Friday, October 2, 2009

Aimless Reading: The D's, Part 35.3 (Fyodor Dostoevsky)


The Idiot
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Dostoevsky, Fyodor
The Idiot


Last of the unread Dostoevsky. I think I bought this at Talking Leaves...Books for Lori. I am feeling kind of blank this morning. Like I am still waiting for the caffeine to reach my brain to get it moving. That despite having three espressos already flowing through my veins.

Maybe I'll return to Guatemala once more for inspiration, to the massive market at Chichicastenango; or the bus ride to Semuc Champey; or the Irish guy from New York we met on a bus who owned a construction company and was in Guatemala to learn Spanish so he could speak to his workers, and who was, when we met him, carrying a treasure trove of power tools to the father of one of his workers living in a remote village in the central part of the country, and who bought us dinner at his hotel in Cobán; or the trip to the new age village of San Marcos, where we got very relaxing massages; or to the last miserable days, when we finished off a meal by eating a luscious plate of tomatoes, which made us both sick, all night long rushing to the bathroom, one after the other, and how the next day we arrived at the airport sick as dogs, only to discover that all flights had been cancelled due to an air traffic controller strike, and how we holed up in a nice hotel in Guatemala City for two extra days to recover, before finally returning to the states, where I had to rush to NYC the next day to do a reading with Christian Bok at the Bowery Poetry Club, my first reading with my first book in hand.

from The Idiot

In late November, during a thaw, around nine in the morning, a train on the Petersburg–Warsaw railway line was approaching Petersburg at full blast. It was so damp and foggy that it had just barely grown light; within ten paces to the right and left of the rails, it was difficult to make out anything at all from the carriage windows. Among the passengers were some returning from abroad; but the third-class compartments were more crowded, mainly with common folk on business, from not too far away. As usual, everyone was tired, everyone’s eyes had grown heavy in the night, everyone was chilled, all the faces were pale and yellow, matching the color of the fog.

In one of the third-class carriages, right by the window, two passengers had, from early dawn, been sitting facing one another—both were young people, both traveled light, both were unfashionably dressed, both had rather remarkable faces, and both expressed, at last, a desire to start a conversation. If they had both known, one about the other, in what way they were especially remarkable in that moment, they would naturally have wondered that chance had so strangely placed them face to face in a third-class carriage of the Warsaw–Petersburg train. One of them was a short man about twenty-seven, with almost black curly hair and small but fiery gray eyes. His nose was broad and flat, his cheekbones high; his thin lips continually curved into a sort of insolent, mocking and even malicious smile; but the high and well-shaped forehead redeemed the ignoble lines of the lower part of the face. What was particularly striking about the young man’s face was its deathly pallor, which lent him an exhausted look in spite of his fairly sturdy build, and at the same time something passionate to the point of suffering, which did not harmonize with his insolent and coarse smile and his sharp and self-satisfied gaze. He was warmly dressed in a full, black, sheepskin-lined overcoat, and had not felt the cold at night, while his neighbor had been forced to endure all the pleasures of a damp Russian November night, for which he was evidently unprepared. He had a fairly thick and wide cloak with no sleeves and a huge hood, just like those frequently used by travelers in winter somewhere far abroad, in Switzerland or, for instance, Northern Italy, who do not reckon, of course, on such distances along the journey as from Eydtkuhnen1 to Petersburg. But what was entirely suitable and satisfactory in Italy turned out to be not quite fitting for Russia. The owner of the hooded cloak was a young man, also twenty-six or twenty-seven years old, somewhat above the average in height, with very fair thick hair, with sunken cheeks and a thin, pointed, almost white beard. His eyes were large, blue and intent; there was something calm, though somber, in their expression, something full of that strange look by which some can surmise epilepsy in a person at first glance. The young man’s face was otherwise pleasing, delicate and lean, though colorless, and at this moment even blue with cold. From his hands dangled a meager bundle tied up in an old, faded raw-silk kerchief, which, it seemed, contained the entirety of his traveling effects. He wore thick-soled boots and spats—it was all very un-Russian. His dark-haired neighbor in the sheepskin observed all this, partly from having nothing to do, and at last, with that indelicate smile in which satisfaction at the misfortunes of others is sometimes so unceremoniously and casually expressed, he asked:

“Chilly?”

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