Perhaps the mission of those who love mankind is to make people laugh at the truth, to make truth laugh, because the only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for the truth.
- Umberto Eco
Whether you find Raskolnikov's predicament convincing or not. Crime and Punishment is a mother of a mover. The reader is swept up in it as if they are on a rocket sled descent into hell.
One thing that struck me about the book was the grandiosity of the emotions of every character. I thought upon reading it, "is everyone in Russia a manic depressive." This book should be prefaced by the phrase, "We're all mad here."
I read some other short stories including Notes from the Underground but I was reading Gogol at the same time and my memory may have conflated them with The Overcoat and others.
Too much happiness
By Alice Munro
short story in August Harper's Magazine
some mention of FMD, excellent story, also
There is a similar novel written by a Malayalam writer on the life of Dostoesky. Oru Sankeerthanam Pole ( like a hymn) by Perumbadavam Sreedharan.
from wiki :
I dont think it is translated to other languages yet, but I have read the same in Malayalam.Oru Sankeerthanam Pole
The novel Oru Sankeerthanam Pole was first published in 1993 and was released in its 37th edition on 1 November 2008 after setting publishing records in 2005. It is a story based on the life of famous Russian writter, Fyodor Dostoevsky and his wife Anna. This highly successful novel has sold over 100,000 copies in about 12 years. This is a record in Malayalam literature.
Funny, I like "Idiot" the least of his 'great' novels. It's the only one which I won't reread in the new translation that's been coming out in German. I cannot really stand that book.
Brothers Karamazov, Demons and Idiot the three novels I love from Dostoievsky. I didn't like Crime and Punishment that much. Only four novels I read, I started The Raw Youth but somehow wasn't in the mood (first 20 pages from any Dostoievsky's book is a real effort, then it's a real pleassure).
I read almost all of Dostoevski before I knew much about Russian literary history. The intensity of the inter-subjective state i.e. the "static tension" (as Andrei Tarkovsky put it in his book Sculpting in Time.) within his characters, in great contradistinction to the plot ( and "historical happenings") driven works of Tolstoy(and even somehow Turgenev), made Dostoevski a great favorite. Of course, thinking back, this is one of the authors that belonged to "me alone" in my school years.
In one of Samuel Beckett's early (age 26 or so) letters to his brother he says something like "no one captures the madness or mad energy of dialog like Dostoevsky". He then goes on to say "The Possessed must have been badly written even in the original, and is full of newspaper-ease". I can't think of any writer of Dostoevsky's stature who I have so often heard called simply bad.
I claim that Dostoevsky and Tolstoy greatly overshadow, in importance to the western cannon (even the world cannon of today.), the traditional and conservative "nationalist cult" favorites Pushkin and Larmontov. Dostoevsky said that out from under Gogol's Overcoat came Russian literature (or the new Russian novelists of psychology) and Virgina Wolf said of Dostoevski "he is the man more than any other who has created modern prose, and intensified it to its present-day pitch." In the Wikipedia article on Dostoevski were Woolf is quoted she goes on to mention Shakespeare.
I remember years ago formulating a category which included Dostoevski, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Melville and Dickens for a kind of monolithic stature of world building, debating which was the best and perhaps still coming up with Shakespeare (although this could be cultural bias due to his lionization in the English speaking world.)
Last edited by Backwords; 19-Oct-2009 at 04:16.
I might be able to accept that, that Dostovetski and Tolstoy are overstated in the western canon. I would argue against that on Tolstoy, he was worshiped as near god in the Russian literary world from a young age and if not for his neurosis and constant personal crisis which led him to bury himself into his strange and reactionary Religious beliefs. Personally, I find War and Peace an awful novel, I would have students read it merely to teach them everything that is wrong and flawed with 19th Century prose; A character is introduced by a lengthy spill completely defining their character and then further paragraphs are devoted to intensely cataloging the subtleties of each infliction of voice and body motion. I love Anna Karenina though, he tempered his faults so much, he is more straight to the point and while the book contains its fair share of flat sections there are some which I marvel at, for instance when his brother dies, I can think of no book or passage that ever disturbed me so much, made me terrified of death, clinging to my bed as if it was I myself dying and trying to hang on to life, and then he amazingly ties then with his reaffirmation of his love and dependence on Kitty. Anna Karenina is in so many ways the better novel, it is the novel about people, the epic of human tragedy, stunning in its depth of emotion, sympathy, and display of hypocrisy in its society, while War and Peace is a novel of events and ideas which people act out in epic fashion.
I've just read some essays by Brodsky and his Noble lecture. In his "Catastrophes in the Air" Brodsky developed the theme on literature in general and on Dostoevsky in particular. Maybe it will be interesting for you.
Last edited by learna; 19-Oct-2009 at 18:29.
19th century prose wrong and flawed? come on, there's little doubt XIX century is the golden age of the Novel, could it be possible with a prose wrong and flawed. Anyway those students should read George Eliot's Middlemarch (which I like) or anything by Balzac (and I love most of what Balzac wrote) if looking for those lengthy spills, and probably they would love both of them.
But, as I remember, not so many spills about characters in War and Peace, not about characters, not about rooms or dresses or anything but a lot of action and dialogue (well at least in my translation, but it's more than 1000 pages so I doubt there's something missing).
Thx for the "Catastrophes in the Air" heads up. /
Tolstoy as the exception which proves the cliched boast "more then you can imagine"? or Tolstoy: The Mind of the Moralist.
