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Thread: Psycho Killer, The Russian Edition

  1. #1
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    Psycho Killer, The Russian Edition

    Also known as ó Преступление и наказание

    Oh alright, for us gringos itís Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

    So, a few of us here have decided to start reading this book in a couple weeksí time, and Iíd like to invite anybody else with an interest in Russian literature to join us. One thing Iíve always enjoyed about the Litnet is that itís a happy place for book worms to gather and share ideas about what theyíre reading. Mostly. Every once in while thereís a shouting match over important topics such as comma placement. Hey, I get it, people have strong opinions about the Oxford comma. Apostrophes too. Is it ó a couple of weeks' time? week's time? weeks time? weekes times? Donno, but I digress. Speaking if digression, as with all Sancho-initiated threads, straying off topic is not discouraged; in fact itís highly encouraged. Digression from the mean is where all the fun stuff happens, eh?:

    Also, on Sancho-initiated threads, I like to start with a tune:

    https://youtu.be/eauZzwt8Ci8?si=tMIbZYzszSvV48B6
    Talking Heads, Psycho Killer

    I donít really know if that's appropriate theme music or not. I havenít read the book yet. I'm a blank slate. Just in case Iím way off base, hereís another candidate:

    https://youtu.be/iCEDfZgDPS8?si=V7Y59WbfWHWrr_gI
    Modest Mussorgsky, Night on Bald Mountain

    Woo! This one might be a good late-night read.

    By the way Iím not even going to try to read the Russian edition. Iíve got a copy of the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation. Thatís the one Iím planning to start readingÖin a couple of weeks.
    Uhhhh...

  2. #2
    Registered User hellsapoppin's Avatar
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    For years I thought the name Raskolnikov meant something like "rascal" or evil rascal. I sure as heck was wrong as it has far more transcendent implications than that:


    Raskolnikov is the protagonist of the novel, and the story is told almost exclusively from his point of view. His name derives from the Russian word raskolnik, meaning “schismatic” or “divided,” which is appropriate since his most fundamental character trait is his alienation from human society. His pride and intellectualism lead him to disdain the rest of humanity as fit merely to perpetuate the species. In contrast, he believes that he is part of an elite “superman” echelon and can consequently transgress accepted moral standards for higher purposes such as utilitarian good. However, that guilt that torments him after he murders Alyona Ivanovna and Lizaveta and his recurring faintness at the mention of the murders serve as proof to him that he is not made of the same stuff as a true “superman” such as Napoleon. Though he grapples with the decision to confess for most of the novel and though he seems gradually to accept the reality of his mediocrity, he remains convinced that the murder of the pawnbroker was justified. His ultimate realization that he loves Sonya is the only force strong enough to transcend his ingrained contempt of humanity. Raskolnikov’s relationships with the other characters in the novel do much to illuminate his personality and understanding of himself. Although he cares about Razumikhin, Pulcheria Alexandrovna, and Dunya, Raskolnikov is so caught up in his skeptical outlook that he is often unappreciative of their attempts to help him. He turns to Sonya as a fellow transgressor of social norms, but he fails to recognize that her sin is much different from his: while she truly sacrifices herself for the sake of others, he essentially commits his crime for his sake alone. Finally, his relationship with Svidrigailov is enigmatic. Though he despises the man for his depravity, he also seems to need something from him—perhaps validation of his own crime from a hardened malcontent.


    https://www.sparknotes.com/lit/crime...r/raskolnikov/
    When stupidity is considered patriotism, it is unsafe to be intelligent

    ~ Isaac Asimov

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    Registered User hellsapoppin's Avatar
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    Years ago I wrote an essay about my reflections on 19th century Russian classical literature. Part of it was published in the NY Times book forum. The forum and its many writings are now archived and I was not able to trace it.

    One thing that I remember about it was my view that these great Russian classics were apocalyptic and warned of an impending socio-political cataclysm. That because of a historical dialectic, something wicked was about to transpire. There was so much injustice, economic disparity, political repression, suppression of free thought and free speech, that religious institutions failed to provide the comforts they promised and that, instead, were supporters of the coercive and repressive state, that nihilism was the truth in that there was no after life, no heavenly Reward as promised by the churches, that all this government terror would lead to a highly violent revolution, that unjust wars of imperialistic terrorism would lead to counter war with countless casualties, and so on. History shows that, indeed, there was such a catastrophic response through the Revolution of 1917 and the emergence of Bolshevism. It was inevitable as Hegel and Marx taught. The difference between Hegel and Marx being IIRC that the former wrote how alienation of the people from their religious institutions was the cause of the world's problems while the latter believed it was the great economic disparities that was the real cause. They were both correct but I believe history shows that Marx was a bit more on point.

