Thursday, July 01, 2010

My Dilemma


My plan for my next Dostoyevsky novel was "Crime and Punishment." Then when I was killing time in the airport by window shopping for books, I came across "The Possessed":

Both are from Dostoyevsky's mature period and are equally attractive to me. Crime and Punishment appears to be more about the human nature and ones struggle with coming in terms with its nature. The Possessed on the other side is a political novel. And in my uneducated opinion Dostoyevsky is the only writer I've read so far, who can give this specific human pursuit, i.e. politics, its right place and importance in the overall human condition.

I am really in a dilemma, which one to start?

Orhan Pamuk is convincing me to start with The Possessed. Asked of political novels he answers(link to the interview):

"Pamuk: I wrote one (political novel), right, but I don’t think it is a great genre that produces masterpieces. It’s rather a limited genre, despite the fact that Dostoyevsky, Conrad, Stendhal and a few others produced the best examples of it. Still, it’s troubled by some inner contradictions. By that I mean when a novelist or an artist has heartfelt political agendas about prior political tension in some corner of the world where there is a highly dramatized and unstable political situation, he or she tends to interiorize these problems and desires to express them on a political level. But once the author commits himself or herself to those problems, he or she is not a good novelist, because they takes sides. They can’t identify with everyone. They often have clear-cut good guys and bad guys, white guys and black guys, and so on. Once someone is morally committed to a political stance, it is almost impossible, or it is very problematic, to produce a satisfying, aesthetically convincing and “beautiful,” so to speak, novel. However, a few have managed to do that. Dostoyevsky’s The Possessed, sometimes translated as The Demons, is a great political novel in this sense. On the one hand, Dostoyevsky had in him the quality of believing angrily, with energy, in a social cause, getting angry about everyone; he had a nasty side to his spirit. He also had the unique ability, even in his anger, to identify with the bad guys. So it’s hard to be politically motivated and committed and write a novel that will not be damaged by the natural consequences of moral commitment, that is, inability to understand the “bad guy.” That is the fragile moment of the political novel. Although there have been a few classics, I think it can never be a major genre."
 There is also this Turkish comment on the Possessed by Orhan Pamuk, which is very convincing (link to the article):

"Cinler, insanoğlunun yazabildiği en sarsıcı yedi-sekiz romandan biri, hiç şüphesiz, gelmiş geçmiş en büyük siyasal romandır. İlk okuduğumda, yirmi yaşımdayken kitabın üzerimdeki etkisini, sarsılmak, hayret etmek, inanmak ve korkmak kelimeleriyle özetleyebilirim. O zamana kadar okuduğum hiçbir roman beni böylesine derinden sarsmamış, hiçbir hikâye insan ruhu ve şahsiyeti hakkında bana bu kadar sarsıcı bir bilgi vermemişti. Sarsıcı olan şey insanın iktidar isteğinin ve affetme gücünün, kendini ve başkalarını kandırma yeteneğinin ve bir inanç bulma azminin, sevmenin ve nefretin, en kutsal olana ilgiyle en bayağı olana düşkünlüğün boyutlarının genişliğini görmek, bu özelliklerin aslında hep yanyana bulunduğunu kavramak ve bütün bu duygu ve ruh durumlarını kitabın ölüm, siyaset ve aldatmacanın şiddetiyle yüklü olay örgüsüyle birlikte yaşamaktı. "

In between two Dostoyevskys, I guess I will smile a little with this lovely new book about Russian Novels and People Who Read them by Elif Batuman (amazon link):

3 comments:

zeynep said...

Dostoyevski'nin simdiye kadar okumadigin romanlarinin olmasina sasirdim dogrusu.... Yoksa ikinci tur mu? :) Ben de Disgrace'e basliyorum. Bugun itibariyle... Siddharta'yi yeni bitirdim, fazlasiyla memnun kaldim.

e. pınar said...

Borges de Suc ve Ceza icin soyle demis:
“Aşkı ilk yaşamak, denizi ilk görmek gibi, Dostoyevski’yi de keşfetmek insanın hayatında çok önemli bir tarihtir. Bu genellikle ilk gençlik çağında olur; yaşlılıkta daha huzurlu yazarları okuruz. 1915’te Cenevre’de Suç ve Ceza’yı okudum. Kahramanları bir katil ve bir orospu olan bu roman bana çevremizdeki savaştan da yıkıcı ve etkileyici geldi... Dostoyevski’yi okumak bilmediğimiz büyük bir şehrin içine ya da bir savaşın gölgesine girmek gibidir.”
Bir kitabi bir dunya savasiyla karsilastirip kitabin daha yikici ve etkileyici oldugunu dusunmus adam. Agzim acik kaldi.

Ahmet C. Toker said...

universite'de "yeraltindan notlar"i okuduktan sonra ara verdim. hayatimda okudugum en korkutucu romandi. simdi yavas yavas okuyorum.

penguin'in kapagndaki adamin bakislarindaki gizem ve borges'in bu sözü kararimi "suc ve ceza"ya dondurebilir.