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Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Guénon and Iurii Mamleev

The impact of René Guénon on Iurii Mamleev is discussed in a new article by Oliver Ready, “'Questions to Which Reason has No Answer:' Iurii Mamleev’s Irrationalism in European Context” (in Facets of Russian Irrationalism Between Art and Life: Mystery Inside Enigma, edited by Olga Tabachnikova; Leiden: Brill Rodopi, 2016, pp. 496-518). Guénon, in fact, is the major part of the European context in which Ready seeks to place Mamleev; the other major part is the anti-psychiatry of R. D. Laing.

Mamleev (1931-2015) is of interest both as one of modern Russia’s most remarkable authors and as the owner of the flat in Iuzkinskii Lane, Moscow, where a group of dissident intellectuals gathered, later known as the Iuzkinskii Circle and, as Ready says, now much mythologized. Among the members of the Iuzkinskii Circle were the poet Evgenii Golovin (1938-2010), Geydar Dzhemal (1947-2016), and Alexander Dugin. It was through the Iuzkinskii Circle that Traditionalism really entered Russia.

Ready argues that Mamleev is heir both to the venerable Russian tradition of irrationalism and to Guénonian Traditionalism. He bases this argument on Mamleev’s references to Guénon is his non-fictional work and on a reading of Mamleev's fiction. It was Guénon, according to Ready, who provided Mamleev with the killer condemnation of modernity and of reason, with a powerful justification for the view that “if the world has gone mad, it is because of an excess, not a lack, of reason.” The Soviet Union was, of course, hyper-modern in its respect for reason.

Mamleev was far from the first Russian author to see reason not as the key to understanding reality but as an obstacle to understanding reality, nor the first Russian author for whom irrationalism and the grotesque could force readers to look beyond the human to the mystical unknown. But while the broad Russian tradition promotes values of humility that may be seen as Christian, Ready argues, Mamleev “affirms a hierarchy of spiritual knowledge and enlightenment” that he takes not from Dostoevsky but from Guénon.

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