    While many Americans are fascinated with those great books, they fail to note that the post Bolshevik era saw the emergence of equally great literature. Sadly, much of it was destroyed by the Bolsheviks for supposedly being bourgeoisie (it wasn't). Instead, the genre revealed the many shortcomings of the Soviet Revolution and its aftermath. For a listing and review of this, I recommend the following site:


    http://www.sovlit.net/


    Very little of this was openly published under dictator Stalin. When he died in the 1950s a gradual release of some of these writings took place. Much of which was done under the direction of Aleksandr Tvardovsky of Novy Mir:





    I credit him with doing more to destroy the Soviet empire than any other person. This because the truths he exposed caused socialists and other members of the extreme left to renounce Sovietism and communism.
    When stupidity is considered patriotism, it is unsafe to be intelligent

    ~ Isaac Asimov

  4. #4
    Registered User bounty's Avatar
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    ive got ~200 pgs left in house of sand and fog. if we set the first weekend in February as a start date for Dostoevsky, that should work for me.

    the idea of theme music is fun---I love night on bald mountain, but I wonder about my ability to see 19th century Russians as opposed to mickey mouse and john Travolta from fantasia and Saturday night fever.

    if you could transport Dostoevsky ~200 yrs into his future/our present, do you think he could listen to the talking heads and go "that's it!!"

    I just grabbed my copy of crime and punishment, mines a translation by constance garnett. I thought for sure I had a sparks/cliff/monarch notes of the book, but at first glance I didn't see one.

    poppin, your revelation about tvardovsky was interesting. the subversive nature of literature is fascinating. some years ago I really enjoyed reading Lolita in tehrehan.

  5. #5
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    Night on Bald Mountain was my introduction to classical music. I think my dad was tired of me cranking Zeppelin at the house, so he gave me a copy of it on LP ó ďYou might want to try this.Ē It was a good choice. I wore it out. The cover art was eerie, and on that version the title was translated as A Night on Bare Mountain, which I mentally converted to A Night on Bear Mountain. I thought it was about some poor guy in the mountains being chased by bears all night long.

    It was a great introduction to a class of music Iíd never really paid any attention to. Next was Scheherazade by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov ó ďhey, if you liked that one, you might like this jazzy little number by the drummer, Rim-Shot Korsakov.Ē Yuk-yuk. A while back I mentioned this to one of our Litnet members who goes by Scheherazade and she told me I might like the book A Thousand and One Arabian Nights. ó Wait! Thereís a book too! Awesome! So, full circle, itís just another example of why I like this website.

    Hellsapoppin, have you tried an e-reader? Iím a recent convert and Iím wondering why I didnít go this way a long time ago. Iím not trying to put any more money in Jeff Bezosí pocket, but Iím sold on the Kindle Paperwhite. The text is scalable, itís easy on the eyes, you can highlight and make all the notes you want, and with the app on an iPad you can even cut-and-paste text onto a literature website. Ahem.

    By the way, that Sovlit website is fantastic!
    Uhhhh...

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Lol. Great reading project and as it is on Litnett one can be sure of unconventional and original opinions. Read the book more than once but many, many years ago Dosto being a favorite author. So if my eyesight allows, I will but in occasionally.

    Speaking of Dostoevsky reminds me of Prendle Le Mick, who was a great Dosto man. Where might he be?
    "I seemed to have sensed also from an early age that some of my experiences as a reader would change me more as a person than would many an event in the world where I sat and read. "
    Gerald Murnane, Tamarisk Row

  7. #7
    Registered User hellsapoppin's Avatar
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    Sancho,

    Hellsapoppin, have you tried an e-reader? Iím a recent convert and Iím wondering why I didnít go this way a long time ago. Iím not trying to put any more money in Jeff Bezosí pocket, but Iím sold on the Kindle Paperwhite. The text is scalable, itís easy on the eyes, you can highlight and make all the notes you want, and with the app on an iPad you can even cut-and-paste text onto a literature website.


    Haven't tried one yet as they are so expensive. But mebbe some day ...
    When stupidity is considered patriotism, it is unsafe to be intelligent

    ~ Isaac Asimov

  8. #8
    Registered User hellsapoppin's Avatar
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    Nihilism

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/nihil...rodolph-zgheib


    The nihilistic movement or the anarchist movement is a rather important Russian political current, although it is fragmented into different movements such as liberating communism, anarcho-syndicalism, individualist anarchism and nonviolent anarchism (Michael. A, 1866).

