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Poor Folk de Fyodor Dostoyevsky
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Poor Folk (1846 original; edició 1982)

de Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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Títol:Poor Folk
Autors:Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Informació:Ardis (1982), Paperback
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
Etiquetes:No n'hi ha cap

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Poor Folk de Fyodor Dostoevsky (1846)

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"Why does it happen that a good man is left forlorn and forsaken, while happiness seems thrust upon another?"...

Dostoyevsky's first novel!... "Poor Folk" or "Poor People" (I had the latter in my version of translation) - written in a form of letters between a man (who considers himself "old" at 47) and a young woman: the two are distantly related, both down on their luck, struggling and poor - the story slowly escalates into more and more anguish and despair - although in the midst of it all there is a bright moment of unexpected charity by Makar's boss, and yet that's overshadowed by the event that follows and that becomes the denouement of sorts....

The two maintain this awkward relationship (mostly through letters - and his short visits to her about which we also learn only through letters...) - expressing their innermost thoughts and fears, their ruminations on the life of the poor: "...misfortune is an infectious disease, the poor and unfortunate ought to avoid one another, for fear of making each other worse"..., and yet they cling together, professing platonic love for each other.

Varvara (in her diary, part of which she sends to Devushkin) mourns her happy life growing up in the countryside, she counteracts it to life in the city, where she has been deeply hurt, but where she is happy to find a soulmate in Makar Devushkin, who tries hard to take care of her in his small way. Even though her life changes eventually - for the best but only on the surface - she is inconsolable as she leaves the city for her married life. Makar is even more distraught losing her.

I disagree with some of the reviewers saying that Varvara in the end goes materialistic and marries for money. She did agree to that marriage against her heart, but I think she did it so that not to be a constant burden to Makar; plus, it was her future husband who was making the expensive arrangements and then of course regretting the expenses and being unfair to her about it; and last but not least, in her last letter to Makar, Varvara expresses her uncanny but strong feeling that she will not live long, that she will die very soon after marriage...

On the linguistic side of it, it was interesting picturing some phrases in Russian - as translation at times cannot convey exactly the same thing, especially where Dostoyevsky is concerned. I found myself translating some phrases back into Russian, as I was guessing their true wording; it made my reading much more satisfying.

Here are some of the poignant and heart-rending ruminations about the poor by Makar Devushkin in his letter to Varvara:

"Poor people are touchy - that's in the nature of things.... The poor man is exacting; he takes a different view of God's world, and looks askance at every passer-by and turns a troubled gaze about him and looks at every word, wondering whether people are not talking about him, whether they are saying that he is so ugly, speculating about what he would feel exactly, what he would be on this side and what he would be on that side, and everyone knows... that a poor man is worse than a rag and can get no respect from anyone; whatever they may write, those scribblers..., to their thinking the poor man must be turned inside out, he must have no privacy, no pride whatever."

The above so well depicts Dostoyevsky's own vulnerability at that stage of his life.... ( )
1 vota Clara53 | Mar 12, 2019 |
The boy will grow callous as he trembles with the cold, a frightened little fledgling fallen from the nest.

I joked midway through that Dickens would've used this as masturbatory material. The plausibility of the novel itself remains a spot suspect. It is challenging to accept such eloquence from those so wracked with stress and despair. That said, we are a great distance from the ontology of Czarist Russia, as David Foster Wallace noted his great confusion that febrile starved Raskolnikov could afford a servant. My best friend Joel noted that when considering that Dostoevsky pawned his underwear it isn't the desperation which is fascinating but rather the society which proffered said possibilities.

Poor Folk is an epistolary novel, a series of exchanges between a nascent romance. Unfortunately, the affair is very much an April-December tryst and thus the reader is afforded a certain distance. There is also an aesthetic reverberating in the hovels, which proves to be a theme. The lass rejects literature and instead covets material security. The old coot courts validation by attempting to join a local literary circle. One which he is woefully ill equipped, a brother can dream, can't he?

