By Fyodor Dostoevsky, Alan Myers (trans)
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Additional resources for A Gentle Creature and Other Stories
1842 Is promoted Second Lieutenant. 1843 Translates Balzac’s Eugénie Grandet. 1844 Resigns his army commission. 1846 Poor Folk The Double Mister Prokharchin 1847 The Landlady 1848 White Nights 1849 Netochka Nezvanova Is led out for execution in the Semenovsky Square in St Petersburg (22 December); his sentence is commuted at the last moment to penal servitude, to be followed by army service and exile, in Siberia. 1850–4 Serves four years at the prison at Omsk in western Siberia. 1854 Is released from prison (March), but is immediately posted as a private soldier to an infantry battalion stationed at Semipalatinsk, in western Siberia.
Beneath the dreamer’s Romantic idealism there already lurks suppressed despair and the spectre of the Underground, that twilight zone between fact and fiction where the hero of Notes from the Underground is to carve out his sterile existence of perverted idealism some fifteen or so years later. White Nights ends on a prophetic note: on returning to his room after losing Nastenka to his rival, the dreamer experiences a strange hallucination: I glanced at Matryona [the maid] … She was still a sprightly, young old woman, but I don’t know why, she suddenly seemed to me stooped and decrepit, her eyes dimmed, her face wrinkled … I don’t know why, but my room had aged just like the old woman.
Moved by sentiment, she cries out to the dreamer: ‘but, you know what crossed my mind just now? I won’t talk about that now, though, just, you know, in general; it’s been in my mind for a long time. Listen, why can’t we all behave like brothers to one another? ’ Her subsequent unwitting destruction of the dreamer’s hopes of happiness, when she leaves him for her lover, betrays the naivety of such idealism, which overlooks the egoism, sensualism, and will to power that drive human behaviour. Dostoevsky recognized that in this imperfect world human relations are based not on mutual love, but on the clash of egos.
A Gentle Creature and Other Stories by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Alan Myers (trans)