Transitioning to the Symposium 2020.3-2021.6


Midnight of Dostoevsky to Nijinsky at midnight – prologue

Hidenaga Otori

I’ve started to prepare a presentation that I’d like to give at a symposium this summer, so I thought I’d talk about that today.
If all goes well, I’ll be working on this project under the title “Midnight of Dostoevsky to Nijinsky at midnight.”

Stephen Barber, in a transit text posted on the Internet, writes that Ko Murobushi mentions Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment in a fragment of his diary. Perhaps he was thinking, at the same time, of the passage Pour en finir avec le jugement de Dieu (To Have Done with the Judgment of God) from Artaud’s last work written in 1947.
The English text uses the word “judgment,” as in Dostoevsky’s Judgment and Punishment. However, Murobushi’s original text is “「審判」Process「罪と罰」(‘Judgment,’ Process, ‘Crime and Punishment’).” In the English text, it is translated only as “Judgment, Crime and Punishment,” without the “Process.” If “罪と罰” in Japanese is a translation of “Judgment and Punishment,” then I believe this is a mistranslation. This is because if “Judgment and Punishment,” was the translation of “罪と罰,” then “罪と罰” would be the wrong title for Crime and Punishment. If so, this is a pretty important mistake, and a mistake that makes me think about many things. Incidentally, Crime and Punishment is the usual English translation of “罪と罰.” In Russian, it is “Преступление и наказание.” Crime is “Преступление,” whereas “наказание” means punishment. “Преступление” means stepping into something wrong—in other words, to go from the right path to the wrong path. This means the title was chosen to include the question of whether or not Raskolnikov’s killing of the old woman is Преступление, and whether judging him for it is a way of acting against punishment. So, in general, while translating Преступление и наказание as Crime and Punishment in Japanese may be commonplace, it is correct as a fixed translation.

The reference to Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment itself makes a lot of sense, and we need to think about what it means when Ko Murobushi mentions Crime and Punishment in his diary fragment. Barber refers to Dostoevsky’s judgments and punishments, while Ko Murobushi also says in his diary that he is thinking about Dostoevsky’s judgments and punishments.
When we think of Dostoevsky’s judgments, we immediately think of the story of the Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov, as well as the question in the debate over judgments regarding the Grand Inquisitor. The word “punishment” immediately brings to mind the punishment in Crime and Punishment. When these two words appear, a large part of Dostoevsky’s system—his image of the world—is involved. “I like Crime and Punishment but I don’t like The Brothers Karamazov,” “I rather like The Idiot,” “It’s all about The Evil Spirit,” “They’re all good,” “You’re exaggerating”—Dostoevsky fans in their twenties would argue about things like this.
And so Barber thought it was very significant that this whole issue of process, judgment, and so on had been considered by Ko Murobushi.

Murobushi writes that by retreating from judgment, heterogeneous knowledge reveals itself and becomes intimate with the body in its deviations and covert machinations. This heterogeneous knowledge that defies judgment is connected to the thoughts of Ivan Karamazov.
As for the meaning of this heterogeneous knowledge that defies judgment, in the same way that such things are related to deviance, covert trickery, and are connected to the body, I think it is clear that Barber, when he refers to Dostoevsky’s judgment and Crime and Punishment, is thinking about Ko Murobushi in relation to something in the Dostoevskyan world.
It is generally said the form of knowledge that is inverted from general knowledge, that is completely hostile to ordinary intellectual reason, that transcends modern rationalism, and that comes into its own in an inverted way, is what Ivan Dostoevsky is trying to claim. It is not that I am saying anything strange; it is just that we do not know what the reality is.
On page 187 of Murobushi Ko Shusei (Murobushi Ko Collection), in a situation where it is difficult to understand the relationship between the before and after, it says, “What is the law and what is the code?” After that, there are only two lines: “‘Judgment,’ Process, ‘Crime and Punishment’.” I’m not really sure what follows, but in any case, this is simply Ko Murobushi saying that he is interested in Dostoevsky’s thinking.
I don’t know how many concrete clues there are to think about in the relationship between Ivan Karamazov’s or Raskolnikov’s thinking and Ko Murobushi’s dance and butoh, but I am certain that they are not unrelated.
I will be talking today without evidence or argument, but I’m going to gather some evidence by June and make a separate presentation called “Midnight of Dostoevsky to Nijinsky at midnight.”
What surprised me a little was that in the process of thinking about this kind of thing, Ko Murobushi showed interest in various things, including Nijinsky and Dostoevsky. I think I need to investigate how these issues are connected in Ko Murobushi’s mind.

