Pushkin’s Secret Journal
Written in the last year of his life: 1836–1837
The diary was supposedly written by Pushkin during the last year of his life before he died in a duel to protect the honor of his wife. It was smuggled out of the Soviet Union and published in 1986 in the US causing an immediate scandal.
Why? Because of its pornographic contents. The diary presents the sexual life of Russia’s greatest poet in great graphic detail. Poets have always been men of strong passions but considering this journal’s content, it seems that Pushkin would rule them all even in this aspect.
The degree and kind of a man’s sexuality reach up into the ultimate pinnacle of his spirit.
Said, Nietzsche, although he unfortunately never discussed his own sexuality (though one knows a few things here and there) and Freud would have all human motives based on and springing out of this one single drive. For sixteen centuries did Christianity repress and vilify this drive but in the end, it only managed to become stronger as exemplified in its sublimation into the concept of ‘love’, which is fundamentally a Christian invention.
Most importantly though, the journal contains some fantastical insights into women’s psychology, which might be considered misogynistic (a word that really has no meaning and should not exist) by some blockheads here and there trying to subject Pushkin to today’s standards.
Although some of these insights have already started to date for sometimes now, at least in Western societies, on account of women’s immense growth that started in the latter half of the previous century, it nevertheless remains interesting and, moreover, necessary to once study human psychology in the past in order to better to understand it today (hence the good old French moralists might too turn out to be indispensable for a student of psychology in this modern age of rapid change).
This article focuses on the latter part: the psychological aspects of the journal.
Miscellaneous quotes (with short commentaries)
The journal opens up with a bang:
I feel the power of fate, I see how it is coming true, but I cannot avert it, for dishonor is more terrible than death.
Recently I care about my family honor more than about the family itself.
The word honor has lost most of its meaning in today’s societies and is a relic of previous, older human Moores, thus making it hard to be understood today. But here we can best see exemplified what Goethe said: “The greatest human beings are always connected with their century by means of some weakness”.
The second point that can be made is about Pushkin’s superstitiousness, which reminds one of that oldest of maxims by Homer: “But the poet lies too much”.
When I saw N. for the first time, I realized that something irrevocable had happened. The desire to possess her immediately was so strong that it instantly turned into a desire to marry her.
Love, typically related to the word ‘unegoistic’ is fundamentally a desire to possess (this word is not to be treated in its strictest terms) another being, hence perhaps one of the most egoistical of all drives. Procreation would then be the real achievement of the individual and his highest expression of power, contrary to the popular knowledge of something that is done with the view of promoting the species.
I was always astonished by the transformation of a goddess into a mortal woman, not in bed but in a toilet, enchantment vanishes, and I got rid of my excessive veneration, which very often is a hindrance in ruling a woman.
The power of beauties in high society is in the illusion of their divinity, which is so sweet to disperse unceremoniously. Oh, great and charming knowledge! Looking at the most unapproachable beauty you definitely know what she has between her legs and where and why she leaves a hall.
The sexes have always accorded much more value to and excessively embellished their opposite partners. This is what love does. However, Pushkin’s advice here might be a good thumb-up rule in those cases that one is blinded too much by one’s drive to love.
Maybe this could have solved the Romeo-Juliet pickle? Most likely not: such powerful drives can seldom be overcome.
Women talented in love become slaves to it. They are marvelous lovers but dreadful wives.
Whenever we are ruled by a powerful drive, we become slaves of it and that drive becomes the highest expression of our existence. Research indicates that women are much more capable than men in deriving sexual pleasure, hence it must follow…
The novelty of the body became stronger than love, stronger than beauty, but I did not wish it to become stronger than my faithfulness to my wife.
The hedonic treadmill, there is no escaping it. It is part of what has turned most love stories from many brief follies to a long stupidity in marriage.
She gets the greatest pleasure from new clothes and compliments to her beauty. It touched me and did not upset me at all. I know that when children came she will be busy with something real.
This essentially sums up most women’s existence for the majority of civilization. In a fortunate turn of events during the 60s and 80s (though originating much earlier), this did finally start to change.
