WARY READER

I’ve read no Dostoyevsky. I tried something short: The Gambler. It is like reading of characters who are mentally ill. I’ll try another of Dostoyevsky’s stories, but I’ll enlarge this lesson.

The gambler is in love with Maria Philippovna. She knows it, but there are difficulties. He’s not suitable for her, and it’s easy to read why, from his own mouth. He says to her:

“It makes no difference to me…Do you know something else? It is dangerous for you to walk alone with me: many times I have felt an irresistible longing to beat you with my fists, disfigure you, strangle you. And do you think it won’t come to that? You will drive me crazy. I’m not likely to shrink from the scandal, am I? Or your anger? What’s your anger to me? My love is hopeless, and I know that afterwards I should love you a thousand times more. If I ever kill you, you know, I shall have to kill myself as well; well, I shall try for as long as possible not to kill myself, so as to savour the unbearable pain of being without you. Do you know an incredible thing? Everyday I love you more, and that’s almost impossible, you know. After that, how can I help being a fatalist? You remember, on the Schlangenberg the day before yesterday, I whispered to you when you provoked me, ‘Say the word and I will leap into the abyss!’ If you had said a word, I would have jumped. You do believe, don’t you, that I would have jumped?”

“What silly talk!” she cried.

APPARENTLY, being demonstrative and vocal is the Russian way of passion, although that passion is not present in Tolstoy or in Pasternak. It seems doubly impossible that any sensible woman would tolerate this creep and his crap. Are readers expected to believe this is Russian culture, played out in Germany? Is the manner of a nation of chess players – foresee, plan and plot with all subtlety possible and MOVE displayed in this passage or in this story? Dostoyevsky’s message, I love you because I want to smash in your face, is beyond the pale. Note for Dostoyevsky’s male, it is mere “scandal.” Any person who does not read beyond this paragraph is justifiably excused.

“What silly talk!” is the stupidest comment a woman can utter. Trying to understand such a man is foolhardy. Trying to reason with him reveals too many motherly tendencies (and probably too many Psychology courses in college). Hugging and comforting him demonstrates delusion. 

The best reaction is be an American: Disengage (not part of Dostoyevsky’s story). If he offers to jump into the abyss, encourage him. Don’t see him again. Tell him not to bother you. Change the locks on your doors. Be alert. Get a restraining order. And get a gun and learn to use it: If the situation arises, you can shoot off his pecker.

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