Sunday, May 26, 2013

BW22: Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

 

Book #11 in Susan Wise Bauer's list of great fiction in Well Educated Mind is Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment.   The story was first published in 1866 in a literary journal, The Russian Messenger in 12 monthly installments.  It was later published in novel form.

Synopsis:  the story of Raskolnikov, an impoverished student tormented by his own thoughts after he brutally murders an old woman. Overwhelmed afterwards by guilt and terror, Raskolnikov confesses and goes to prison. There he realizes that happiness and redemption can only be achieved through suffering.



Chapter one:  

On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. bridge.

He had successfully avoided meeting his landlady on the staircase. His garret was under the roof of a high, five-storied house and was more like a cupboard than a room. The landlady who provided him with garret, dinners, and attendance, lived on the floor below, and every time he went out he was obliged to pass her kitchen, the door of which invariably stood open. And each time he passed, the young man had a sick, frightened feeling, which made him scowl and feel ashamed. He was hopelessly in debt to his landlady, and was afraid of meeting her.

This was not because he was cowardly and abject, quite the contrary; but for some time past he had been in an overstrained irritable condition, verging on hypochondria. He had become so completely absorbed in himself, and isolated from his fellows that he dreaded meeting, not only his landlady, but anyone at all. He was crushed by poverty, but the anxieties of his position had of late ceased to weigh upon him. He had given up attending to matters of practical importance; he had lost all desire to do so. Nothing that any landlady could do had a real terror for him. But to be stopped on the stairs, to be forced to listen to her trivial, irrelevant gossip, to pestering demands for payment, threats and complaints, and to rack his brains for excuses, to prevaricate, to lie—no, rather than that, he would creep down the stairs like a cat and slip out unseen.

This evening, however, on coming out into the street, he became acutely aware of his fears.
“I want to attempt a thing like that and am frightened by these trifles,” he thought, with an odd smile. “Hm… yes, all is in a man’s hands and he lets it all slip from cowardice, that’s an axiom. It would be interesting to know what it is men are most afraid of. Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what they fear most…. But I am talking too much. It’s because I chatter that I do nothing. Or perhaps it is that I chatter because I do nothing. I’ve learned to chatter this last month, lying for days together in my den thinking… of Jack the Giant-killer. Why am I going there now? Am I capable of that? Is that serious? It is not serious at all. It’s simply a fantasy to amuse myself; a plaything! Yes, maybe it is a plaything.”

The heat in the street was terrible: and the airlessness, the bustle and the plaster, scaffolding, bricks, and dust all about him, and that special Petersburg stench, so familiar to all who are unable to get out of town in summer—all worked painfully upon the young man’s already overwrought nerves. The insufferable stench from the pot-houses, which are particularly numerous in that part of the town, and the drunken men whom he met continually, although it was a working day, completed the revolting misery of the picture. An expression of the profoundest disgust gleamed for a moment in the young man’s refined face. He was, by the way, exceptionally handsome, above the average in height, slim, well-built, with beautiful dark eyes and dark brown hair. Soon he sank into deep thought, or more accurately speaking into a complete blankness of mind; he walked along not observing what was about him and not caring to observe it. From time to time, he would mutter something, from the habit of talking to himself, to which he had just confessed. At these moments he would become conscious that his ideas were sometimes in a tangle and that he was very weak; for two days he had scarcely tasted food.

He was so badly dressed that even a man accustomed to shabbiness would have been ashamed to be seen in the street in such rags. In that quarter of the town, however, scarcely any shortcoming in dress would have created surprise. Owing to the proximity of the Hay Market, the number of establishments of bad character, the preponderance of the trading and working class population crowded in these streets and alleys in the heart of Petersburg, types so various were to be seen in the streets that no figure, however queer, would have caused surprise. But there was such accumulated bitterness and contempt in the young man’s heart, that, in spite of all the fastidiousness of youth, he minded his rags least of all in the street. It was a different matter when he met with acquaintances or with former fellow students, whom, indeed, he disliked meeting at any time. And yet when a drunken man who, for some unknown reason, was being taken somewhere in a huge wagon dragged by a heavy dray horse, suddenly shouted at him as he drove past: “Hey there, German hatter” bawling at the top of his voice and pointing at him—the young man stopped suddenly and clutched tremulously at his hat. It was a tall round hat from Zimmerman’s, but completely worn out, rusty with age, all torn and bespattered, brimless and bent on one side in a most unseemly fashion. Not shame, however, but quite another feeling akin to terror had overtaken him.

“I knew it,” he muttered in confusion, “I thought so! That’s the worst of all! Why, a stupid thing like this, the most trivial detail might spoil the whole plan. Yes, my hat is too noticeable…. It looks absurd and that makes it noticeable…. With my rags I ought to wear a cap, any sort of old pancake, but not this grotesque thing. Nobody wears such a hat, it would be noticed a mile off, it would be remembered…. What matters is that people would remember it, and that would give them a clue. For this business one should be as little conspicuous as possible…. Trifles, trifles are what matter! Why, it’s just such trifles that always ruin everything….”


