Karl Ristikivi ajalooliste romaanide sari: võrdlus Dante Alighieri „Jumaliku komöödiaga“ / Karl Ristikivi’s series of historical novels: a comparison with Dante’s Divine Comedy

Krista Keedus

Abstract


In depicting a comprehensive religious world view, Karl Ristikivi’s series of historical novels is structured, like Dante’s Divine Comedy, according to the philosophy of the gothic cathedral. With characters, events and themes corresponding with Dante’s masterpiece, the novels form a tri-level structure based on Christian myths. The novels are delineated by associations with paradise (The Burning Flag, The Bridal Veil, Noble Hearts), purgatory (The Last Citadel, The Song of Joy, Dragon’s Teeth) and hell (The Riders of Death, A Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Double Play). Contrary to the philosophy of increasing light found in Divine Comedy, Ristikivi’s historical series of novels portray the descent from light to darkness, from unity to fragmentation, from asceticism to sexuality, and from elevated language and style to comedy and grotesquery. In the first two trilogies, the characters’ ethical bearing steadily deteriorates. As well as comparisons to paradise and its inhabitants, a key theme of the paradise novels is the kingdom of Christ. The virtuous heroes of The Burning Flag and The Bridal Veil, Konradin von Hohenstaufen and St. Catherine of Siena, symbolize two aspects of the kingdom of Christ: the empire and the church. Both characters are also associated with the image of a mountain where salvation is at the top. The model for this is the Mount of Purgatory in Divine Comedy, which has earthly paradise at the top. In the purgatory novels, the characters and motifs are associated, as in Dante’s work, with the cultural sphere. These three novels are permeated with themes such as penitence, guilt and judgement. Brimming with inhumanity and discord, the hell novels feature themes related to the Tower of Babel and making a pact with the devil. Another of Ristikivi’s novels, the metaphysical All Souls’ Night also follows the structure of Divine Comedy and can therefore be regarded as part of the historical series. The world of All Souls’ Night is labryinthian; hierarchies have crumbled in the contemporary atheistic world. The themes of Dante’s masterpiece also appear in Island of Miracles, an interim story that parodies modern society. Similar to All Souls’ Night, Island of Miracles blends paradise, hell and purgatory. The crumbling of hierarchies also appears in the third trilogy, which deals with the new age, symbolizing Ristikivi’s scepticism about the secularised new and modern age. The works that feature chaotic hierarchies are in contrast to the series’ orderly cathedral-like structure followed in the first and second trilogies that take place in the Middle Ages. Modeled after the structure of gothic cathedral and Divine Comedy, Ristikivi’s historical series, with its repetitive and contrasting themes, forms a tightly linked whole. A vivid example of this structure is the motif of the heavenly carriage that reappears in Ristikivi’s texts, inspired by Divine Comedy


Keywords


Karl Ristikivi, historical novels, Gothic, Divine Comedy

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7592/methis.v10i13.1302

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