Chekov, as timeless as is endless life’s coil of mortality

“Uncle Vanya,” to me, just like all of the Chekov I have had the pleasure to read, which, unfortunately, is not yet all that he has gifted us, is simply about our fear of death, the fear of our suddenly being planted into the soil to become nothing more than worm dirt without ever having done anything of lasting value, of becoming, in a sense, immortal…

My Crime, My Punishment

BOOK | FICTION | LITERATURE
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
by Fyodor Dostoevsky

RATING: ★ ★ ★

Fyodor Dostoevsky
Fyodor Dostoevsky

My crime?

Posing myself as a Fyodor Dostoevsky fanboy for just about all my adult life.

Why is this a crime?

Because, in all honesty, I never really read Dostoevsky…until recently.

Well, I did pass my eyes over all the words of his NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND (some editions translate it as LETTERS FROM THE UNDERWORLD) back in my early twenties.

But as an early twenty-something, I didn’t stand a chance with Dostoevsky seeing that research has proven at that age brains aren’t yet fully developed. For all intents and purposes, according to science, someone in their early to mid twenties is still an adolescent. Which, in retrospect, explains many things about my life. And which begs the question, how can someone without a fully developed prefrontal cortex truly appreciate or fully comprehend something as complex and nuanced as Dostoevsky’s writing?

As I’ve come to find out, even with a fully developed prefrontal cortex Dostoevsky is still rather overwhelming and abstruse.

Unlike Franz Kafka, who I also first read in my early twenties, I never went back to Dostoevsky over the years. I don’t know why. Perhaps my adolescent twenty-something self did understand more of what he read than I now give him credit for. But over the years, I did revisit Kafka’s work – often – and his writing has been, and continues to be, what I consider a foundational pillar of my intellectual being (for better or worse). There are other writers, too, whom I consider foundational to my being. Writers such as Vonnegut, Hemingway, Kerouac, Camus (yes, all the stereotypical white male authors one would expect a stereotypical white male dude like me would admire), among others.

But even though I never went back to Dostoevsky, and even though I am quite sure my twenty-something adolescent self had no clue what the NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND was about, all throughout the years in my mind I regarded him to be just as fundamental to my core as the writers whom I just listed.

Again, I do not know why. Probably because, like I already confessed, I was just a poser who enjoyed thinking that he knew what the hell Dostoevsky was about.

In my defense, I don’t think I ever made a public spectacle of myself with any obnoxious proclamations of deep knowledge of his writings; nor did I ever engage in any self-righteous debates or arguments with someone who did know and understand Dostoevsky’s works.

No, I believe my fanboy-dom was not a public lie, it was more a self lie. Somehow, somewhere deep down in my subconsciousness I came to believe that Dostoevsky was important to me when in fact he wasn’t.

Only the idea of Dostoevsky was important to me.

That is my crime.

So what, then, is my punishment?

Guilt.

I feel tremendous guilt. For, after a lifetime of self-deception in believing that Dostoevsky’s work was deeply meaningful to me, I find that after rereading NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND (twice now) and finally reading CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, perhaps Dostoevsky’s most acclaimed work, I really do not enjoy his writing as much as I thought I did…or should.

What is wrong with me?

Much.

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