Sunday, May 06, 2007

White Nights

White Nights (i.e. summer nights in Petersburg) by Fyodor Dostoevsky opens with a quite humorous introspection by the narrator. I was laughing out loud at his detailed description of his intimate relationship (with people and inanimate objects alike) where no such relationship exists in reality. The loneliness of his reality fuses with the detail of his dream world when a real relationship with a young naive Nastenka is sparked.

The narrator embarks on beautiful strains of thought, such as when he reflects on idealism in the story of his life:
"For, after all, you do grow up, you do outgrow your ideals, which turn to dust and ashes, which are shattered into fragments; and if you have no other life, you just have to build one up out of these fragments. And meanwhile your soul is all the time craving and longing for something else. And in vain does the dreamer rummage about in his old dreams, raking them over as though they were a heap of cinders, looking in these cinders for some spark, however tiny, to fan into a flame so as to warm his chilled blood by it and revive in it all that he held so dear before, all that touched his heart, that made his blood course through his veins, that drew tears from his eyes, and that so splendidly deceived him!"
This reminds me of Oswald Chambers thoughts in Baffled to Fight Better. One can blind themselves to the tragedy at the core humanity and live a perfectly happy life raking the cinders all the while being "splendidly deceived". But if one removes the blinders, honestly facing the way things really are, one can not help but be pessimistic.

Later, the narrator ponders, after the simple minded Nastenka shares of her love for a man:
"But how beautiful people are when they are gay and happy! How brimful of love their hearts are! It is as though they wanted to pour their hearts into the heart of another human being, as though they wanted the whole world to be gay and laugh with them!"
For the same reason that Crime and Punishment is one of my favorite books, White Nights is written with a fantastic grip on human emotion. Specifically, at times I became filled with such embarrassment by the awkward tension created between the narrator and Nastenka.

Dostoevsky concludes this suprisingly easy to digest, tender, at times humorous, and raw perspective on love with a solid emotionally climatic ending.


Mirranda said...

I confess - I haven't read Dostoevsky.

It sounds marvelous. I shall have to add it to my immense list of "Books to Read Immediately".

Melany said...

Dostoevsky is on my summer reading list. Have you read The Brothers Karamazov? A friend in Romania was recommending it.

David Knepprath said...

Brothers Karamazov is sitting on my book shelf begging to be read.

My warning to you: Having read Crime and Punishment (similiar in length to BK), and now reading some of his shorter works, I highly recommend you start there.

His short stories will give you a taste of his mind and writing style. If it's your cup of tea, then you will thoroughly enjoy tackling one of his heavier 1,000+ page novels.

Matt said...

It's funny...I have a copy of the Brothers which weighs in at 1000+ pages and a copy of Crime and Pun, which is only like 600 pages.

Oh, publishers, you fill my life with laughter!

Anonymous said...

I became acquainted with Dostoevsky while teaching at a college in Eastern Europe. Just last month I finished The Possessed, which completes my tour of his five major works.

Although I could strangle him for having written "Notes from Underground", he has quickly become my favorite theologian.

Kevin A. Wilson
Blue Cord Blog

David Knepprath said...

Thanks for commenting Kevin! He is quite the theologian eh. You really didn't like Notes From the Underground? It definitely evoked a lot of emotion, and most of it wasn't positive, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it.