martes, 29 de septiembre de 2015

The Double - Fyodor Dostoyevsky


Through the bureaucratic ocean of papers, there lies Joseph K., bored with unanswered arguments.
Behind an unapologetic desk, Bartleby sits in silence, preferring nothing.
As a timid door opens, Bashmachkin leaves the smothering atmosphere of the office, ready to meet with the others. All set to forget the tasteless morning coffee and the men trying to make their way through scheme and flattery, and recover the humanity once lost. The sun is setting. A gentle breeze with a scent of independence caresses their faces.
Golyadkin, our protagonist, is waiting for them.

The world of the oppressed rests in Dostoyevsky's prose. The essential analyst of the human nature.

Briefly, The Double is about Mr. Golyadkin and his doppelgänger, Mr. Golyadkin Jr., someone who has been born under a stressful snowstorm.
This novella has many elements that can be found in Gogol's work. His influence on Dostoyevsky is well-known. However, this writer dealt with those same themes with an innovative style that traces clear limits. He even did that with his own work. For me, this was nothing like the novels I have read before. Universal themes like oppression, sorrow, alienation, work and loneliness are always treated from different angles and original ways of execution. Originality perceived by the mind of Sábato: we all are the sum of what we have read. Topics do not change; the way we express ourselves on them, might.

When I read The Brothers Karamazov, my eyes contemplated Dostoyevsky's genius, word by word. My copy is all written. I underlined hundreds of sentences that tried to enlighten the intricate path toward the mind. A humble attempt of understanding. However, the times I underlined something on The Double was for the main purpose of keeping up with the story. Actions. Names. I did not find many memorable reflections that left me at awe. The ones I found were at the beginning, mostly. So, what then? It was all contained in the interpretation. The development of facts, the story itself was what left me staring at an invisible point, drawing in the air, pondering about my own existence and the futility of things.
The fragility of one of the most precious things we own. Our mind. A set of cognitive faculties. A place. A process. Sanity.
His position at that moment was like the position of a man standing over a frightful precipice, when the earth breaks away under him, is rocking, shifting, sways for a last time, and falls, drawing him into the abyss, and meanwhile the unfortunate man has neither the strength nor the firmness of spirit to jump back, to take his eyes from the yawning chasm; the abyss draws him, and he finally leaps into it himself, himself hastening the moment of his own perdition. (39)

We cannot own our mind. Under certain circumstances—sad, nerve wracking, shameful circumstances—, it reacts as it pleases. Or the best way it can. It is the main source of who we are and yet, a trivial fact has the power to break it. A single act. An accumulation of traumatic acts. A life of unfortunate events. A pile of obedient frustrations. The meek silence of unwanted, inevitable solitude. The desire of success in a suffocating environment with people that have already been chosen over you. The search of identity in an alienated world.
Do not be alone too much.

These are just some of the observations that emerge from The Double, a true work of art that portrays a man's psychological struggle, with a brushstroke of unforgiving reality. We are placed inside Golyadkin's head. We are privileged spectators of his mind. We see it work. We see it weep. We see it shocked, unable to move. We shout, because we know what to do (even though we might react the same way if we were in his shoes, you never know).
A privilege that thrills and frightens.
There is much emotion in Dostoyevsky's descriptive and cautious writing. So much, I cannot bear it.

* Note: Months ago, I watched a 2013 film starring Jesse Eisenberg, based on this novella. Artistically exquisite. Keep it in mind!

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