Fyodor Dostoyevsky POOR FOLK (1845)

Dostoyevsky Has-Been


Imagine that a young 'Madame Bovary' of the lumpenproletariat flirts with a meek has-been in the low-ranking civil service. No-one does introverted, agonised, nigh on autistic scriveners better than Dostoyevsky, except for maybe Gogol, but he's too concerned with being funny, while Dostoyevsky is the voice of the mediocre majority, who injects the possibility for grand noble acts into our otherwise humdrum lives. These grand noble acts which in turn depend on terrific wreckless indulgences for their drama. In many ways the novella is one for our time. Shame at their own physical ruin in contrast to elevated and romantic communications means the principal characters daren't risk being seen together for fear that their dreamed up romance will fall apart: "Oh, my friend! Unhappiness is an infectious disease. Poor and unhappy people ought to steer cleer clear of one another, so as not to catch a greater degree of infection." Who amongst us now does not fear that they carry the virus? A virus which might infect or even kill a vulnerable friend or acquaintance? And who isn't a romanticised self-image on social media where warts and all are necessarily smoothed out for the sake of a weird decorum? 'Poor Folk': Mad to think Dosteyevky wrote this at twenty-five, especially when his male protagonist, Makar Devushkin, is knocking in at just under sixty, and his female counterpart is so damn likeable. Enjoy!

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