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Author: Ilya Yu. Vinitsky
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D. Litt., Professor of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Princeton University, Princeton, USA.

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For citation:

Vinitsky, I.Yu. “The Vision of an Axe. Dostoevsky and Astronautics”. Dostoevsky and World Culture, Philological journal, no. 1 (13), 2021, pp. 124-152. https://doi.org/10.22455/2541-7894-2021-1-124-152 (In Russ.)

Received: 30 Nov. 2020
Published: 25 Mar. 2021
Issue: 2021 no. 1(13)
Department: POETICS. CONTEXT
Pages: 124-152
DOI: https://doi.org/10.22455/2541-7894-2021-1-124-152
UDK: 821.161.1.0
BBK: 83.3(2Рос=Рус)
Keywords: scientific predictions, astronomy, Dostoevsky, Newton, Jules Verne, Swedenborg, Merezhkovsky, Gippius, science fiction, “fantastic realism,” satellite, “axe theme” in fiction.
Abstract: This essay explores the scientific and literary origins of the image of an axe thrown into outer space to orbit the earth, as it appears in the chapter “The Devil. The Vision of Ivan Fyodorovich” in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Did Dostoevsky anticipate the idea of an artificial satellite, as many critics and journalists argue? How were science (in this case astronomy) and literature connected in his mind? How did Dostoevsky’s scientific and creative imagination work in general? The author shows that Dostoevsky’s “prophetic” reference to a sputnik was rooted in popular articles and textbooks about Newton’s mechanics and in Marko Vovchok’s (Maria Vilinskaya’s) translation of Jules Verne’s science fiction novel Around the Moon (“Autour de la Lune”), published in The Russian Herald (Russkii vestnik) in 1869. The novel relates the chronicle of a voyage of brave researchers inside a cannonball that was fired out of a giant space gun. The essay reconstructs the trajectory of Verne’s image of a manmade satellite in Russian literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  

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