    Among the most prominent symbols of the nihilistic movement are Nikolai Chernyshevsky, a pioneering nihilistic theorist and utopian socialist, Dmitry Pisarev, a prominent nihilist theorist and defender of natural sciences, Sergei Nechayev, a revolutionary nihilist often associated with propaganda for action and terrorism, and Leo Tolstoy, a great writer, considered by many to be a pacifist anarchist and a Christian anarchist, and "Nikolai Chernyshevsky" a Russian literary and social critic, journalist, novelist, and socialist philosopher, often identified as a utopian and a Russian socialist (Scanlan, 1998).

    The nihilist movement rebelled against tradition and social order by abolishing any authority wielded by the state, religion, or family. As a result, student engagement increased, providing the backdrop for a series of educational changes performed by Alexander II under the supervision of Minister of Education Alexander Golovnin (Scanlan, 1998). These changes were rejected by the rebellious students, and the nihilism movement created significant social and economic turmoil throughout the country, providing the incentive for revolutionary activity among university students in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Concurrent with these upheavals, a massive fire broke out in Saint Petersburg in the spring and summer of 1862, threatening to destroy the city. The arson spread throughout Russia as well. Fyodor Dostoevsky allegedly blamed Nikolai Chernyshevsky for inspiring revolutionaries to action and begged him to cease (Petrov, 2019, p. 73).

    The nihilist movement also engaged in a campaign of political terror through clandestine anti-absolutist organizations. Sergei Nechayev was charged with the most significant political killings, most notable as King Alexander II's assassination in 1881 (Hingley 1969, p.90).

    During 1863, Russia's revolutionary situation was nearly exhausted; a general peasant uprising began, but the revolutionary action began to fade, and many members of the assembly were arrested or forced to emigrate, and they failed in their attempts to arrange Chernyshevsky's escape from criminal slavery, who was detained as a political prisoner in the Peter and Paul Fortress. In the 1870s and early 1880s, Sergei Nechaev's pamphlet fueled revolutionary aggression within the movement and pushed for a violent confrontation with the tsarist authority, resulting in scores of attacks against the Russian state (Hingley 1969, p.92).

    Eventually, the 1860s and 1870s nihilists were viewed as unkempt, unorganized, disobedient, and torn persons who revolted against tradition and social order. The concept of nihilism was thus incorrectly connected with the assassination of King Alexander II in 1881 and the political terror employed by individuals engaged at the time in underground anti-absolutist groups. For conservative elements, then, nihilists were the curse of the age (Gillespie, 1996, p. 140).

    Friedrich Nietzsche is most known for coining the word nihilism to characterize the dissolution of conventional morality in twentieth-century Western civilization. (Michael. A, 1996). A conservative journalist, Mikhail Nikiforovich Katkov, understood nihilism as identical with revolution and portrayed it as a societal hazard owing to its rejection of all moral values (Lovell, 1998). Chernyshevsky strove to identify the good sides of nihilism at the time, and described it as a symbol of resistance to all forms of oppression, hypocrisy, artificiality, and for individual freedom; It established a view on scientific fact alone, and that science is the answer to all societal issues (Lovell, 1998). According to nihilists, all misfortunes stem from one source: ignorance, which science alone can remove (Petrov, 2019, p.71).


    ✱ ✱ ✱ ✱ ✱

    Nikolai Chernyshevsky fiery book What Is to be Done? set the 19th century Russian literary house afire and influenced all the great writers we cherish today. But Alexander Pushkin was probably the true Founding Father of the genre. He wrote of injustices, revolution, social reform, and was himself exiled for his bold writings. However, his writings had more of a Romanticist element to them. One example I can immediately think of the short story "Dubrovsky" which was made into a neat silent film comedy entitled "The Eagle" [1925] with Rudolph Valentino:





    I don't want to give away the plot or conclusion but there was one scene that always got me - one I could never forget. It dealt with a certain creature hidden away in a wine cellar. I will say no more so as not to despoil.

    One thing that is perfectly clear with all these writings is that the writers were disgusted with every manner of evil injustice that befouled Russia in those days. Small wonder why they had such a great influence on so many social reform movements including the Hippy movement of the 1960s.
    When stupidity is considered patriotism, it is unsafe to be intelligent

    ~ Isaac Asimov

  9. #9
    Registered User hellsapoppin's Avatar
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    Sorry if this is a worthless repetition but here is Valentino in The Eagle:


    https://www.youtube.com/results?sear...agle+valentino

    https://archive.org/details/TheEagle...eTV2ndGen..mp4



    For years I thought this movie was based on Pushkin's Kavkaskii Plenik (Prisoner of the Caucasus) but was instead on the unfinished novel Dubrovsky.


    http://faculty.washington.edu/jdwest...0/prisoner.pdf
    When stupidity is considered patriotism, it is unsafe to be intelligent

    ~ Isaac Asimov

  10. #10
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    Fyodor Dostoevskyís dates are November 11, 1821 ó February 9, 1881
    He was born in Moscow and he died in St Petersburg

    Crime and Punishment was published in 1866 in serial installments in The Russian Messenger, an influential literary/political magazine based in St Petersburg.