When thinking about Nijinsky’s “midnight,” Ko Murobushi frequently refers to Nietzsche, saying that “midnight” is Nietzsche’s term. He also had a great deal of interest in Nietzsche’s idea of the superhuman. In his diary from 2014, when he had begun to plan the work Nijinsky at midnight, the word “midnight” appears frequently.
“I don’t think, I don’t think, I dance Mallarmé’s, no, Nijinsky’s Pastorals. I don’t imitate. I will only think about ‘midnight.’”
This sentence is quite important, I think. It adds “midnight” to Mallarmé’s thoughts and Nijinsky’s pastorals—in other words, he is adding “midnight” to Nijinsky’s pastoral. He is adding the “midnight” from Mallarmé’s Igitur and saying that it is also Nietzsche’s “midnight.” To put it simply, we can read from this note that when we think about Nijinsky at midnight, we also have to search for something that Ko Murobushi was trying to create while referring to Mallarmé’s Igitur and Nietzsche.

“There is an old, heavy, low-pitched bell. So there is a bell, and its low cry reaches your cave every night. When you hear it strike the hour at midnight, you will think of it from the first strike to the twelfth.” This is a quotation from Nietzsche, but this Nietzschean quotation has been gradually transformed into “the death of the dead, the fall of man, the monolith in flames, and the dance, the optics of the sick, the ring der ring,” which Ko Murobushi adds from here on. The last three lines—“the monolith in flames, the dance, the optics of the sick, and then the ring der ring”—refer to these three lines. This does not appear in Nietzsche.
What do you think about that? This is an addition from Murobushi that basically says, “This is what I would think.” What he adds is quiet important.

But of course the downfall, the optics of the sick, and the circle within a circle are key words in Zarathustra. And on the back of the flyer, there is a line that says, “Now the world will be complete. Midnight is also noon.” This means that in order for the world to be complete, “midnight,” which is also noon, must exist. Murobushi continues that, of course, this is what Nietzsche is saying—that the sun at noon, like the sun at “midnight,” would be absolute darkness. “Thinking about zero is what I’m trying to do in the workshop. About what is butoh.” Then he adds, “I’m getting sleepy, so that’s all for tonight.”
In other words, Nietzsche’s “midnight” is problematized here. Mallarmé, Nietzsche, and Dostoevsky—Ko Murobushi and I are the same age, and for us, what students at the time read around the age of 20 were Dostoevsky, Mallarmé, and Nietzsche. I don’t know if Mallarmé can be included because it varies from person to person, but practically everyone, regardless of how they chose to interpret it, read Dostoevsky’s story of the Grand Inquisitor told by Ivan Karamazov.
When I looked for where this text by Murobushi is taken from in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I found that it is from the third part, “The Song of the Second Dance.”
“—When you hear those bells striking the hour at midnight, from the first strike to the final twelfth, you will think of that thing the entire time.—” What “that thing” is, though, is not mentioned in Nietzsche’s text. “That thing” is what Murobushi was saying, when doing butoh, to Zarathustra about life, and about the spirit of life. And Zarathustra responds to it after. I am the spirit of life, in the relationship between me and you, Zarathustra, in the relationship with you, being stubborn in not losing to your wisdom of Zarathustra, the wisdom which you know you bring up, the absolute knowledge, Zarathustra’s absolute interest in the relationship between absolute life and absolute knowledge, and how he gives concrete form to his thoughts appears in various ways in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. This is perhaps what everyone is saying. However, I think it is clear that what is alive in the narrative of Zarathustra is in the transition from Dostoevsky to Nietzsche, and that Ko Murobushi is reacting and resonating to it. What kind of resonance this is, I think, becomes clear by comparing Murobushi’s text with Nietzsche.
As I read on, Nietzsche exclaims that Zarathustra said this, and I realize this is the continuation of the Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov.
Nietzsche is trying to figure out how to expand on what Ivan is trying to say and reveal by borrowing the Grand Inquisitor’s story. In other words, Nietzsche wrote the Song of Zarathustra as a continuation of The Brothers Karamazov. Because The Brothers Karamazov was published in 1881—I think it was translated into German in the same year or the following year—and the latest work of a very famous author who also wrote Crime and Punishment and The Idiot before that, Nietzsche must have read it. So it is obvious that Nietzsche wrote Thus Spoke Zarathustra while greatly stimulated in his poetic writing from reading The Brothers Karamazov in 1983 or 1984.
Everyone must be saying this. It’s that clear. So, for Ko Murobushi, Ivan’s story about judgment and Nietzsche’s Zarathustra are naturally connected. It’s a story that he actually reads as a continuation, completely independent of what academics and researchers say.