The difference between a wife and a lover is that with a wife you go to bed without lust. This is why marriage is sacred because lust is gradually excluded from it and the relationship becomes just friendly, even indifferent, or often hostile. It is then that the naked body is not considered a sin, because it no longer tempts.
Passion is depressingly shorter than love. Because of this people swear eternal love but not eternal passion.
It is crucial, therefore, that one marries for the right reason. And what would that be other than the will of two to create the one that is more than those who created it?
The only thing which returns the mystery to its legitimate place is parting, and a wife becomes desirable again, but only for one night, and then satiety returns to its legitimate place.
The hedonic treadmill strikes again!
There is a profound meaning for sacrificing your life for the single possession of beauty, and by doing that one avoids becoming indifferent, which is so offensive to recent passion. Death is the most reliable way to stay faithful to your sweetheart. I understand the passion of Romeo and Juliet’s suicide. They acted intuitively, without understanding, but with the same purpose — to stay faithful to their lovers even after death, which is impossible for any young, beautiful, and living body.
This is a brilliant explanation for the inevitable end of Romeo and Juliet, Tristian and Isolde, or any other meaningful love story. Those that did not end in such a tragedy, are not worthy to mention as they likely degraded into the cold indifference, which is but the rule among marriages.
She got drunk on the power of her own beauty, which brought the most influential men in Petersburg including the Tsar, to her feet. Because of her decency and kindness, she did not take advantage of her beauty with mercenary motives but simply played with it as a child would. If she was deprived of constant worship, life would lose its meaning for her.
On the power of woman historically, or rather on the power of (only) one type of woman in the 21st century.
Observing the pleasures of others in love-making is a most striking example of one’s love for mankind when someone else’s pleasure arouses in one an equal pleasure. When you see the grief of a stranger, the power of compassion you feel towards him cannot be compared with the feelings of the sufferer himself. The same is true of the happiness you feel for success in work: the man who achieved it will feel much happier than the well-wisher who hears of this success. But when you watch someone’s love pleasures, they not only give you pleasures, but that pleasure turns out to be not less than and sometimes stronger than the pleasure of the participant.
N. preferred that I be carried away by her sisters rather than by women unknown to her. Poor girl, she did not understand that a forest fire cannot burn one tree and stop. On the contrary, the more trees it consumes, the stronger it becomes.
The more one exercises a drive, the more it demands to expand into one’s whole being. Some ways to combat the vehemence of a drive (but that might not work at all depending on one’s being) would be:
- Avoid opportunities for gratification, therefore slowly weakening the drive.
- Narrow its appeasement down to a particular time of the week and then keep reducing the time of its gratification (slowly) as described above.
- Associate its gratification with a very painful thought. After a while, this pain is associated with the drive itself.
- Impose oneself to particularly difficult and strenuous labors thus dislocating one’s energies to other tasks. A human being is in the end but a stack of energy that needs a direction (purpose) where it should be applied to.
- Give in to the drive to such an enormous degree that satiety and disgust are reaped from it and one can pick up from these elicited feelings. But this is an extremely dangerous method, and frequently has disastrous effects.
- By weakening the whole body one will also weaken the drive. There’s not much a drive can do to torment its host when one is physically ill or one jogs six times a day for example.
A man wants his wife a virgin, for any man who possesses a woman has power over her for the rest of her life, whether she realizes it or not.
From Nietzsche’s Will to Power:
The tremendous importance the individual accords to the sexual instinct is not a result of its importance for the species, but arises because procreation is the real achievement of the individual and consequently his highest interest, his highest expression of power (not judged from the consciousness but from the center of the whole individuation).
I do not have time for kids. Writing and women seldom leave time for games with them.
And that is quite alright Pushkin! Unfortunately, there are all kinds of doltish heads that launch such moral attacks on great men on account of this fact alone. This was also a major criticism of Einstein. As a thumb-up rule, however, moral attacks of this particular type should not even be addressed, though they are quite easy to tear apart.
The greatest pleasure I get from my kids is when I can display them to my guests. I feel so proud of them, as I do after composing a good poem.
“One loves neither father, nor mother, nor wife, nor child, one loves the pleasant sensations they produce in us.” Thought Lichtenberg, and although he is wrong (in that it is overly simplistic), it is a step in the right direction.
