The Doubleis the last book I finished before officially launching my current fanaticism for George Orwell. But lest it be overlooked, I want to note tThe Doubleis the last book I finished before officially launching my current fanaticism for George Orwell. But lest it be overlooked, I want to note the worth of this strange little book.
This is Dostoevsky's second novel--following Poor Folk, and previous to the titles that are generally considered to be his masterpieces. It's also written before Dostoevsky's political arrest, his death sentence, his last minute reprieve, and his years in a Siberian prison work camp.
The story follows a painfully awkward civil servant, Mr. Golyadkin, who suffers repeated humilations before encountering a man who is his double in every way. This "Golyadkin junior"--yes, they have the same name too--at first seems to be a friend of "our hero." After all, upon meeting on a bridge on a stormy night, they enjoy an evening of drink ing and conversation. But then, the double turns enemy. He receives undeserved favors, he sets up Golyadkin to be blamed for his own terrible behavior, he actively and publicly condescends Golyadkin before their superiors. And our poor hero never seems to get a break.
With an odd point-of-view--it seems to be omniscent first-person--Dostoevsky sets us up to question whether or not Golyadkin's double is real, or if he's a creation of Golyadkin's broken mind. We join Golyadkin in his constant chase through claustrophobic, labyrinthine streets--he's always moving, even when he doesn't know where he's going, much to the ire of his cab drivers. And the question over whether or not the double exists almost seems to be moot when we realize that, as far as Golyadkin is concerned, he exists whether he's real or not. And in the most concrete terms, Golyadkin's life and dignity may never recover.
I'm tempted to read this next to Notes from the Underground, or the scene in The Brothers Karamazov in which Ivan talks with the devil hiding under his table. The Double lays the groundwork for Dostoevsky to more maturely handle psychological realism; he simply gets a better grip on the devices of, for example, unreliable narrators and image and syntatic repetition. I appreciated that Dostoevsky used an almost punishing close-up on Golyadkin throughout the text to convey the obsession and paranoia that consumes him, but I believe that in later works, the author grows to a point where he holds not only that one, unsettling shot, but he turns the camera in a way that offers complimentary variation without losing focus.
I'm fascinated about how Dostoevsky's obsessions persist--even through the tumultuous years that followed in his life. Doubles appear constantly in Dostoevsky work, particularly in The Idiot. The subtitle of The Double is revealing: "A Petersburg Poem." So begins the the writer's lifelong interest in the relationship of cityscapes to the mental state of his characters.
It begs me to question what would still consume my mind after my last minute reprieve from a death sentence....more
1. Ol' Jane Austin is hilariously funny, particularly in mocking the rituals of manners, politeness, empty admWhy Reading P&P is Ridiculously Fun:
1. Ol' Jane Austin is hilariously funny, particularly in mocking the rituals of manners, politeness, empty admiration, false modesties, class hierarchy and ambition, and courtship. She would've fit right in with most of my pals.
2. I love the 1813 wordplay, with regular use of such language as: a) "gratulation"--a word once independent of the prefix "con-" and surely based in the same root as "gratitude" b) "in the mean while"--once two words, "meanwhile's" former incarnation emphasized that it was a common, mean thing to have to wait for a person, a letter, etc. c) "style" spelled as "stile" and "stayed" as "staid." They really liked the letter i back then. d) "condescending" is a postive characteristic. It is admired, for example, that a lady of high rank (in this case, Lady Catherine de Bourgh (!) 'descends' from her rank to share dinner or conversation or compliments with people who are 'lower' than her. She is much admired for meeting people 'on their level.'
3. So much of the story is told in dialogue and in letters...she's very good about placing the story fully in the hands of the characters themselves. Particularly important for closing distance between the reader and the ensemble cast. Also, in dialogue, Austin lets some of the characters hang themselves--commentary isn't needed to reveal the absurdities.
4. I love that family homes have names---"Longbourn," "Hunsford," "Lucas Lodge." Takes me back to the days as a kid, when, upon reading Anne of Green Gables, I attempted to name my family's home something along the lines of "Clark Court." Despite days of awkwardly referring to my home in that way, it didn't catch on.
5. The characters play whist. Just like it's nothing....more
When people ask me what my favorite book is, I answer--in full re cognition of the lfaws of such a question--"The Brothers Karamazov." Lucky for me IWhen people ask me what my favorite book is, I answer--in full re cognition of the lfaws of such a question--"The Brothers Karamazov." Lucky for me I read it for the first time at a moment when I needed it most....more