February 26, 2006

from Underground

Filed under: books — ted @ 3:37 pm

Last night I finished Doestoevsky’s Notes from Underground. Notes has always been my favorite of Fyodor’s, and I’ve read it a number of times, but I wanted to read the translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. I know nothing about translating from Russian to English, but I know this version reads very well and I like the tone and force of it. In particular, I loved this passage from the last page, which had never made much of an impression of me before. This time, it floored me:

We don’t even know where the living lives now, or what it is, or what it’s called! Leave us to ourselves, without a book, and we’ll immediately get confused, lost—we won’t know what to join, what to hold to, what to love and what to hate, what to respect and what to despise. It’s a burden for us even to be men—men with real, our own bodies and blood; we’re ashamed of it, we consider it a disgrace, and keep trying to be some unprecedented omni-men. We’re stillborn, and have long ceased to be born of living fathers, and we like this more and more. We’re acquiring a taste for it. Soon we’ll contrive to be born somehow from an idea.


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