I have been reading Dostoevsky again.
Notes from Underground was one of the few books they made me read in high school that I actually enjoyed. Something about the sheer pessimistic misanthropy of his underground man was so very appealing to my tortured teenage sensibility that I went on to read Crime and Punishment with great relish even though it wasn’t technically assigned. As a teenager, I was too intimidated by the length of his other works to delve in, but then, while I lived abroad, I came across his short stories. They struck me as hilarious! Particularly the one about the dog-murdering cuckold paranoiac. Then I read House of the Dead (which I assure you has nothing to do with the video game or Uwe Bol flick). I found his worlds so vivid and his philosophies so profound that by 25 I had churned through The Brother’s Karamazov, The Idiot and The Possessed in a fever. It was only when I tried to read The Double that I finally faltered.
There is an interesting piece about the tides of his literary reputation over at the Guardian‘s Book Blog that points out that The Double just about ended Dostoevsky’s literary career, so perhaps I’m not alone in being unable to read it.
I haven’t attempted a Dostoevsky novel since then. But the other day I picked up The Gambler because it’s relatively short, which made it seem doable. Turns out it’s all about obsession, and filled with smears against the French. I suspect I will finish it. I’m already half way and I hate to leave a book unread. And then perhaps another run at The Double? No promises, though. Maybe I will just reread those hilarious short stories.