The Ancient And Judeo-Christian Heritage of Oblivion and Memory (F. Dostoevsky, M. Bulgakov)




Dostoevsky; Bulgakov; oblivion; memory; antiquity; Christianity; suffering; happiness; eschatological antinomianism


This article analyses the role of motifs of memory and oblivion in the ending of The Master and Margarita in comparison with, firstly, Ivan Karamazov’s idea of ‘returning the entry ticket to paradise’ and Alyosha’s answer about resurrection in the context of similar topics in ancient and medieval literature. According to the author of the article, the novels of Bulgakov and Dostoevsky place antiquity and the present time in a particular dialogue and conflict. It is mostly noticeable in Bulgakov’s novel, where the storyline of Jesus and his meetings with Pontius Pilate creates a genuine aesthetic and philosophical tension between the symbolic ancient and medieval thought and the positivist and post-positivist thought of today. Another connection is the striking combination of the romantic idyll with oblivion as the only way to happiness in Bulgakov’s novel. If we juxtapose this combination with the theme of solidarity with the deceased and with the motif of the main character’s descent into Hell, we inevitably notice that, narratively, this brings us back to the origins of European literature. The dichotomy of happiness and compassion which defines the mode of Dostoevsky’s characters lies in the way the two notions are combined. This conflict represents the universal profundity of the Russian writer. Ivan Karamazov cannot accept a mere shadow of joy free from suffering, which makes him ‘give back his entrance ticket’ to Heaven. With the help of love and oblivion, Bulgakov rids his characters of the unbearable burden of memory. But Christ’s wounds are still there, and through them, the suffering and the humiliated may acquire strength and dignity while waiting for death to be defeated by His Second Coming. This is a supreme example of an earthly and heavenly catharsis for the suffering human race. Against this background, the author considers the issue and mystery of eschatological antinomianism, where Dostoevsky was the forerunner of the theology of the 20th century.

Author Biography

Stefano Maria Capilupi

PhD (Philosophy), PhD (Philology), Subject Expert, Sapienza University of Rome; Director of the Institute of Italian Language and Culture, Russian Christian Academy for the Humanities.

5, Piazzale Aldo Moro, 00185, Rome, Italy.

15, Fontanka River Embankment, 191011, St Petersburg, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0003-0063-8197


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How to Cite

Capilupi, S. M. (2019). The Ancient And Judeo-Christian Heritage of Oblivion and Memory (F. Dostoevsky, M. Bulgakov). Quaestio Rossica, 7(4), 1172–1184.



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