I had the daunting pile of books in store for my reading and then I looked at the eBook which had been gather digitized dust over the past few weeks. A Delphi Publications “Complete Works of Fyodor Dosteyevesky”. It was some 6000 pages as shown by my Adobe Digital Editions and I felt scared after a long time. The last time such a large text had started in my eye and dared me to complete it was back when I was discovering psychoanalysis and it was another Complete Works, this time of Freud. The feeling of fear aside there was excitement galore, I had only heard of the author’s fame, and had never went into examine his writing. I had sampled his works earlier and I always stopped before going top deep, before finishing the stories. Now, I had a reason to do so. A book that challenged me with its thickness, and a particular group of friends who were pushing me towards exploration of themes I previously dared not touch. So, I began reading the first short story of his, and it was more complex than I could imagine it would be. Not because the language did not pull me but, the simple walls of text put me off almost immediately. I knew I needed to escape for the short story for me was a form that must flow without stopping, I was not used to savoring short stories, I was used to gulping them down and moving to another. The thing with Dostoyevesky is, you cannot afford to do that with any of his stories from what I have read till now.
Finally I begun with “Poor Folk”, something that was rated lowly by the Goodreads members. Then again it was probably the low ratings that attracted me. I have always been the person who trues and read the 2 star books instead of the 5 star ones, probably because those reviews hated on this book by stating that the characters were completely wretched and not worth accounting. I have a history with these characters, no matter whether it be the hateful Heathcliff or the completely free-spirited Scarlett, I fell for them with gusto. Yet, the characters in this novel are in no way comparable to those two, probably because they are not interesting, they seem to be just “normal” in some way. Wretchedly completely normal.
Dostoyevesky comes from the house of Russian authors that brought us our Gogol and he follows the vein. Probably the reason I cannot gel together with this book because it seems so so poor in the way it portrays the people around. There is no sympathy, no romantic wet dreams pushed onto the envelopes of the letters the characters share. Romance there is aplenty, but, the romanticism seems to be lost within the progress. I started feeling awkward, I tended to return to Keats whenever something went amiss, to read something so devoid of romance, so devoid of love and filled with so much tragedy, it made me feel strange. I could not enjoy it and I felt a strange pain in my chest. Now, that I look back to it, it seems that this book was romantic, just a different kind of romance than the pushed onto our plates by those romantics. Dostoyevesky creates an atmosphere that is at once beautiful and tragic, he paints a picture that is not quite visible. He creates landscapes that are alight by their characters.
Ohh the characters, they are normal and thus, so starkly brilliant to the place. Even though the majority of the letters are written in a housing complex where their houses are separated by just a simple amount of road, you feel the distance weigh down upon you. I can appreciate the genius effort by the author, I can feel him in my blood. By the end I was transformed…
The story doesn’t really end though, like my explorations of this author, this novel seems unfinished. But, maybe it is the broken feeling, the fact that it was filled with jagged edges that made the novel what it is. It heralded the return of a new Gogol onto the Russian landscape and it serves as that so perfectly. Next up I would try and read the 2nd novel he wrote.
The 6000 pages still remain, I have gone through only 200 of them at most.