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White Nights | Review

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I’ve never known so many synonyms for sadness and depression are existed until Dostoevsky brought them up to build this story. It’s my first encounter with Dostoevsky’s works, and it has been such a voluptuous one. This short story represents a lot of Russian culture back in 1800s. You’ll feel how the culture, buildings, people and daily routine are vividly and candidly been described by Dostoevsky through the eyes of the nameless narrator.

All those years, I’ve read so many quotes that have been quoted from Dostoevsky’s works. But you see dear reader, here lies the problem of quoted stuff; It conveys to you completely different meanings than the original text has. This affects the reader by making him more attached to the book or the author or the imaginary idea carried by the quote. Then he feels crestfallen and irksome when he reads the book from which it was quoted, to find that the amount of anguish, dejection, gaiety, or pensiveness has little place in the book, and that he has been deceived in one way or another. This vexatious treachery often happens when translating the works of Dostoevsky and Franz Kafka. We believe that they’ve carried a great deal of oppression and misery in their lives and between the folds of their pages, but this is not true. Absolutely not.

This voluptuous short story which had been told in first person, tells the story of a late twenties man (the nameless narrator) and a simple teenage girl waiting for her suitor to keep his promise and come back to her. And the white nights they spent in the company of each other.

The Protagonist

“allow me, Nastenka, to tell my story in the third person, for one feels awfully ashamed to tell it in the first person”

From what I’ve understood; he’s lonely. Profoundly lonely; that he takes pleasure (not in a kinky way) of befriending the nature, the buildings and houses of St. Petersburg. However, he occasionally creates some imaginary friendships with the citizens of Petersburg. All to let his aching soul feels less abandoned, less miserable than it is already.

One day he met Nastenka. She’s standing all in tears. And as soft as a breeze on a cheek he falls for her, as simple as this. He went to her and they start knowing each other by sharing “their history” (form the first moment they’ve met. Bizarre now, not then) it felt like the song Strangers In The Night by Frank Sinatra has been playing in the background all the time I was reading the story. From this night onward they kept meeting and talking, and opened up to each other that Nastenka told him about her suitor. Our miserable protagonist tried so hard to hide his feelings for Nastenka, pardon my French, but that cold hearted bitch played basely with the cords of his heart. And at the dénouement of the story she kind of deluded him to believe that she cease or cease not loving her suitor. Can or cannot love our poor narrator. She frankly gave him high expectations about the future of their relationship. But all went in vain when her suitor showed up. However, she did not cease being mean, she sent the man a smashing letter telling him how much she loves him, and wished if she could be able to “LOVE THEM BOTH AT THE SAME TIME” like really, can anyone be so despicable and stolid that proceeds forward with this insolence by asking the poor man to become “a brother”, “a dear friend” of her, FOR GOOD.

And as degrading as that was, our narrator proceeds his life, frustrated and moribund. So that he started to see everything in the existence much older and more melancholic.

“My God, a whole moment of happiness! Is that too little for the whole of a man’s life?”

Nastenka

As devastating as this may seem, I can’t blame her for being a cold hearted bitch; she’s a teenager, who spent her whole life pinned to her grandmother, little experience she has from the world and from love yet from proper manners.
However, let me shed a light on her name; Dostoevsky really used to know what he’s doing. As you may or may not know, the name Nastenka is a hypocorism of the name Anastasia. The name Anastasia is of a Greek origin that means resurrection. So I was thinking, maybe Dostoevsky’s picked up this name for a reason, I concluded to the idea that Nastenka brought resurrection to the narrator’s life; since resurrection mean: the concept of coming back to life after death. He was living in loneliness before she came, she liven his heart with love, sacrifice, acceptance. Nevertheless, she never brought reincarnation, as she left him to his misery and suffocation and went on with her suitor.

I actually blame the culture back then, for the lack of education and experience that Nastenka was immersed in. The Russians were a closed people, concerned in chastity and obedience. I can imagine that the rest of Dostoevsky’s stories and yet other Russian authors will continue in the same sequence of events.

“And one shakes one’s head and says how rapidly the years fly by! And again one asks oneself what has one done with one’s years. Where have you buried your best days? Have you lived or not? Look, one says to oneself, look how cold the world is growing. Some more years will pass, and after them will come gloomy solitude; then will come old age trembling on its crutch, and after it misery and desolation. Your fantastic world will grow pale, your dreams will fade and die and will fall like the yellow leaves from the trees. . . . Oh, Nastenka! you know it will be sad to be left alone, utterly alone, and to have not even anything to regret — nothing, absolutely nothing . . . for all that you have lost, all that, all was nothing, stupid, simple nullity, there has been nothing but dreams!”


August 9, 2017 – Started Reading
August 11, 2017 – Finished Reading
I do not own a copy of the book.
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