It's true, Tolstoy has created passages of terrific vision which give one the impression of having met something previously beyond the scope of imagination. This is how bits of My Confession struck me.
I don't know Tolstoy all that well, Dostoevsky too, like Tolstoy, is Idolized in Russia, but also everywhere. I can read anything Dostoevsky wrote with interest but Tolstoy, no.
Usually (by conventional wisdom?) Pushkin is cited as the greatest Russian writer with the caveat that he does not translate well. The Queen of Spadesis a magnificent short story, but is there some kind of mystification in this business about not translating well (only really appealing to Russian's with their shared history...or what have you.)? Give us a link to a thesis on this subject. :P
Back to Dostoevsky, he was planning a sequel to Brother's Karamazov concerning the married life of Alyosha and Liz etc. . Apparently his notebooks were full of this subject at his death. For years tidbits and rummers about a translation and publication. Still not yet?
Google search reveals this very provocative teaser -
DOSTOEVSKY?S ENDGAME: THE PROJECTED SEQUEL TO
Can the "living dead" (still remembered dead) Dostoevsky "rise again" in the third century after death to the delight of his fans?
"If it is preached that Alyosha has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?" - 1. Karamazov 12:3
But yes, a great deal of 19th century writing is extremely, exhaustively, lengthy and overwritten, I can only keep shuddering with my nightmare as I remember most of the first 50 straight pages of War and Peace, Anna Pavlovna was it not, where I am given a wonderfully technical outline of her character and then an elaborate ball which consists of a stream of people she meets and in depth commentary on how their tones and body language suggest their opinion and attitude to the neurotic Pavlovna, (neurotic to me), and then it continues with events and defining characters and intricate interactions for quite sometime but with little personal feeling, at least compared to Anna Karenina. And speaking of translations, mine was 1463 pages long
?little feeling?!! but Waalkwriter? of course there?s little feeling, it?s a high society soiree in San Peterburg. The atmosphere is oppressive, mundane, affected. And it?s only about 20 pages, almost all dialogued. Descriptions are specific, quick, essential, no abstract concepts here. We know about the characters because of what they say and what they do, there?s no better way I think.
Description is of course important in a third-person narrative, and it would led no way to say too much description or too little. But we still can say ?more? or ?less?: and I think there?s more description in much of XX classic literature: Proust, Mann, Gide, Kafka, Conrad, Lawrence, James?
What a coincidence, my translation is 1462 pages (in Spanish!)
By the way?why did you find Anna Pavlova neurotic?
I think it deserves acknowledgement that FMD was one of the first writers to really get into the psychology of his characters,the characters are so vivid that they still are alive for me today, Ivan and especially Raskolnikov:
"He ran beside the mare, ran in front of her, saw her being whipped across the eyes, right in the eyes! He was crying, he felt choking, his tears were streaming. One of the men gave him a cut with the whip across the face, he did not feel it. Wringing his hands and screaming, he rushed up to the grey-headed old man with the grey beard, who was shaking his head in disapproval. One woman seized him by the hand and would have taken him away, but he tore himself from her and ran back to the mare. She was almost at the last gasp, but began kicking once more."
The passage doesn't illustrate the point so far as I can see, but that scene, as I remember, leads into a psychological interrogation of the "injured man's" wife (by the narrator).
Some claim that what marks Dostoevsky out (Beside his singular psychological vision), following in Gogol's footsteps, is a propensity for acute depiction of "ordinary" people, rather then Heroic types etc. Russian lit has a much shorter history then European. The emancipation of the serfs in 1861 was an outward sign of the general movement towards the recognition of the individual.
Social change in Europe was in the air of Russia from before Dostoevsky's birth, but a lot of his works came after the Emancipation and what twenty years before the rise of the professional revolutionaries like Lenin?
We can't answer the question: "Tolstoy as the exception which proves the cliched boast "more then you can imagine"? or Tolstoy: The Mind of the Moralist" monosemanticly. He combined both.
As for Pushkin... He is one of the greatest poets and writers. I like "The Queen of Spadesis", like all his works, but this is not my favourite. To my opinion, this story can be translated with only some stylistic losses. But if we say about translation of his poetry which is so picturesque, unique with delicate sense of words, its undertones, maybe it is easier to learn Russian and read Pushkin in originals than translate it. There is a very marvelous piece of poetry "bleak time! Seductive eyes!" that is known to each Russian. In my opinion it can't be translated well. How can we translate "ochi"? "Eyes" ? It's impossible. I don't tell about a possibility of transposition of words in Russian and abundance of suffixes, etc.
These are some links on this theme:
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and the second link here:
As for Dostoevsky. We should understand that he was an ill genius. That's why he showed a twilight of the soul and dark sides of the life in general. Some months ago I read a very interesting book "Three Dostoevsky's loves" by Slonim. Maybe it will be interesting for you.
Back to "BK". Unfortunately, I haven't read the article that you'd sent yet.
Last edited by learna; 24-Jun-2010 at 07:20.
"Dostoevsky gives me more then any thinker, more then Gauss." -Einstein
"There's apparently a character know as Hippopotamus who deals in books. The complete works of Dostoievsky including the diaries costs 250 roubles. I must buy it." - Andrei Tarkovsky Diaries 1971
Crime and Punishment is for me unconvincing in a moral and psychological aspect. Having said that, it remains one of the most powerfull novels I have read.