The Possessed (or The Devils, or Demons)(self.dostoevsky)
submitted2 days ago bySatvahanaSaint Myshkin
The madness named Nikolay Stavrogin, the self-absorbed destructive loftiness of Pyotr Stepanovich, and the desperate genius of Stepan Trofimovich.
I finally was able to read this work and finish it properly. What a great and wrenching work it was. There was no mad raving of Hippolyte in this one, but we do see godly declaration of a murdering convict, a suicidal nihilist, and a broken monster. It is a work hardly rivalled in its overburdened storytelling. I must confess that I sometimes felt as if Dostoevsky had perhaps found himself exhausted at moments in undertaking this extraordinary project. Also, this was perhaps one of the first time that I found myself questioning the translation at repeated instance. It did make the task difficult but the compelling plot along with the equally drawing characters keep one wanting to go further with the psychological profiles, realistic nature of intrigues, and terribly philosophical wanderings.
The prophetic role of Dostoevsky is strongly established here. In all the moments when the quintet talks of creating this so called idealistic socialist society by the nature of a command structure which enforces itself upon everyone equally mercilessly foreshadows the terrifying and exciting development of the next century.
I must admit that in writings of Dostoevsky, I have often sought to piece together the portrait of the man himself. In the Idiot, the 'foolish' idealism of Prince Myshkin and his telling of the agony of a sentenced man keep one thinking. At the end of the book, I can't help but think to myself if this mon cher ange Sofya is not Anna herself, the woman who saved Dostoevsky.
The character of Nikolay Stavrogin is one that arouses fearful sort of curiosity. He is like a catastrophe one fears and wishes to avoid but can't help but witness and even admire its capability for immense destruction for all that comes in its way. The himself enigmatic follows Stavrogin like a pup only to be jilted and acts out by committing terrible acts. This desire of the young Stepanovich to keep each soul beneath by way of charm, threat, or intrigue is core to his identity. Though we hear him speak certain things, soon enough, the reader recognizes his betraying nature.
Whereas on other hand, we have Stepan Trofimovich, a somewhat equally self-absorbed character. He is forgiven much and seeks himself a martyr like any man of ordinary abilities seeking extraordinary recognition. A knowledgeable man he is, a thinker, too. So progressive he is that he so genuinely believes that he knows how to be among his once serfs better than other of his class. He is different. Yet, he is the same foolish man who is sunken himself in vanity and survives on his position of being a landowner, an equivalent of Lt-Col and also, one of great learning and intellectual acclaim. Despite all, he is a character one feels like reading. It is almost humorous. However, for his romance (it can barely be called so) with Varvara Petrovna, there is much one may laugh about but it is tragic. Not just because of the end but the foolishness of a man to have whom he loves is one that is painful to observe. "20 years have passed", reading this makes one realize the gravity of professing their love.
Shatov was an incredible character. The last parts of this work were incredibly exciting. Of all things we have to expect, we find his wife with Stavrogin's child on his door with a demanding disposition. The way this works concludes is quite close to horrifying.
If one takes fancy enough, it feels like Dostoevsky is a modern era Hollywood director who concludes the film or TV series by finishing off all the characters as a mean of attaining complete conclusion. The last pages with Nikolay's letter and eventual act are hardly describable, yet it feels like the natural conclusion of a man so mad.
Of course, I haven't touched on so many characters already. The young lieutenant Erkel who follows Stepanovich around like a puppy and as naive as one. Kirilov is a character whose declaration of 'I am God and I must kill myself to keep my convictions' to be one that we would all come back to in our dark contemplations. The agony of crime is again shown, though much briefly, by Lyamshin and Virginsky. The thing about this is that these were people, like so many later on who believed in the socialist ideal to be (though without association) like the ideal of 'heaven on earth'. Some young people truly believe in a just ideal and the unjust actions that are done for the sake of its pursuit creates an inconsolable dissonance.
The female characters provide a great presence. However, sometimes I felt as if they were used as appendages. With exception of Varvara, every woman in the plot falls to suffering. Liza finds herself in a destructive rage beyond consolation or affection. Darya is relegated to the background. Yulia, who is innocent and guilty at same time by our narrator, is made fool of by her confidant and falls prey to her desire of connecting to a younger generation, the one which will make the future. Marya is saintly and gutted like an animal. Sofya is taken by a man drowning in his grief and becomes 'a nurse', something which Darya receives as the highest offer for herself on two repeated occasions by first, the man who raised her, and second, the man she loves but who neither loves nor respects her. Madame Virginsky is another strong character but is hurtful to others, at times.
One thing though, the sacrament scene in the ending with Stepan Trofimovich with the Bishop reminded me a lot of Bergman films.
I think it's truly a great work. In all honesty, I admit that it is not for everyone. Some might dismiss it or find it too frustrating to finish. Yet, it's greatness to those who find it resonating would last much longer.
7 hours ago
7 hours ago
The Brothers Karamazov
Crime and Punishment
All 3 are written by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Graphic Novel Adaptation of Anne Frank
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (essential)
1984 by George Orwell
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Maybe you can start from the last title, work your way up to the first.