One might imagine here that we have Humbert wanting to both read the TLS and have the teenage neighbor down on her luck. Well? There is an aspect of this Nabokov relished and it isn't adolescent coquettishness, it coincidence, that Sword of Damocles which says that just as Shelley Winters must die, this scurrying pack of Mayhew's minions are about to come into some needed cash.

Despite the crippling poverty and the spiritual crisis, Poor Folk is more about hating one's neighbor, much as was illustrated 150 years later in the Russian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
t first glance, there would appear to be just two characters in Dostoevsky's epistolary first novel, Poor Folk, but really there are four. We have the two letter-writing doomed lovers, Barbara (Varvara) Dobroselova and Makar Devushkin, and we have the pair's mental models or emulators of one another. The story told in the letters of this pair of chastely loving neighbors, in which they live out their lives of privation and longing for one another, is thus given an almost unbearable tension as they all but scream at one another for understanding. "Ah, little angel, you are a perfect child! I know well you are weak as a blade of grass," Makar might say to the decidedly not weak Barbara, for instance, projecting quite forcefully his distorted ideal of femininity on the woman he has decided he must protect even though it is obvious from the very beginning that, sad as Barbara's straits are, she is doing a much better job of taking care of herself than Makar is.*

It's this tension, rather than the horrible living conditions described or the novel's famed status as a possible satire on Gogol's "The Overcoat" and other works, that kept me reading this**; it's the same inter-character tension that I love best about Dostoevsky in particular, and Russian novels in general, after all. There is a perverse streak in me that loves to watch characters willfully misunderstanding each other while claiming (usually dismissively) to understand each other perfectly. I say perverse because nothing makes me angrier than when this happens to me in real life. In fiction, however, it's my crack.

So, while earlier this year I decided, after having thoroughly loved the first volume of Joseph Frank's giant biography of Doestoeversky, that I needed to read Poor Folk right away, I kind of put it off, largely out of a feeling of obligation to others. I am comrades with lots of writers who released new fiction this year and whose work could benefit from what small light I could shine on it; I finally allowed some friends, new and old, to talk me into reading all the Harry Potter and all the Dark Tower novels.... the year slipped away.

But as it comes to an end, I find myself in what my good pal EssJay aptly describes as a "sneaky hate spiral" in which all fiction annoys me or otherwise fails to keep my attention. I've been here before; I know what I need, and so I keep "guaranteed good stuff" that I know I'll like against such times. Hence Poor Folk at last. AaaaaaAAAAAaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh.

My own pecadillos notwithstanding, this book is a searingly worthwhile read even if you don't get off on the kind of tension I'm celebrating here. Doestoevsky at the kinda-faltering start of his career is better than almost anyone else at his or her peak. Listen: I hate epistolary novels. Hate them. But if all of them were like Poor Folk, I would love them. They would be my favorites.

For instance, a good chunk of Barbara's correspondence is devoted to a rather lengthy account of her childhood and upbringing, which means Dostoevsky, brand new novelist, has already set for himself the daunting task of writing convincingly in a female voice -- and a unique and specific female voice at that, for Barbara is revealed as a woman whom we would now understand as a survivor of domestic violence, both physical and emotional, whose character has been shaped/warped by terrible events that she simply understands as commonplace, as just the way the world works. Her presentation of self, not precisely from a victim mentality seeking redress but as one who subtly demands a weird blend of pity and respect for her suffering, is astonishing and uncomfortable to read, and utterly masterful. One cringes at lines like "Yet this did not arise from any WANT OF LOVE for me on the part of my father, but rather from the fact that he was incapable of putting himself in my own and my mother's place. It came from a defect of character." Isn't making excuses for one's abuser a classic sign of abuse in the modern paradigm of same? But Dostoevsky knew it and saw it from the very beginning of his career, decades before it got codified into modern social services jargon. He was that good, right from the start.

