Friday, January 18, 2008

A Note on "Notes"

I just finished reading Notes From Underground for the first time, and as if the world needs my backup on this: It's brilliant. I also think its famous and prolific translators, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, are geniuses. I read their translation of The Gambler not long ago, and like Underground, I found that book surprisingly funny. Either his shorter work is where Dostoevsky exercises his comedic chops, or I need to reread the longer stuff with a different eye. (The Brothers Karamazov is actually the only of those that I tackled, and a long time ago. I need to go on a spree, I think.)

Here's a bit from Underground:
Oh, if I were doing nothing only out of laziness. Lord, how I'd respect myself then. Respect myself precisely because I'd at least be capable of having laziness in me; there would be in me at least one, as it were, positive quality, which I myself could be sure of. Question: who is he? Answer: a lazybones. Now, it would be most agreeable to hear that about myself. It means I'm positively defined; it means there's something to say about me. "Lazybones!"--now, that is a title and a mission, it's a career, sirs. No joking, it really is. By rights I'm then a member of the foremost club, and my sole occupation is ceaselessly respecting myself. I knew a gentleman who prided himself all his life on being a fine judge of Lafite. He regarded it as his positive merit and never doubted himself. He died not merely with a serene but with a triumphant conscience, and he was perfectly right.


Anonymous Kevin Longrie said...

I haven't read "Notes" in a while, but I do remember chuckling out loud to myself a few times, something that doesn't happen often with me during reading.

5:40 AM  

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