Monday, August 15, 2011

#16: The Eternal Husband, Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Eternal Husband
by Fyodor Dostoevsky
-born in Russia, 1821
-224 Pages
-more about Dostoevsky (via Goodreads)
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Authorial Tidbits: (via Melville House)
- Fyodor Dostoevsky was born the son of a tyrannical doctor subsequently murdered by his serfs.
- After studying engineering in school and publishing his first book (Poor Folk) to great acclaim, he was sentenced to death for being viewed as anti-czarist.
- He actually stood before a firing squad, but was given a last minute reprieve and was sent to prison in Siberia for 10 years instead.
- His novels rankled authorities for the rest of his life.  This, and devastating gambling debts led him to frequently flee to Europe.


Synopsis: (via Melville House)
This remarkably edgy and suspenseful tale shows that, despite being better known for his voluminous and sprawling novels, Fyodor Dostoevsky was a master of the more tightly-focused form of the novella.

The Eternal Husband may, in fact, constitute his most classically-shaped composition, with his most devilish plot: a man answers a late-night knock on the door to find himself in a tense and puzzling confrontation with the husband of a former lover—but it isn’t clear if the husband knows about the affair. What follows is one of the most beautiful and piercing considerations ever written about the dualities of love: a dazzling psychological duel between the two men over knowledge they may or may not share, bringing them both to a shattering conclusion.

My Impressions:
I was afraid of Dostoevsky.  In fact, my love of Tolstoy further cemented my fear of Fyodor, as I assumed that it was asking too much to have two classic Russian authors I liked.  The Eternal Husband has fixed that problem, and I'm now ready to pick up some of his lengthier works.  Dostoevsky definitely has a different feel than Tolstoy, but it was quite enjoyable in its own right.

This was the largest novella of the month so far, at over 200 pages, but the complexity of the story and the curious characters made it worthwhile.  The main characters are definitely not very sober, and perhaps not even very sane, and there were scenes that brought to mind the nightmare in Fiddler on the Roof, but for all the oddities and quirks, there is also change, growth, and development throughout.  The philosophy and humor was pretty subtle most of the time, but thankfully still present.
p15:  It is true that there are faces that at once arouse an undefined and aimless aversion.
p24:  It was always painful for him to think that he was getting old and growing feebler, and in his bad moments he exaggerated his age and failing powers on purpose to irritate himself.
The idea of the "eternal husband" on p43:
"She is one of those women who are born to be unfaithful wives." [...] "For her first infidelity the husband is always to blame." [...] To his mind, the essence of such a husband lay in his being, so to say, "the eternal husband," or rather in being, all his life, a husband and nothing more.
So is Pavel Pavlovitch an eternal husband?  Or is there something else going on?  This one would be a great one to re-read.  It's like one of those movies with a twist or two that make you want to watch it more carefully to observe the craftsmanship.  There is some definite skill going on here, and enjoyment besides.

2 comments:

  1. This is another one I want to read now. Your project (which is, frankly, awesome) is going to overwhelm my TBR list. You must be stopped. lol

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  2. I'd like to hear what you have to say about this one--I feel like there was more going on than I realized...it would definitely be a good one for me to reread.

    I'm glad you're finding some novellas of interest--I feel no guilt about your lengthening list whatsoever. :) The smaller size makes them totally do-able. :)

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