If a very important person were to talk about Nietzsche or Dostoevsky and fails to mention that it is a continuation, it would only be because it is so obvious that it would be silly to say it. Everyone will have read both, and those who have read one will have read the other at least once.
It would be impossible for Nietzsche not to have read Dostoevsky.
In other words, in the story of “Midnight of Dostoevsky to Nijinsky at midnight,” the thing that makes it possible is Nietzsche’s “midnight” in Zarathustra. And the story of Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor—the story of the Grand Inquisitor as told by Ivan Karamazov—is the epic poem Ivan wrote and told to his little brother Alyosha.
There was an incident that happened at a town square in Seville, Spain in the 15th century. Various people approached a certain person who had the power to fulfill wishes.
A mother whose child had died holds the child’s body in her arms and makes an appeal. After asking for her child to be brought back to life, the dead child comes back to life. The mother is overjoyed. The biblical scene of Lazarus’ resurrection is recreated in a 15th century square in Seville. Who is this? This must be Jesus. Murmurs spread. Watching from the shadows, the Cardinal Grand Inquisitor orders that the man be seized. The soldiers come and grab him, drag him away, and lock him in a room. The Grand Inquisitor comes to see the young man.
The Grand Inquisitor asks him if he is Jesus. The man does not answer. Then the Grand Inquisitor starts talking to the man, on and on. He says, “Why are you here now, almost 1500 years later? You shouldn’t have come here.”
There are three Karamazov brothers: Ivan Karamazov: a man who lives by logic first, Alyosha: a brother who lives by pure love, and Dimitri: a brother who is mad with lust. Then there is the strange bastard Smerdyakov. These four people—three brothers plus one—are the main characters in The Brothers Karamazov. It is in this kind of situation that Ivan’s logic and reason are challenged.
Ivan tells us what the Grand Inquisitor said, but he makes the Grand Inquisitor say it in a way that makes himself complicit in the Grand Inquisitor’s theory. What logic did he use, and how precise was it? “To you we say.” This “you” is Jesus. For example, “We say this to you. We will judge us.” But the important thing is neither you nor us. This is Ivan’s logic. Neither you nor us. So there is a battle going on between the two poles of Jesus and the Grand Inquisitor (though Jesus is silent the whole time). But the problem is not you, and it’s not us. It’s outside of us, outside of us and you. The problem is that it is ‘outside.’ ‘Midnight’ and ‘outside’ are so connected.
When there is an orderly demand to do something or to go somewhere, in the process of settling into the order, there must be an orientation toward the ‘outside’, which is neither you nor us—that is what Ivan is saying, borrowing from the story of the Grand Inquisitor.
But the big question is, what is the Grand Inquisitor actually demanding of Jesus in Ivan’s thinking?
We have spent 1500 years building a world using your name, using your miracles—and you are not allowed to come here. In this world, people believe that they are enjoying the freedom you sang of. They have the unquestioning pleasure of believing they are living in freedom. This kingdom that turns people to obedience emerged in the name of Jesus as a kingdom of freedom—you must understand how annoying it is to have you emerge now in a way that destroys it.
This is what the Grand Inquisitor says to this man who might be Jesus.
This brings us to “The Pleasures of the Gulag,” an extremely important theme in the 21st century. In the 15th century, the authority of the Christian church—believing that the Christian kingdom has come to pass—says this at a square in Seville, Spain. In other words, this is a very capable ruler, who is clearly aware of the power structure and is deliberately carrying it out, claiming that a kingdom of freedom is being built—that is what Dostoevsky wrote in Russia around 1880 in The Brothers Karamazov.
The old Grand Inquisitor says again and again that he makes them believe they are happy so that they will not notice. “They” means the people. In other words, the Grand Inquisitor himself is saying in this story that the people should never notice. He doesn’t want the people to know that they are in a prison camp. It is full of joy, and we have succeeded in making them believe that they are happy. “So why did you come out here?” he asks. The Grand Inquisitor says, “I’m doing this for Jesus, screw you.”

