Thursday, January 14, 2010

Book 11: Crime And Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

When I read this book every breath I took was suffused with guilt. Nothing could be free from the taint of corruption. And the corruption came from within, not the other way around. The idea that I could exist outside of that stain was as preposterous as time travel.

Raskolnikov. Just the name produces an interior shudder in me, a throb of recognizance, a sob of regret. Now my sin was not on the order of murder in cold blood as the protagonist of this massive treatise of human psychology has committed. No. But just that small slice I visited upon myself was enough to make me wish that I HAD done something irrevocable. If it was going to hurt this bad without it why not go through the crucible and sin all the way?

How easily we court our own undoing. How much more effort it takes to avoid sin. How attractive is the slippery slope of wrongdoing because once you allow for the possibility that you are capable of such things everything starts to feel EASY.

I've dreamed of killing vagrants, of Leopold and Loeb-ing myself into some heightened state of reality, one in which human life is just another grain of sand slipping through the curved glass of time. I've felt the pull of violence both against myself and others.

Dostoevsky must have understood this pull and so sends Raskolnikov through that circle of fire. In some reviews I don't mind giving away plot points because that isn't really what this blog is about but in this case there is no way to discuss the trajectory the character is on without giving away vast areas of story.

Suffice it to say that the book follows his brain as it attempts to deal with the magnitude of taking a life. Of stopping another heart.

My connection to that comes from the romantic version of that act. I sat my first college girlfriend down and stopped her heart. I will never forget her face and I wished immediately that I could take it back, that I could undo what I'd done, that I could start her heart again. Would my whole life have changed had I done that? A different marriage? No son named Cashel? Probably not, I don't take things that far. But perhaps I'd have trusted myself more along the way, felt more in control of my own life.

As it was, the guilt I talked of ate away at me like an acid for the better part of fifteen years. I had my own Siberia to go to.


Anonymous said...

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Brendan O'Malley said...

Again, Anonymous, your insight into my own writing is piercing and somewhat unnerving. I feel as if we MUST have known each other in another life, one in which you were not spam and I was perhaps a server sending out incomprehensible message after incomprehensible message.

Know what I mean?