All that and a bravura depiction of the humiliations and extraordinary degree of unrewarded effort that poverty inflicts on its victims, whatever the century.

Dude. My jaw is still in my lap. And I'm thinking about opening a hot dog stand.**

*Indeed, Barbara spends a lot of the novel berating Makar for spending money on unwanted gifts for her, which he insists on doing despite her many, many protests, because as far as he is concerned, that is what men must do for women they love, and women who claim they don't want them are just being coy. This, of course, enrages Barbara further, even as it also causes her to worry because it is plain that not only can Makar not afford the bonbons and presents of cash he is constantly sending her, but that he is basically endangering his own survival to do so. Her protests just drive her to try harder to please her with gifts. And so on. It would be hilarious if it wasn't so awful. Or vice versa.

**Well, that and the "just enough" funniness, chiefly achieved in exchanges between our lovers about whether or not a writer for whom Makar serves as amanuensis is a genius (Makar's version) or a hilariously bad hack (Barbara's), complete with extensively quoted passages so ridiculously overblown that they can't even be counted as satire. When Barbara continuously declines to read more, Makar's assumption that she is simply reading them in the wrong spirit and might like them better "when you have a bonbon or two in your mouth" makes it all even funnier. If you're the type who can laugh at patriarchy and patronizing, anyway. Which I can.

***Wink again at Unca Harlan. ( )
  KateSherrod | Aug 1, 2016 |
Young D.'s first splash, which I never read; I suppose I had it down as pre-arrest and gauche. I feel I've cheated because I've read the contextualisation of it in Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt, 1821-1849; I suspect this one, unlike his later immortal works, doesn't exactly work without its context, since he does a few radical things here that you wouldn't be aware of unless you're up on your Russian and European history of novels. In brief -- I won't cheat again by going back to Frank, this is from memory -- the novel of letters was in fashion but about the upper classes; here he turns the format to a down-at-heels clerk and his impoverished girlfriend. In Russia, Gogol had written about a lowly clerk in The Overcoat, but remained in a 'look down and pity' perspective, instead of the inner life as seen from the inside, and with Gogol's satirical bent. So, Poor Folk was the first in Russia to treat these poor of Petersburg in the manner that he does, and he uses the tropes of the sentimental novel to do so. It's funny when his clerk reads excerpts from a send-up of these sentimental novels, about the upper classes, without himself having the temerity to think, what we the readers notice, that his own sentiments are more fine and genuine than those in this 'fine literature'. At the time D. was under the influence of the French Socialist writers, Victor Hugo and George Sand with her novels about the noble poor.

Anyhow, its history aside, I enjoyed this more than expected; it was a tear-jerker and a spoof, and self-referential, with satire of the writers of the day; and his observations about overcoats are an attempt to deepen Gogol: add psychology, says Dostoyesky. ( )
  Jakujin | May 6, 2016 |
Presented as a series of letters between the humble copying-clerk Devushkin and a distant relative of his, the young Varenka, this book brings to the fore the underclass of St. Petersburg, who live at the margins of society in the most appalling conditions and abject poverty. As Devushkin tries to help Varenka improve her plight by selling anything he can, he is reduced to even more desperate circumstances and seeks refuge in alcohol, looking on helplessly as the object of his impossible love is taken away from him. ( )
1 vota | MarkBeronte | Mar 4, 2014 |
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Dostoevsky, Fyodorautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Anhava, MarttiTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Aplin, HughTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Dessaix, RobertTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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“Oh literature is a wonderful thing, Varenka, a very wonderful thing: I discovered that from being with those people the day before yesterday. It is a profound thing. It strengthens people’s hearts and instructs them,… Literature is a picture, or rather in a certain sense both a picture and a mirror; it is an expression of emotion, a subtle form of criticism, a didactic lesson and a document…

”As for poetry, I may say that I consider it unbecoming for a man of my years to devote his faculties to the making of verses. Poetry is rubbish. Even boys at school ought to be whipped for writing it.
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