Mimetic desire is the desire of an object, not because of a rational choice to fulfill one's own needs, but instead because that object fulfills the needs of a rival subject. It is meta-desire, desire of someone else's desire. Mimetic desire develops out of an attempt to imitate the rival subject. The root of the desire is not in the object or in the desirer, but in a third party, the model or mediator, whose desire is imitated in the hope that [the] two beings will be fused.' Mimetic desire involves contradictory feelings of love and hate, attraction and repulsion. The Other is loved because he is a model for desire, but he is also hated because he denies fulfillment of that desire. Mimetic rivalry leads to a vicious cycle. The desirer becomes an obstacle addict unable to desire in the absence of an obstacle-who-is-also-a-model. He is in a straitjacket, of his own design. The main characters in Yuri Olesha's Envy and Boris Pasternak's Safe Conduct are both consumed by the brutal push-pull of mimetic rivalry.
[...] He represents the rational-minded utilitarian society” which no use Nikolai. Andrei wants to make a sausage that is “nourishing, pure and cheap.” He seeks to increase efficiency and free women from their household chores so that they can participate in the other tasks of building socialism. Andrei embodies Rationalist belief that success and fulfillment lies in identifying specific needs and then meeting them. Olesha highlights his most basic bodily functions—going to the bathroom, sex, and eating. Andrei is associated with fulfillment of fundamental needs. [...]
[...] He says, am not writing my autobiography The history of a poet is not to be presented in such a form.” Instead, he claims to have received his autobiography from Rilke. Although Pasternak views his renunciation of Romanticism as occurring after his disillusionment with Mayakovsky, the truth is that the push-pull cycles of mimetic rivalry driving his behavior from childhood are a living example of the rejection of the Romantic narrative. Aside from the anti- Romanticism Pasternak explicitly voices in his theory of the artist, his life as a series of mimetic rivalries provides another refutation of Romanticism. [...]
[...] Something tore and sought for freedom.” Unlike Nikolai, who remains stuck in a destructive cycle with the same mimetic rival, Pasternak chooses to completely distance himself. His behavior is still cyclical, but he moves through different rivals. He renounces Scriabin and his musical career. He decides that philosophy will be his next endeavor. Pasternak's new mimetic rival is Hermann Cohen, a professor of philosophy at Marburg where he is studying. The ultimate sign of approval from Cohen is an invitation to his Sunday dinner. [...]
[...] It is tragedy of hopeless neurotic deadlock.” Ever since the theme of mimetic rivalry became prevalent in 19th century Russian literature, most notably in Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground, it has been used as a vehicle for anti-Rationalism. is the living example of the Underground Man that constitutes the most devastating argument against the conception of man as a rational being.” In Envy, that anti-Rationalism is especially significant because Soviet society venerated Rationalism to an almost absurd extreme. Soviet society celebrated a technological utopianism. [...]
[...] said to myself: So all this ability, all this that is your own, everything that you yourself look upon as a strength, is insignificant and banal?” Rationalist society threatened to destroy the individualism and personality that Olesha cherished as an artist, but in Envy, Olesha shows through mimetic rivalry that those fundamentals of human nature cannot be destroyed. Pasternak, in his autobiographical Safe Conduct, also uses mimetic rivalry to comment on the sensibility of the artist, but he mainly focuses on the way a mimetically desirous anti-hero challenges Romanticism. [...]
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