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!
Alas!! I’m not criticizing my friend! How can I when I love him so!? More importantly, when he loves me so! (Not only am I the only female he can talk about books to but am neither disillusioned nor intimidated by the sad wannabee mask he is addicted to wearing. Which, I’ve seen often, makes a man want to either break a girl or try to gain her respect). Yes! Definitely not his fault (although, perhaps, be-friending me may have been! Never trust a blogger, that’s all I’m saying! Unless you like reading about your psyche under abbreviated names on regular basis :-)).
As I was saying, I do not blame my friend. Nor Dostoyevsky, for that matter!. How dare I?! The mere observation that Sebhat Gebregziabher was an old faggot on whom books [that would have been put to better use by a less horny ole man] were wasted has gotten me into enough trouble with my writer friends already. [And.. if you must know, dear reader, I do not think “Giracha Qachiloch” is worth the paper it’s printed on! Do not believe Bewketu Seyoum should give another novella a try – he’s a whiz at short stories but when it comes to longer ones not so much!! – and think EndaleGeta Kebede is the stupidest man alive to hold a pen! I’ve gone so far as saying if EndaleGeta lived at the time of Menelik the 2nd, and his majesty was into fictions, diffretu bicha “arba jirraff” yasgerifew neber! And Dostoyevsky, as we all know, is simply somebody you wouldn’t dare question the talent of if you want your opinions valued – in the Ethiopian literary circles atleast! A circle, I can’t help but notice, that seems to be filled with E.’s type of people who consider it an outrage & take it as a personal insult when a girl who is neither starving, nor have tiny dreads, nor smells of anything in particular pretends to know a thing [or two] about literature.
I’m sick of it, I tell you, Sick of it! [Which is why I’ve started dieting during my absence and plan to ask what Bizuwork (my ‘shuruba seri’ of late) could do with the kinky wool on my head :-)].
For all of you who haven’t had the priviledge (or misfortune) of reading ‘Crime and Punishment’, herebelow is the writer’s definition of “Ordinary” and “Extra-ordinary” people taken from KIOSEK.com. See which category you are likely to belong to ;-). And.. Good luck! :-)
“As for my division of people into ordinary and extraordinary, I acknowledge that it’s somewhat arbitrary, but I don’t insist upon exact numbers. I only believe in my leading idea that men are in general divided by a law of nature into two categories, inferior (ordinary), that is, so to say, material that serves only to reproduce its kind, and men who have the gift or the talent to utter a new word. There are, of course, innumerable sub-divisions, but the distinguishing features of both categories are fairly well marked. The first category, generally speaking, are men conservative in temperament and law-abiding; they live under control and love to be controlled. To my thinking it is their duty to be controlled, because that’s their vocation, and there is nothing humiliating in it for them. The second category all transgress the law; they are destroyers or disposed to destruction according to their capacities. The crimes of these men are of course relative and varied; for the most part they seek in very varied ways the destruction of the present for the sake of the better. But if such a one is forced for the sake of his idea to step over a corpse or wade through blood, he can, I maintain, find within himself, in his conscience, a sanction for wading through blood- that depends on the idea and its dimensions, note that. It’s only in that sense I speak of their right to crime in my article (you remember it began with the legal question). There’s no need for such anxiety, however; the masses will scarcely ever admit this right, they punish them or hang them (more or less), and in doing so fulfil quite justly their conservative vocation. But the same masses set these criminals on a pedestal in the next generation and worship them (more or less). The first category is always the man of the present, the second the man of the future. The first preserve the world and people it, the second move the world and lead it to its goal. Each class has an equal right to exist. In fact, all have equal rights with me- and vive la guerre eternelle-till the New Jerusalem, of course!”
“DeFFar!!” ale yagere sew! (Yes, your honor, I am talking about myself!!).
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