Eighty pages from the end of The Idiot, and I need to say something about the Russian novel, or rather, the Russian novel as idea, for what can I honestly say about the Russian novel - I am not Russian, know not a word of the language, and have only questionable translations of Dostoevsky to rely on. Still with something akin to childish naivety I wish to tell you about this idea.
The Russian novel is how the world should be. I refuse to believe it is contrived, rather it is this world that is contrived. In the Russian novel there is primitive emotion, primitive in a good way: there are people speaking forthright, interfering with the social etiquette of the times. Perhaps it is the poor translation but characters are often agitated by the slightest of news into cries and peels of laughter, there is something indelibly human about it. And the characters wander about in a pastoral poetic way from one heated conversation to the next, chugging hot air like locomotives until each conversation reaches its fevered pitch - chugging hot air because I imagine steam emanating from their mouths as they wrestle with their philosophies, a hot bonfire of words dissipating in the frigid winter backdrop of Mother Russia. And there’s so much love and loathing. Characters confess and blush, and never in an artificial way: there are no clean crisp confessions, but meandering rigmaroles, like real people make, without rhetoric, rhyme, and hardly with a solid point, hardly with a point at all, but to make noise and release something from inside. These are my people! And how they love, their love is incommensurable to our ventriloquism. They love through souls, and only in the Russian novel does the soul make sense.
But I call these emotions primitive and sacred in harsh contrast to the pageantry of the modern Rococo we endure, with its muddied palette of emotions that can express nothing without parenthesis. Modern society is a caricature of the Russian novel society, made on a whim and out of control with sequestered disgust and genuflect kindness. All human expression has been modified, homogenized and packaged for us, and I feel far less a person than a personage, some device to keep property moving.
I see the Russian novel in everyone I love, because they are not caricatures, and we exist as fictions to a world that has become an estranged idea. And so what I consider human is inversely considered by this world to be fiction, and like Dostoevsky’s Prince, I exist as an idiot in these pages. I feel my idiocy with every new year endured, in every social gathering, every group meeting, every monetary transaction. I understand the Tolkeinites, the Trekkies, people who invent new languages and stay indoors.
I have lived thirty-six years and in all my time on this planet the closest I have ever felt to another human being was through a bit of fictional prose in a Russian novel. I declare this in defiance of the obvious indictment that I am neglecting to mention the romantic love of my life. I have not neglected it, nor am I making a facetious point of this. As an individual I feel a greater kinship to myself than to anyone, because I have endured the longest time with myself, the bond is deeper, there is a certain righteousness in narcissism. I do not see myself in Lina in any specific way, and so do not love her because of her reflection of myself, but love her as an antithesis to me, which is, as most will understand, that which I long to be, for what else could one want but to be something else. Lina is this desirable other-world that I thoroughly love being a part of. To speak of a like-minded communion down to the marrow of my soul that understands the nuance of my life there is simply no comparison: I was born on the wrong continent, at the wrong time, in the wrong medium.