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Existentialism
Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821 - 1881)
Crime and Punishment
translated by Constance Garnett


Fyodor Dostoevsky
- Life
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- the brothers karamazov
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Chapter Five

-

"OF COURSE, I've been meaning lately to go to Razumihin's to ask for

work, to ask him to get me lessons or something..." Raskolnikov

thought, "but what help can he be to me now? Suppose he gets me

lessons, suppose he shares his last farthing with me, if he has any

farthings, so that I could get some boots and make myself tidy

enough to give lessons... hm... Well and what then? What shall I do

with the few coppers I earn? That's not what I want now. It's really

absurd for me to go to Razumihin...."

The question why he was now going to Razumihin agitated him even

more than he was himself aware; he kept uneasily seeking for some

sinister significance in this apparently ordinary action.

"Could I have expected to set it all straight and to find a way

out by means of Razumihin alone?" he asked himself in perplexity.

He pondered and rubbed his forehead, and, strange to say, after long

musing, suddenly, as if it were spontaneously and by chance, a

fantastic thought came into his head.

"Hm... to Razumihin's," he said all at once, calmly, as though he

had reached a final determination. "I shall go to Razumihin's of

course, but... not now. I shall go to him... on the next day after It,

when It will be over and everything will begin afresh...."

And suddenly he realised what he was thinking.

"After It," he shouted, jumping up from the seat, "but is It

really going to happen? Is it possible it really will happen?" He left

the seat, and went off almost at a run; he meant to turn back,

homewards, but the thought of going home suddenly filled him with

intense loathing; in that hole, in that awful little cupboard of

his, all this had for a month past been growing up in him; and he

walked on at random.

His nervous shudder had passed into a fever that made him feel

shivering; in spite of the heat he felt cold. With a kind of effort he

began almost unconsciously, from some inner craving, to stare at all

the objects before him, as though looking for something to distract

his attention; but he did not succeed, and kept dropping every

moment into brooding. When with a start he lifted his head again and

looked around, he forgot at once what he had just been thinking

about and even where he was going. In this way he walked right

across Vassilyevsky Ostrov, came out on to the Lesser Neva, crossed

the bridge and turned towards the islands. The greenness and freshness

were at first restful to his weary eyes after the dust of the town and

the huge houses that hemmed him in and weighed upon him. Here there

were no taverns, no stifling closeness, no stench. But soon these

new pleasant sensations passed into morbid irritability. Sometimes

he stood still before a brightly painted summer villa standing among

green foliage, he gazed through the fence, he saw in the distance

smartly dressed women on the verandahs and balconies, and children

running in the gardens. The flowers especially caught his attention;

he gazed at them longer than at anything. He was met, too, by

luxurious carriages and by men and women on horseback; he watched them

with curious eyes and forgot about them before they had vanished

from his sight. Once he stood still and counted his money; he found he

had thirty copecks. "Twenty to the policeman, three to Nastasya for

the letter, so I must have given forty-seven or fifty to the

Marmeladovs yesterday," he thought, reckoning it up for some unknown

reason, but he soon forgot with what object he had taken the money out

of his pocket. He recalled it on passing an eating-house or tavern,

and felt that he was hungry.... Going into the tavern he drank a glass

of vodka and ate a pie of some sort. He finished eating it as he

walked away. It was a long while since he had taken vodka and it had

an effect upon him at once, though he only drank a wine-glassful.

His legs felt suddenly heavy and a great drowsiness came upon him.

He turned homewards, but reaching Petrovsky Ostrov he stopped

completely exhausted, turned off the road into the bushes, sank down

upon the grass and instantly fell asleep.

In a morbid condition of the brain, dreams often have a singular

actuality, vividness, and extraordinary semblance of reality. At times

monstrous images are created, but the setting and the whole picture

are so truthlike and filled with details so delicate, so unexpectedly,

but so artistically consistent, that the dreamer, were he an artist

like Pushkin or Turgenev even, could never have invented them in the

waking state. Such sick dreams always remain long in the memory and

make a powerful impression on the overwrought and deranged nervous

system.

Raskolnikov had a fearful dream. He dreamt he was back in his

childhood in the little town of his birth. He was a child about

seven years old, walking into the country with his father on the

evening of a holiday. It was a grey and heavy day, the country was

exactly as he remembered it; indeed he recalled it far more vividly in

his dream than he had done in memory. The little town stood on a level

flat as bare as the hand, not even a willow near it; only in the far

distance, a copse lay, a dark blur on the very edge of the horizon.

A few paces beyond the last market garden stood a tavern, a big

tavern, which had always aroused in him a feeling of aversion, even of

fear, when he walked by it with his father. There was always a crowd

there, always shouting, laughter and abuse, hideous hoarse singing and

often fighting. Drunken and horrible-looking figures were hanging

about the tavern. He used to cling close to his father, trembling

all over when he met them. Near the tavern the road became a dusty

track, the dust of which was always black. It was a winding road,

and about a hundred paces further on, it turned to the right to the

graveyard. In the middle of the graveyard stood a stone church with

a green cupola where he used to go to mass two or three times a year

with his father and mother, when a service was held in memory of his

grandmother, who had long been dead, and whom he had never seen. On

these occasions they used to take on a white dish tied up in a table

napkin a special sort of rice pudding with raisins stuck in it in

the shape of a cross. He loved that church, the old-fashioned,

unadorned ikons and the old priest with the shaking head. Near his

grandmother's grave, which was marked by a stone, was the little grave

of his younger brother who had died at six months old. He did not

remember him at all, but he had been told about his little brother,

and whenever he visited the graveyard he used religiously and

reverently to cross himself and to bow down and kiss the little grave.

