For my next read after Brothers K, I returned to White Nights and Other Stories, which includes several Dostoyevsky short stories translated by Garnett. This collection was a mixed bag; in spite of that, I give it a cumulative 4 out of 5 stars based on enjoyment level.
- The first and feature story is White Nights, a very romantic, fanciful sketch about unrequited love. Previously, I had read some quotes from it online, and reading the entirety, I was not disappointed. The ending was so depressing, but the story itself was bittersweet and thought-provoking. Recommended if you want to read Dostoyevsky in a nutshell.
- I skipped Notes from Underground, having already read it.
- A Faint Heart was a psychological mystery, reminiscent of Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener” which I read in September. (Not to sound like a broken record, but it is worth mentioning that Dostoyevsky’s so-called “existentialist” themes are sometimes compared to Kafka, as was “Bartleby,” and I think I must have a knack for finding this genre everywhere!) It was very intriguing and also depressing.
- A Christmas Tree and a Wedding centers on a minor character from “A Faint Heart” – at least, I think it does. Either that, or two characters share the exact same name. This Yulian Mastakovitch reminded me of Totsky from The Idiot. I really have nothing else to say, except the story made me sick, and also, that Dostoyevsky is very good at portraying evil characters going about their “everyday” disgusting pursuits.
- I got a bit lost reading Polzunkov – not quite sure what it was about.
- A Little Hero was another strange plot, about a boy who has a crush on an unhappily married woman. Kind of a coming-of-age story, borderline inappropriate, vaguely Dickensian.
- The last story Mr. Prohartchin is about an eccentric old man and his irrational fears. Definitely Dickensian. Not gripping, but one of those interesting, obscure sketches that gives you a good idea of “life back then.”
It was fascinating to read Dostoyevsky on a small scale. I felt his social commentary came through pretty strongly, and he is good at short stories, in the sense he can get you to care very quickly about the characters. The plots were hit-and-miss, yet overall I’d recommend this book. In fact, with Notes from Underground, it’s an excellent introductory volume to this author.
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