A logical redeemer: Kirillov in Dostoevsky’s 'Demons'

Derek Allan
Australian National University
The engineer Kirillov, a major character in Dostoevsky's 'Demons', has provoked considerable critical disagreement. In 'The Myth of Sisyphus', Albert Camus argues that he expresses the theme of ‘logical suicide’ with ‘the most admirable range and depth’. Some recent commentators, however, have dismissed Kirillov as a madman in the grip of a mad theory. While dissenting from Camus’s analysis in certain respects, this article offers an interpretation consistent with his basic argument. Kirillov’s suicide is based on a simple, if implacable, logic which convinces him that as long as he kills himself for the right reason, his death will be an act of redemption for all humanity. Kirillov is a wholly ‘metaphysical’ character – one of the earliest in modern fiction – whose ambition to become the ‘man-god’ is explored by Dostoevsky to its ultimate, desolate conclusion.
Keywords Kirillov Dostoevsky logical redemption Camus suicide
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