Johannes Linnankoski's 'Eternal Struggle': Cain vs Abel

For reference:

I read a synopsis in Esperanto of Johannes Linnankoski's Ikuinen taistelu (Eternal Struggle), which has never been translated from Finnish to English or to Esperanto:

Setälä, Vilho. “La tragedio de l’ homo—la eterna lukto,” Norda Prismo, 1969, n-ro 1, p. 9-13.

He was inspired by Imre Madách's The Tragedy of Man. Here Cain is the most sympathetic figure; he represents human enterprise as opposed to the lazy regression to the infantile state represented by Abel. Adam is a broken, defeated man. Cain is the one who sees the potential of human industriousness, supported by his wife Ada. I'm not so sure about Lucifer, who encourages Cain's rebellion.

I see the influence of Madách in Cain's wife Ada; she, like Madách's Eve, seems to represent the material will to live, not to accept hopelessness. Cain, in despair after killing Abel, seeing his future as nothing but misery, contemplates suicide, but Ada, representing the life force, talks him out of it, telling him she is pregnant and that the future can be filled with joy as well as heartbreak.

There remains an inherent weakness, or at least something unresolved, even in the inversion of the orthodox interpretation of the Biblical myth: neither Lucifer nor Cain are completely autonomous figures; they are dynamic, but still reactive, which implies, I suppose, that no one is really self-determining in an oppressive universe. 

Mythological symbolism has its limitations, but it is one of the ways in which humans are able to conceptualize their experience, and it can be highly protean even as orthodox interpretations are imposed by authoritarian institutionalization. 

It has been thought by some people who see something liberatory in Biblical mythology--I think Ernst Bloch was one of them--that there is a dynamic here opposed to the static view of the cosmos in Eastern religion in which the order of things is fixed for all time and the individual's task is to be harmoniously absorbed into it.  Mythical structures can be reinterpreted multiple ways and if one sufficiently abstracts out of dogmatic religious doctrines and institutions, one can prove just about anything. Yet while rejecting liberation theology I do see a dynamism here that is much more interesting to play with than the New Age crapola that serves the smug and the comfortable.

No comments: