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The Sin of an Artist and the Chimeras of Art

Liberal Arts in Russia. 2014. Vol. 3. No. 5. Pp. 321-341.
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Renansky A. L.
Belorussian State University of Culture and Arts
17 Rabkorovskaya St., 220007 Minsk, Belarus


The thematic structure of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel “Netochka Nezvanova” is revealed in the article through the system of leitmotifs rising to elementary semantic oppositions. The topical opposition of high and low is traced throughout the semantics of space. The periphery of the story - the estate of a landowner, a music-lover, and its sacral centre - the ‘sunny’ home of Prince H. in St. Petersburg are brought together by the main character’s lifelong way. In Yegor Efimov’s biography, this is predetermined in the same way as the initiation of a fairytale hero is predestined. It should be emphasized that the unique temporal structure of “Netochka Nezvanova” is analyzed in this aspect for the first time. Like many other Dostoyevsky’s works, this particular story displays signs of “inoculations” from different poetic systems and other texts which form a complicated system of intertextual connections. The leading motif of the story belongs to the circle of the basic mythopoetic topic: Man’s temptation by Satan. The demon’s intrusion into Efimov’s life is especially well traced in his friendship with the Italian conductor and in inheriting the latter’s violin. The history of the violin is accompanied by the marginal demonic background created by the stable mythologem - “the Satan’s violin”. Within the borders of mythopoetic concept of music, an artist is a medium, a person who has the power to influence other people in the name of good or evil by supernatural forces. In this respect, the life story of Efremov the violinist can be compared to the adventures of a mythological “cultural hero” presented as a non-stop chain of events: meeting a magical sorcerer, receiving a magic weapon from him as a gift and the ensuing sequence of dreadful ordeals. Yegor Efimov’s life story is shown in the article against the background of the mythopoetic concept of music, as Man’s temptation by Satan, and in the historical and cultural context, as shattering a romantic myth about “a demonic artist”.


  • • Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • • Netochka Nezvanova
  • • semantic oppositions
  • • the unique temporal structure
  • • intertextual connections
  • • the basic mythopoetic topic
  • • a romantic myth


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