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Raskolnikov — Part 1: Chapter 1, Stanzas 7 and 8

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For those who never knew or have forgotten, I’ve been rewriting Crime and Punishment as a verse novel in the style of Eugene Onegin.

Click here for the story up to now.

Here’s the latest ladle of psycho-stroganoff. As before, your candid appraisal would be most welcome. That includes criticism, constructive or otherwise.

1.1.7

Each fateful footfall draws him nearer:
His destination looms ahead,
Its details redrawn larger, clearer.
He counts each step with mounting dread
And racing heart as he retraces
The seven-hundred thirty paces
From his room to… that place’s door.
What seemed an ugly dream before
Now fills imagination’s page
With dialogue… direction… action.
Repulsion yields to the attraction
Of playing that scene on that stage.
Despite his nerves, he can’t reverse.
He mounts the stage; he must rehearse.

1.1.8

Between canal and Sadóvaya,
It rises — the familiar shock:
Higher and higher, layer on layer,
That building hulks above its block.
Within its warrens dwell assorted
Tradespeople; Germans; unsupported
Young ladies…. Now the fading day’s
Rush-hour foot-traffic runs two ways:
Both back and forth; its hot disorder
Swarms two courtyards. Through one yard’s gate,
Into a stairwell, swift and straight,
Unseen by any lurking porter
(Four porters work here… maybe three?),
Slips Rodya, thinking ‘Lucky me!’

Comments

  1. Nice! I’d been wondering. R may not be able to reverse, but you’re obviously doing a fine job. I like the way the action is set with page/stage, and especially repulsion matched with attraction, which describes the psycho-stroganoff very well. “Sadovaya” with “by the” is a little tricky … Sadovaya is both exotic and descriptive, and overpowers the simple article, or so it seems to me. Still, that’s nitpicking. Great stuff!

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

      ‘R may not be able to reverse […]’

      Can, too: Я

      I really appreciate your close reading, Mr Finnegan — particularly your attention to the line breaks! If I can strengthen ‘Sadovaya’s’ rhyme-counterpart in a future revision, I’ll do so, and it will be to your credit. For now, it’ll stand as-is; I’m itching to meet the old pawnbroker….

  2. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I read Pushkin after learning about him through Nabokov, who heaped praises on him; “second only to Shakespeare”, or something similar. But he just loathed Dostoevsky, and C&P in particular. I think there may be many recent readers who’ve come to Pushkin in the same way (through Nabokov), so your bringing the two together really is a study in contrasts. Raskolnikov’s St. Petersberg is much different than Onegin’s … maybe this is part of your strategy? And if all the psycho-stroganoff is a failure of feeling as well as of moral understanding, the versifying seems to be a way of rehabilitating both (morals and feelings).

    • everydayness says:

      Why was Nabakov such an asshole? Serious question.

      • everydayness says:

        At times, I mean.

      • Well, who among us … etc. But he could be pretty harsh towards writers he thought inferior, when most people just sort of pass over those they’d rather not read. In interviews and in the book Angelico mentioned, he seems to pile up his predecessors just so he can climb to the top of the heap. There’s a need for deference he seems to inspire in others, and that gets pretty tiresome. All that said, he was a pretty amazing individual – the lepidoptery, the chess problems, the football, those lectures on literature. And for those who don’t care to read Lolita or even Pale Fire, I always suggest Pnin as maybe his best novel. My favorite anyway.

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

      Mr Finnegan,

      ‘Study in contrasts’ nails it: I haven’t bothered to articulate my motives to myself; just been scratching some mysterious itch — an impulse to create a literary mashup as perverse as, but more arch than, e.g., Elinor Dashwood v. vampires or whatever.

      I did skim through one of Nabokov’s lectures ‘on Dostoevsky, and C&P in particular’, and have considered doing a Pushkinesque authorial aside to give the reader Nabokov’s opinion of a certain scene between Raskolnikov and Sonya that especially offended him, if and when the narrative catches up to that scene!

      One difference between Onegin’s and Raskolnikov’s respective Petersburgs: The foreign element in Onegin’s early 19th century capital is largely French; decades later (and many rungs lower on the socioeconomic scale), the foreign flavoring of Raskolnikov’s Petersburg is more heavily German. (Though already, Onegin’s rustic neighbor Lensky was a German-educated Teutonophile.)

      More later — though maybe it can wait until the comments section for a future stanza.

      Thanks again for reading, sir!

  3. I love that you’ve kept up what you were doing in the earlier stanzas with “that deed ,” “that thing,” etc. (I don’t know what you’d call the device itself, but it’s awfully effective. Deixis, maybe?)

    I haven’t read Eugene Onegin, so I can’t comment on the meter all that much. But I’m very much enjoying reading the whole thing as an interpretation of Dostoevsky.

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

      Thank you for the feedback, Rachel!

      The use of ‘that deed‘, ‘that day‘, ‘that building‘, etc. (cataphora?), is my attempt to bring out something Dostoevsky does that really struck me in the first pages of C&P: He makes it clear that Raskolnikov has some plan in mind, but plays very coy with the reader about what, precisely, that plan is. This technique fits Raskolnikov’s mental state: He can’t yet bring himself to confront his own criminal plan in all its enormity. And, despite the fact I already knew before reading the first page that C&P was about a murder, curiosity about the hidden specifics (and about the psychology of a person who didn’t dare put names to his thoughts) hooked me, and coaxed me through the novel’s setup. I found myself, like Raskolnikov, fascinated by a still-inchoate idea.

      It’s very gratifying to know that someone who cares about Dostoevsky’s work has been reading along with this crazy interpretation. I pray you continue to enjoy it.

      (And, if the spirit ever moves you, please do try Onegin! I like the translations of James Falen and of Stanley Mitchell.)

  4. Matthew Lickona says:

    I didn’t know you were planning a comeback.

  5. I’m not commenting on the poem because I’m not qualified, so I’ll just comment on the comments:

    pungent, but not overbearing.

  6. I don’t feel like I have the eye for any kind of constructive critique–not to mention I haven’t met Raskolnikov in decades–but I love this idea. Plug on, man.

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