Never Go to Dostoyevsky’s Parties: “The Eternal Husband and Other Stories”

Never Go to Dostoyevsky’s Parties: “The Eternal Husband and Other Stories” March 23, 2015

Just a quick note to say that I finished this collection of short stories, translated by Pevear & Volokhonsky, and it’s not solely for completists. I mean there is a lot of recognizably Dostoyevskyan howling, and some situations and images I hadn’t seen elsewhere in his work. If you like him you should move it up your queue a bit, is what I’m saying.

P/V are controversial. I don’t know enough Russian to have an informed opinion, but my uninformed opinion is that they make Dostoyevsky sound clunky and hysterical… which is kind of what he is, yes? Reading him in Russian, which I have only barely dared to attempt, is like trying to read a nest of snakes. Everything is the most that thing ever, he just galumphs around throwing weird convoluted phrases and suffix-laden words at you, and you submit to it rather than appreciating it. He’s my actual favorite author and I’ve mostly read him in the P/V translations, so that’s my bias.

I think my favorite story in this collection was the first one, “A Nasty Anecdote,” in which liberal class-mixing goes wrong. Every party in Dostoyevsky is the worst party ever. There’s also rampant self-abasement in almost every story. The vision of an edenic planet in “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man” is straightforward and surprisingly touching.

Dostoyevsky Drinking Game Score: One story includes the sentence, “And forever after there remained in his memory, there came to him awake and in his dreams, those tormented eyes of a tormented child, who looked at him in mad fear and with her last hope.” So I suspect if you play the Drinking Game with this book you will die.

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