Continuing reading or listen to the rest of the story here or here.

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

BW21: Literary Birthdays




Armchair traveling through the continents is and has been a fun and educational experience since I normally don't seek out literature from specific regions. Plus discussing books weekly with the gals on the Well Trained Mind forum has introduced me to authors I never considered reading before.  Which brings me to literary birthdays this week. We have an intriguing selection of authors to check out.

Today, May 19 is the anniversary of Lorraine Vivian Hansberry's birthday, best known for her 1959 play Raisin in the Sun, a play based on her family's experiences in chicago during the 1930's/40's.  A film version with the original cast including Sidney Poitier was released in 1961, a musical adaptation in 1973 and turned into a movie with Danny Glover in 1989.  Hansberry died of pancreatic cancer January 12, 1965.

May 20th  is the anniversary of French Novelist Honore de Balzac (1799 -1850)who wrote 80 novels and short stories collectively called  La Com├ędie humaine,(The Human Comedy).

May 21st is the anniversary of Italian author Dante Alighiere,(1265-1321) author of The Divine Comedy, Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso.

May 22nd is the anniversary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), best known for his fictional series about Sherlock Holmes.

May 23rd is the anniversary of  Thomas Hood (1799-1845), English poet and playwright  and John Howard Payne, (1791 - 1852) American poet and author who is best remembered for his 1822 song "Home Sweet Home."

May 24th is the 85 birthday of irish novelist William Trevor, who won the Booker Prize in 2009 for his novel Love and Summer and knighted in 2002 for his services in literature.

May 25th is the anniversary of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), american poet and essayist.

Consider adding one or more of these authors to your reading wishlist. 


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Sunday, May 12, 2013

BW20: Happy Mother's Day

Willow Tree - Mother and Son

Happy mother's day!  Since I became a mother, I've learned that a mother's love is unconditional (or should be)  When my son was little, we used to read Lisa McCourt's I Love You Stinky Face and it's one book I never could get rid of.  It's binding is taped together now because of how often we read it and to this day the sentiment in the story has stuck with us. Even though my son is now 13, he still ends the day with 'Mom, I love you no matter what.' 




More Than A Mother 

When God set the world in place,
when He hung the stars up in space,
when He made the land and the sea,
then He made you and me.

He sat back and saw all that was good,
He saw things to be as they should.
Just one more blessing He had in store;
He created a mother, but whatever for?

He knew a mother would have a special place
to shine His reflection on her child's face.
A mother will walk the extra mile
just to see her children smile.

She'll work her fingers to the bone
to make a house into a home.
A mother is there to teach and guide,
a mother will stay right by your side.

She'll be there through your pain and strife,
she'll stay constant in your life.
A mother will lend a helping hand
until you have the strength to stand.

She'll pick you up when you are down,
when you need a friend she'll stick around.
A mother is one who listens well,
will keep her word; will never tell.

A mother never pokes or pries
but stands quietly by your side,
giving you the strength you need,
encouraging you to succeed.

A mother is one who can be strong
when you need someone to lean on.
You're more than a mother to me;

a reflection of Him in your face I see,
a love that knows no boundaries.
I'm glad that you chose to be
all this and more to me.

You share a love that knows no end,
you're more than my mother,
you are my friend.

Kari Keshmiry

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

BW19: Out of Africa

Hey, it's May! Are you ready to gad about Africa?  I'm ready to sail across the south Atlantic ocean to Cape Town and wind my way up through the continent of Africa. It is the 2nd largest continent covering about 11.7 square million miles with 54 countries so lots of ground to cover.   Currently in my backpack is Chinua Achebe's, Things Fall Apart, Sena Jeter Naslund's Adam and Eve, and Chimamanda Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun.   Adichie has a wonderful speech, courtesy of Ted, talking about the Danger of a Single Story, which I've  mentioned before, but if you haven't listened to it yet, now's the time.  You'll definitely want to read one of her books, once you've heard her speak. 

If you click on the Out of Africa link up in the linkbar, you'll discover links to a variety of African authors.  Check out the list on Goodreads and Ivor Hartmann's list of must read African Authors.  And one of my new favorite sites, flavorwire, has a list of 10 Young African Writers You Should know.  Also check out Lost in Books - Take Away Saturday posts on fiction and non fiction selections from South Africa, Egypt, Kenya and Zimbabwe.



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Link to your reviews:    Please link to your specific book review post and not your general blog link. In the Your Name field, type in your name and the name of the book in parenthesis. In the Your URL field leave a link to your specific post. If you don't have a blog, tell us about the books you are reading in the comment section of this post.