Archive for May 9, 2008

His Crime, my Punishment! (‘A Roskolnikov Complex’, or just mine?!)

I have a writer friend (we will call him “E.”). He is a teacher by trade, chews chaat for a living and fancies himself pretty extra-ordinary. Dostoyevsky seems to agree with him! YESSS.. finally finished reading “Crime and Punishment”!! Some trip, that book!. Haven’t made up my mind which to call Dostoyevsky: a ‘genius’ or an ‘old maid in britches’ (as Scarlett O’hara would say). The plot (story line) of C&P certainly sucks. And there seem to exist neither consistency to, nor anything real about, most of his characters (unless we were to take the ‘dergue gize’ formula of “poor people good” & “well-to-do folks bad” to heart and, giving it a Russian Orthodox Christian twist, assume ‘religious fanaticism was the way to salvation’ and try to work from there!).

I know I shouldn’t judge an old book by today’s mind. I do!! But.. I mean.. c’mon ppl! This guy was 40+ years old when he wrote it and should have known nothing in life gets fixed by the wave of the hand! And WHY, I ask you, talk about all those gross social problems & injustice [in such a horrifying way, too] if you were planning to have some random guy show up at the nick of time with bundles of money and, for no apparent reason, fix them?! Why keep Roskolnikov’s good deeds a secret until such time they would come handy in the court room? Most importantly, why would we even want to read a book of 400+ pages about the sufferings of a character we would feel like shaking like a rat and scream to get his shit together after page 24?!

And .. O .. the inconsistency! The inconsistency makes you physically sick! It’s as if he made everything up as he goes and didn’t even look back to realize how some of the characters react in ways that aren’t faithful to what is told about them before or “would” hereafter. And not from any tendency to show how shifty our temperaments can be, thankuverymuch!!

However, and here may lie the trick, the way he captures feelings [irritating though the feelings may most of the time be – Roskolnikov certainly hasn’t won my vote for “favorite fictional character of all times”] is p.r.e.t.t.y d.a.m.n good! It has a downside to it too, though, unfortunately! It’s what made taking up the book so dreadful for six years. The intensity of those feelings [!] and one’s need to take a breath and un-jinx self, for sanity’s sake. Like some drug that makes you wretch and spasm all over the place until you finally find a way to control it (what did it for me was the realization ‘translation problem’ won’t be able to save half the embarrassing moments in the book as a pair of good working scissors might have).

So how did my dear friend “E.” manage to make it into the “extra-ordinary folks” category of ‘Crime & Punishment’?! Well, he weighs under 100 pounds to begin with! (‘annd’ atilum?!) Has a grizzly beard he never shaves. And wears the type of clothes that made finding work difficult for him for almost 2 years (after quitting, against my strong advice, “be’rr zegto leMetsaf”; which, mostly, turned out to be money requests to his various female cousins working their youth away in various Arab countries)! Also, and this is more important, he neither attends classes (always scoring ‘C’, although he makes sure everyone knows he can do better if he wants), nor takes anything seriously (has a “philosophical” way of looking at every major event in the Ethiopian’s life in a way that faintly reminds you of Eskinder -from “Sememen”, Hailemariam – from KeAdmas Bashager, Adefris – from “Adefris” and all those fictional “Extra-Ors”!).

Infact, the only thing in life “E.” takes seriously is the ‘gize masalefia’ I mentioned earlier whose expenses are covered either out of his mother’s ‘yeTureta genzeb’ or the school fee his one good brother sends him from abroad 3 times a year. Yep! He is your typical Ethiopian ‘yeTibeb sew’ who always manages to make you think that there was [should be! Must!!] more to him than meets the eye. Inspite of, that is, how good or bad a writer, se’aali and/or teacher he may be! (more…)

May 9, 2008 at 12:57 pm 25 comments


The blogger tries to think outside the box, or wonder why she sometimes can't.

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"I will speak for you, Father. I speak for all mediocrities in the world. I am their champion. I am their patron saint." - Antonio Salieri, from the movie "Amadeus"

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May 2008

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