May 18, 2015
Is Louis C.K. secretly influenced by Russian novels?
by Adly Elewa
Comedian Louis C.K is a fan of Russian literature. Yes, the guy who makes a living pointing out the ways life is futile and absurd loves Dostoevsky. Well actually, I am not sure which Russian authors he likes but recently at a fund raising event he told a hilarious 10 min story about his journey to post-Cold War Russia. A trip inspired by a combination of career malaise and a childhood love of Russian novels …
“I was in my 20s, I had no wife, I had no girlfriend even, I was just this guy, and I had money from a TV job. So I decided to go to Russia ’cause when I was a kid I used to read Russian novels and I loved them and I would open all the windows so I would be cold, I wanted to be cold like they were. So I just decided, and also, someone told me that the wall had just come down in the Soviet Union, that Russia was a really crazy place at the time.
His story is really worth hearing. Listen or read the transcript here.
Meanwhile his tale reads like a stand-alone e.p. of Louie. It has all the trademarks: Isolation. The Subway. A moment of beauty interrupted by something super sad/funny. The story got me thinking: How deep does the Russia/Louie connection go? Can I think of some famous Russian novels that share themes with episodes of Louie …?
1) Crime and Punishment
“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment
The first episode that comes to mind is the epic two part special with Jeremy Renner. In this episode young louie steals scales from his high school science lab to pay for his new hobby: Smoking pot. The episode deals with his desire to confess his crime to his beloved science professor. Much like the protagonist Rodion in Dostoyevsky‘s Crime and Punishment he is racked with guilt.
2) The Brothers Karamazov-Fyodor Dostoyevsky / God-Louie
“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky
If God exist why would he make us suffer in such a cruel world? Both works elucidate this big question. Can you guess which one uses a glory hole as a metaphor for faith?
3) Eugene Onegin – Alexander Pushkin / So Did The Fat Lady-Louie
“Thus people–so it seems to me–
Become good friends from sheer ennui.”
― Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin
The connection between these two works resides in the impulse of both protagonist to conform to social conventions against their best interest. Onegin rejects the love of his life Tatyana and kills his best friend. Louie denies the advances of an obese women with whom he shares great chemistry.
4) Notes from Underground – Fyodor Dostoyevsk / Bummer-Louie
“We think this is the important place — like we live in the center of the goddamn universe. And it’s bullshit; it’s meaningless.” – Louie Bummer
Another ray of sunshine from mother Russia. The connecting theme this time is disillusionment with man’s place in the universe. In Notes from the Underground the protagonist grows disgusted with humans feeble attempts to make a mark on history by wagging wars. The insight for Louie comes after witnessing a homeless man be decapitated by a garbage truck. Kinda hard to go on a movie date after watching a head roll down the street.
5) The Master and Margarita-Mikhail Bulgakov / Never-Louie
“Punch a man on the nose, kick an old man downstairs, shoot somebody or any old thing like that, that’s my job.
― Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita
That kid is evil. He eats raw meat, pushes a stroller into traffic and shits in full bathtub. Just look at him. If Behemoth took the form of a child he would be wearing suspenders and a bow-tie.
Adly Elewa was formerly the art director of Melville House.