Love is the only rescue from pernicious times; it saves us from the past and the future; it stops time on today, happy day.
Love, like death, makes the slave and master equal and erases all differences among people.
Any drive that is correctly and rightfully exercised stops the time on today, happy day, or to express it differently: whatever is done with passion gives the highest reward and that is the pure and unadulterated focus that gives way to creation. This is the real reward of life. See Csikszentmihalyi’s work on the concept of ‘The Flow’ for a detailed explanation.
If we are to scientifically explain it: When one is in The Flow, one’s brain is using all the resources to focus on the task at hand. Almost all of the 110 bits of information that it can process in one second are being used for the task at hand. Hence one simply does not have any other resources to focus on anything else (even the feeling of hunger goes away in such cases for instance) and time seems to altogether stop.
There are two states of happiness: one is when you go to a woman full of impatient anticipation and the other one is when you return from a woman relieved from her and of desire.
In other words: One before exercising a drive and the other after having exercised it.
How sickening is it to realize that not all women want me.
No woman is able to replace the world of women.
How much spite and hatred comes out of a neglected woman!
Every woman wants to be sure that it is she whom you love. This belief makes woman mine, not only in body but in soul too.
Let man fear woman when she loves: then she makes any sacrifice and anything else seems without value to her. — Zarathustra
After tasting the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve learned shame and became ashamed of their nakedness. Shame was created by the Devil, and so God determined that they had committed sin by discerning their shame. For their disobedience, God expelled them from Paradise but left them with pleasure as a consolation. In copulating, Adam and Eve did not feel shame and that absence of shame reminded them of their time in paradise.
Buying new books is a pleasure quite different from the pleasure of reading: scrutinizing, smelling, paging through a new book is happiness itself.
In particular the smell!
Love enslaves us by inducing the fear of losing our sweetheart. That fear displays itself in our behavior and a woman is very sensitive to it. Indifference to a woman gives us ease and freedom for we are not afraid to lose what we do not value.
The power in a relationship with a woman is determined by a man’s courage in hiding from her the value he places on losing her.
Or put somewhat differently: the degree of man’s neediness frequently goes together with a degradation of the relationship. It is perhaps the real reason Gatsby loses Daisy.
It should also be added that this fear of losing one’s partner can be turned into a significant spur for the effort that one puts into one’s relationship.
The ecstasy of life following a duel used to be so strong that in periods of depression I thought about a duel as a remedy, which would be nice to take. It used to happen that I was offended in the days of my saddest moods, and a duel served as a bloodletting without bloodshed.
From the unnamed narrator of Notes from the Underground:
And you ask why I twisted and tormented myself so? Answer: Because it was just too boring to sit there with folded arms, that’s why I’d get into such flourishes. I made up adventures and devised a life for myself so as to live, at least somehow, a little.
If a woman’s borderline between pleasure and pain is so vague that she can take pleasure for pain, then she can take pain for pleasure as well.
Must be true for man as well.
Women obey the power of desire, the power of money, and the power of strength.
Women have always been drawn by men of status. This piece of insight predates civilization itself, indeed it is evolutionary in nature.
I realize my mistakes but do not correct them. It just confirms that we can see our fate but are unable to change it. Realizing mistakes is recognizing fate and our inability to correct them is the power of fate. Realizing mistakes is heavy punishment. It would be much easier to consider oneself right and blame everyone else, finding consolation in the illusion of victory over fate. But even such happiness is not given to me.
This is a step in the right direction but the wise man blames no one, neither himself nor others.
When I look at my Madonna, two feelings occur in me: I want to pray for her faithfulness and at the same time I want to curse her for it. Her faithfulness is a rebuke to my debauchery. It is a severe admonition. It is a wound which she solemnly reopens. I am sure that if I were faithful to her, she would screw someone right away.
Pushkin was fatally wounded in the duel with his brother-in-law and wife’s alleged lover and died on 29th January 1837. He is universally considered Russia’s greatest poet and undoubtedly one of the greatest in the World. As with Ramanujan, Abel, or Galois, one can not even imagine what other ideas they could have brought to the great pyramid of human knowledge.