Wolinsky says that in The Kingdom of Karamazov, the importance of the blind obedience of the crowd to authority and a recognition of the structures that make this possible are provided as an image of the anti-Christ in the Grand Inquisitor. The Kingdom of Karamazov was published in 1909, the age of Russian symbolism. Culturally, this period was much later than the so-called Symbolists, such as Mallarmé in France, and the so-called Russian Symbolist poets were very active. Chekhov’s The Seagull was published in 1898, followed by The Cherry Orchard in 1904. This was the end of the golden age of Russian realism.
In The Seagull, there is a play within a play that is a so-called Symbolist play. Russian Impressionism poets, philosophers, and Wolinsky, who represented all of them—these people indulged in the philosophical meaning of Dostoevsky’s works.

The problem here is that in the Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov, there is something called outside thinking. A “midnight” thought that is neither you nor us. In other words, while assuming that there is a void in time or a void in order, in reality, it is the blind obedience of the crowd to authority that creates the pleasures of the gulag. He says that those who are unaware of this are happy, and those who are aware of it are competent rulers. At this stage, not only is this written in Dostoevsky’s works, but it is also pointed out by Wolinsky in 1909.
Here we can connect the high intellectual level of the ruler in the final scene of the Grand Inquisitor’s story where Dostoevsky has Ivan speak, with, for example, the intellectual structure of the British colonial rule in India in Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism.
However, in this story, the Grand Inquisitor is set to be 90 years old, which is quite old considering the life expectancy at that time. Wolinsky is saying that this is a dream that the 90-year-old inquisitor had just before he died—the old inquisitor’s fear of what was about to be destroyed in the 15th century, or perhaps the fear of those who try to destroy what they have built. So some people argue that the scene at the square itself may not have existed in reality.
In the end, the man who might have been Jesus is told by the Grand Inquisitor, after much discussion, that he doesn’t have to answer anything. This is the famous scene. The man doesn’t say a word, gets up, kisses the old inquisitor on the lips and walks away. He disappears through the door, and the old inquisitor does not even follow him.
In that moment, the Grand Inquisitor was not relieved because he thought, “I could crucify you immediately, burn you at the stake, and kill you in agony, but I didn’t do it. I didn’t do it, so I didn’t end up having to be brutal.” I think he was afraid that if he crucified him and burned him at the stake and the man was really God, the man would be saved or a miracle would happen, and then the gulag kingdom they had built would collapse. That’s why he gave the man the freedom to leave—or rather, I think he was relieved to have him leave.

There is a writer named Dostoevsky who constantly turns his thoughts ‘outside.’ And it is actually possible to quote even the Grand Inquisitor based on the fact that Ko Murobushi’s ‘midnight’ is connected to the ‘outside’. In the psyche of a certain era, it is possible to link to specific individuals like Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, and Nijinsky. It’s usually hard to get to Nijinsky.
A person working on Nijinsky reads Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, writers who appeal to everyone, and then realizes that they are connected. Such a trend already existed for Ko Murobushi in his twenties, for example, and reconnected just before his death in his sixties, when the title Nijinsky at midnight was conceived. I believe such traces can be seen, at least at the present level.
Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, as so-called research themes, have been the subjects of an enormous number of research books, as well as the matter of many discussions. I believe it is by reading such books that I can continue responding to Ko Murobushi, the man who proposed the title Nijinsky at midnight, from here on out.

So, that’s the prelude for today. Thank you very much.

Hidenaga Otori

Born in 1948 in Shizuoka. Theatre critic and researcher. Graduated from Tokyo Institute of Technology’s School of Engineering with a Master’s degree from the University of Tokyo’s Faculty of Letters. Committee member at Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), artistic director for Laocoon Festival (Kampnagel, Hamburg), and associate director at the Kyoto Performing Arts Center at Kyoto University of the Arts. Written works include The20th Century Polyphonic Art Theater (The Asahi Shimbun) and co-authoring Reverberation Machines: The World of Richard Foreman (Keiso Shobo). Translator of Tadeusz Kantor’s Let the Artists Die (Sakuhinsha) among other works. Currently working on “Hidenaga Otori’s Monkey Drama Theory for Provocation and Brainwashing.”

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