prove that theory so killed as an experiment, and in effect he disproved himself.
Raskolnikov was a rather pathetic individual when you get down to it. He was the only one who even posited that he could be great. But it is easier to break from the fetters of being common when others believe in your entitlement to be above the law. Vito Corleone as the Godfather was such a man. In the book the Godfather, his son explains it quite clearly: "He (Vito) doesn't accept the rules of society we live in because those rules would have condemned him to a life not suitable to a man like himself, a man of extraordinary force and character. He refuses to live by rules set up by others, rules which condemn him to a defeated life. But his ultimate aim is to enter that society with a certain power since society doesn't really protect its members who do not have their individual power. In the meantime he operates on a code of ethics he considers far superior to the legal structures of society."  And thus the Godfather reigned whereas Raskolnikov failed.
A little background research revealed Mario Puzo, the author of the Godfather, was deeply influenced by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the author of Crime and Punishment; he even modelled a character in the Godfather on Raskolnikov but not Vito. So perhaps this isn't surprising. Rasklonikov wouldn't have done well with a mafioso eyeballing him. He'd have fallen over himself to take an offer that couldn't be refused. He wouldn't have made it far up the chain of a regime (an arm of a gang) to be even a caporegime (the head of the gang). And he lacked any of the attributes to pull people to his leadership.
The Godfather stands as probably the best novel I've read this year. I've consumed two others in quick speed since then; I'm still barrelling along with a thirst for more to read. Long may it continue.