Reading Journal

What I'm reading

Monday, October 02, 2006

Memoirs From the House of the Dead, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Mr. Dostoevsky wrote an account of the years he spent in a Siberian prison camp.

As a member of the upper class, he struggled a lot in prison because most of the prisoners were commoners. No matter how much he tried to be "one of the guys" he was not allowed to do so.

"Indeed, I always wanted to do everything for myself and was particularly anxioius not even to seem to put myself forward as a soft-handed and womanish creature playing the fine gentleman. In fact, to be honest, some part of my self-esteem depended on this attitude. But--and I decidedly do not understand why this always happened--I could never shake off the various servitors and hangers-on who attached themselves to me and finally got me completely in their power, so that in reality they were my masters and I was their servant; somehow it always seemed to turn out that my outward appearance showed that I was indeed too lordly to do without servants and acting the fine gentleman. I found this, of course, very vexatious."

There were also incredibly memorable descriptions of the prisoners' Christmas plays and of a prisoner who died. However, I am too lazy to type them out here.