By Fyodor Dostoevsky, Alan Myers (trans)
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Additional info for A Gentle Creature and Other Stories
There you are, why on earth did you turn me away just now? ’ ‘A little bit. ’ I responded, elated that my girl was so perceptive: in a pretty girl that never comes amiss. ‘Yes, you guessed immediately the sort of man I am. It’s true, I am shy with girls; I’m as nervous as you were a minute ago, when that man frightened you, I won’t deny it … I’m the one who’s full of nerves now. ’ ‘What? ’ ‘Yes, if my hand is trembling, it’s because it’s never been held by such a pretty little hand as yours. I’ve got out of the habit of women; that is to say, I’ve never been in the habit; I’m on my own, you see … I don’t so much as know how to talk to them.
It was some little place in the Greek archipelago; there were gentle blue waves, islands and cliffs, a luxuriant shore, a fantastic panorama in the distance, a beckoning, setting sun—beyond description. One was reminded of the cradle of European civilization, the first scenes of mythology, of the earthly paradise. … What a splendid race lived here! They woke up and fell asleep happy and innocent; the groves were filled with their merry songs; their abundant, untiring energy went into love and simple joys.
But this overlooks the fact that The Dream of a Ridiculous Man is not a utopian work. Its hero’s vision is not primarily a prophetic glimpse of some future paradise on earth; it is, if anything, a retrospective vision from Genesis, a recapitulation of the Fall of Man and his exclusion from paradise. The hero brings with him the seeds of corruption, and in their subsequent fall from grace the innocents of his dream relive the whole degrading process of human history. They discover debauchery, violence, enmity, isolation, war, and egoism; they discover the ‘insights’ of reason and analysis, but they lose the harmony they once enjoyed with themselves and with nature; they discover the Dostoevskian delights of cruelty and self-abasement, of tyranny and pride; they even discover, as they contemplate the ruins of the world they have defiled, the allure of socialism and utopianism, as they dream of restoring order to the chaos about them.
A Gentle Creature and Other Stories by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Alan Myers (trans)