Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Some Novels

So I’ve finished The Day the Call Came by Thomas Hinde. Excellent deep died noir about which I can say nothing lest I come to the attention of the spoiler police. And rightly so.

Reading The Idiot by Dostoyevsky in the translation by David Magarshack (Penguin). It’s many years ago since I last read it and of course I remember very little only that I thought it a lesser work than ‘Crime’ and ‘Devils’. However lesser Dostoyevsky is greater almost anybody. I realised that when I finished Part 1 208 pages long that it all transpired within a single long day culminating with an outrageous scene of commotion, tumult and money on the fire.

They all want Natasia whom Totsky the libertine is done with after seducing her as a young woman and keeping her from society for his personal pleasure. He wants to marry the General’s daughter and forego the dowry, a splendid scheme in the view of the prospective father-in-law. The General sees that this gives him a chance to take over this beauty if they can only marry her off to Ganya his secretary. Rogojin also wants the proud wounded Natasia. He has brought 100,000 roubles to the party – her birthday party to persuade her to come with him. She accepts it and to taunt Ganya throws it on the fire saying:

"Well, look here, Gania. I wish to look into your heart once more, for the last time. You've worried me for the last three months—now it's my turn. Do you see this packet? It contains a hundred thousand roubles. Now, I'm going to throw it into the fire, here—before all these witnesses. As soon as the fire catches hold of it, you put your hands into the fire and pick it out—without gloves, you know. You must have bare hands, and you must turn your sleeves up. Pull it out, I say, and it's all yours. You may burn your fingers a little, of course; but then it's a hundred thousand roubles, remember—it won't take you long to lay hold of it and snatch it out. I shall so much admire you if you put your hands into the fire for my money. All here present may be witnesses that the whole packet of money is yours if you get it out. If you don't get it out, it shall burn. I will let no one else come; away—get away, all of you—it's my money! Rogojin has bought me with it. Is it my money, Rogojin?"
"Yes, my queen; it's your own money, my joy."
(Eve Martin trans.)

There’s a succession of such marvellous ‘skandaly’ (Ru. ‘scene’) and darkly comic speeches from a dying consumptive.

Mrs. Yepachin, the general’s wife, and her daughters. Here they are:

All three of the Miss Epanchins were fine, healthy girls, well-grown, with good shoulders and busts, and strong—almost masculine—hands; and, of course, with all the above attributes, they enjoyed capital appetites, of which they were not in the least ashamed……..

Mrs. Epanchin had a fair appetite herself, and generally took her share of the capital mid-day lunch which was always served for the girls, and which was nearly as good as a dinner. The young ladies used to have a cup of coffee each before this meal, at ten o'clock, while still in bed. This was a favourite and unalterable arrangement with them. At half-past twelve, the table was laid in the small dining-room, and occasionally the general himself appeared at the family gathering, if he had time.
Besides tea and coffee, cheese, honey, butter, pan-cakes of various kinds (the lady of the house loved these best), cutlets, and so on, there was generally strong beef soup, and other substantial delicacies.

I suspect or at least it’s a theory of interest that at some point these young women will meet their fallen sister Natasia in another skandaly.

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