Editorial: The Two Abysses of the Soul - Scena9

Set of editorial illustrations for a text by Costică Brădățan, published by Scena9. A philosophical analytical lecture of Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky, drawing a parallel between the main characters, and Russia, its symbols, culture, and history.

“Toward the end of The Brothers Karamazov, as the prosecutor Ippolit Kirillovich makes his case for Dmitri Karamazov’s condemnation, he brings up the image of two abysses between which the defendant, in his view, is caught. One is the “abyss beneath us, an abyss of the lowest and foulest degradation,” while the other is “the abyss above us, an abyss of lofty ideals.” “Two abysses, gentlemen,” says the prosecutor, “in one and the same moment — without that […] our existence is incomplete.”

This image of the two intertwined abysses can be said to be a picture of Russia itself. The basest and the highest, the most despicable and the noblest, profanity and sainthood, total cynicism and winged idealism, all meet here.


Historically, Russia has caused much suffering in the region, but it has also shaped people’s minds and affected their sense of being in the world. Russia’s cultural proximity has translated for East Europeans into an expanded repertoire of feelings, sensibilities, and states of being. In the long run, the situation has no doubt enriched — philosophically and existentially — the East European cultures.

This may be history’s ironic payback, some perpetual war reparation program. With one hand Russia gives slaps, with the other it makes presents.”

Full text available in Romanian and English

© Maks Graur