    For context here are the dates of a few important guys:

    Leo Tolstoy: 1828 - 1910
    Nicholas I of Russia: 1796 - 1855
    Friedrich Nietzsche: 1844 - 1900
    Karl Marx: 1818 - 1883
    Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky 1840 - 1893
    Napoleon Bonaparte 1769 -1821
    Charles Darwin 1809 - 1882
    Abraham Lincoln 1809 - 1865
    Vladimir Lenin 1870 - 1924
    Mark Twain 1835 - 1910
    Anton Chekov 1860 - 1904

    Iím still trying to wrap my head around the broad swath of Russian history. Early on there were Scythians, Goths, Huns, Khazars, and Slavs from 3 points of the compass. Vikings showed up in the early/high middle ages and were called ĎRusí, which means Ďredí (evidently a lot of them had red hair). Mongols invaded. Power coalesces around Moscow. Mongols are tossed. Tzars take over. Russian Empire rises. What can I say, Revolution happens. (Power to the people, baby) Soviet Union. Russian Federation. Next, who knows?

    The above paragraph is reductive to the point of stupidity, but, as Popeye famously said, ďI yam who I yam.Ē

    Hey, hellsapoppin, thanks for all the background and links. The more I can understand about Dostoevskyís time and place, and influences, the better the reading experience of this book will be. You know, I think an e-reader device itself can be had fairly inexpensively, but they get you with the downloads. Itís almost like a 25 cent hamburger at McDís ó theyíre making their money on the fries. Anyway I left my Kindle on an airplane a while back and a week or so later I went to the lost-and-found at the airport. A nice lady took me back to where they had all the stuff turned in by the airplane cleaners. There were boxes and boxes of e-readers. Mine wasnít there, but the lady said, ďtake your pick.Ē
    Uhhhh...

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    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    Some time during his 20s Fyodor Dostoevsky started suffering epileptic seizures, which continued on and off for the rest of his life. The seizures most likely began while he was imprisioned in Siberia. He wrote about the conditions in a Siberian prison, which evidently make a place like San Quentin or Angola look like a community center. He also wrote about the experience of having an epileptic seizure. He had chronic money problems, which sometimes meant he wrote furiously to meet a deadline so he could pay his bills. His difficulty with money was closely related to his love of gambling, which he also wrote about.

    ó One thousand rubles on a six, the hard way. Címon, címon, baby needs new shoes. Aw Jeeze, crapped out ó
    Uhhhh...

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hellsapoppin View Post
    Haven't tried one yet as they are so expensive. But mebbe some day ...
    I use a Sansung tablet in the evenings, poppins. There are several gratis e-readers on Google Playstore for you to choose. I use the Russian Read Era but of course there are others.
    "I seemed to have sensed also from an early age that some of my experiences as a reader would change me more as a person than would many an event in the world where I sat and read. "
    Gerald Murnane, Tamarisk Row

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    Registered User bounty's Avatar
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    I think if we're trying to get a small handle on Dostoevsky's times and some of the influences that are going to show up in his literature, you cannot forego the eastern orthodox church. im by far not an expert on Russian history but the presence of the church during his time was huge and I wouldn't be surprised to see the church appear, in some form, in the novel.

  14. #14
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    I bet you’re right. I don’t know much about the Russian Orthodox Church either, but I’m pretty sure it falls on the Constantinople side of the schism. Being a man of faith, though, makes Dostoevsky an outlier with members of the Russian literati. I’ve read a lot of Flannery O’Connor’s work. She was a devout Roman Catholic, but approached her work from a non-religious viewpoint. She had a strong faith in grace and redemption and she wanted to explore those ideas, but she wrote for people who were skeptical of those ideas.

    Years ago took a class on the “long 19th century”, which was about European history from the French revolution to WWI. It’s a complex era. What I remember most about the Russian part of the long 19th century was that it was mostly “General Winter” who defeated Napoleon.
    Uhhhh...

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    havent read this yet, but it looks like it hits the mark:

    Christianity and the 19th Century Russian Novel

    https://www.thinkingfaith.org/articles/20101119_1.htm

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