And now he dreamt that he was walking with his father past the

tavern on the way to the graveyard; he was holding his father's hand

and looking with dread at the tavern. A peculiar circumstance

attracted his attention: there seemed to be some kind of festivity

going on, there were crowds of gaily dressed townspeople, peasant

women, their husbands, and riff-raff of all sorts, all singing and all

more or less drunk. Near the entrance of the tavern stood a cart,

but a strange cart. It was one of those big carts usually drawn by

heavy cart-horses and laden with casks of wine or other heavy goods.

He always liked looking at those great cart-horses, with their long

manes, thick legs, and slow even pace, drawing along a perfect

mountain with no appearance of effort, as though it were easier

going with a load than without it. But now, strange to say, in the

shafts of such a cart he saw a thin little sorrel beast, one of

those peasants' nags which he had often seen straining their utmost

under a heavy load of wood or hay, especially when the wheels were

stuck in the mud or in a rut. And the peasants would be at them so

cruelly, sometimes even about the nose and eyes and he felt so

sorry, so sorry for them that he almost cried, and his mother always

used to take him away from the window. All of a sudden there was a

great uproar of shouting, singing and the balalaika, and from the

tavern a number of big and very drunken peasants came out, wearing red

and blue shirts and coats thrown over their shoulders.

"Get in, get in!" shouted one of them, a young thick-necked

peasant with a fleshy face red as a carrot. "I'll take you all, get

in!"

But at once there was an outbreak of laughter and exclamations in

the crowd.

"Take us all with a beast like that!"

"Why, Mikolka, are you crazy to put a nag like that in such a cart?"

"And this mare is twenty if she is a day, mates!"

"Get in, I'll take you all," Mikolka shouted again, leaping first

into the cart, seizing the reins and standing straight up in front.

"The bay has gone with Marvey," he shouted from the cart- "and this

brute, mates, is just breaking my heart, I feel as if I could kill

her. She's just eating her head off. Get in, I tell you! I'll make her

gallop! She'll gallop!" and he picked up the whip, preparing himself

with relish to flog the little mare.

"Get in! Come along!" The crowd laughed. "D'you hear, she'll

gallop!"

"Gallop indeed! She has not had a gallop in her for the last ten

years!"

"She'll jog along!"

"Don't you mind her, mates, bring a whip each of you, get ready!"

"All right! Give it to her!"

They all clambered into Mikolka's cart, laughing and making jokes.

Six men got in and there was still room for more. They hauled in a

fat, rosy-cheeked woman. She was dressed in red cotton, in a

pointed, beaded headdress and thick leather shoes; she was cracking

nuts and laughing. The crowd round them was laughing too and indeed,

how could they help laughing? That wretched nag was to drag all the

cartload of them at a gallop! Two young fellows in the cart were

just getting whips ready to help Mikolka. With the cry of "now," the

mare tugged with all her might, but far from galloping, could scarcely

move forward; she struggled with her legs, gasping and shrinking

from the blows of the three whips which were showered upon her like

hail. The laughter in the cart and in the crowd was redoubled, but

Mikolka flew into a rage and furiously thrashed the mare, as though he

supposed she really could gallop.

"Let me get in, too, mates," shouted a young man in the crowd

whose appetite was aroused.

"Get in, all get in," cried Mikolka, "she will draw you all. I'll

beat her to death!" And he thrashed and thrashed at the mare, beside

himself with fury.

"Father, father," he cried, "father, what are they doing? Father,

they are beating the poor horse!"

"Come along, come along!" said his father. "They are drunken and

foolish, they are in fun; come away, don't look!" and he tried to draw

him away, but he tore himself away from his hand, and, beside

himself with horror, ran to the horse. The poor beast was in a bad

way. She was gasping, standing still, then tugging again and almost

falling.

"Beat her to death," cried Mikolka, "it's come to that. I'll do

for her!"

"What are you about, are you a Christian, you devil?" shouted an old

man in the crowd.

"Did any one ever see the like? A wretched nag like that pulling

such a cartload," said another.

"You'll kill her," shouted the third.

"Don't meddle! It's my property. I'll do what I choose. Get in, more

of you! Get in, all of you! I will have her go at a gallop!..."

All at once laughter broke into a roar and covered everything: the

mare, roused by the shower of blows, began feebly kicking. Even the

old man could not help smiling. To think of a wretched little beast

like that trying to kick!

Two lads in the crowd snatched up whips and ran to the mare to

beat her about the ribs. One ran each side.

"Hit her in the face, in the eyes, in the eyes," cried Mikolka.

"Give us a song, mates," shouted some one in the cart and every

one in the cart joined in a riotous song, jingling a tambourine and

whistling. The woman went on cracking nuts and laughing.

...He ran beside the mare, ran in front of her, saw her being

whipped across the eyes, right in the eyes! He was crying, he felt

choking, his tears were streaming. One of the men gave him a cut

with the whip across the face, he did not feel it. Wringing his

hands and screaming, he rushed up to the grey-headed old man with

the grey beard, who was shaking his head in disapproval. One woman

seized him by the hand and would have taken him away, but he tore

himself from her and ran back to the mare. She was almost at the

last gasp, but began kicking once more.

"I'll teach you to kick," Mikolka shouted ferociously. He threw down

the whip, bent forward and picked up from the bottom of the cart a

long, thick shaft, he took hold of one end with both hands and with an

effort brandished it over the mare.

"He'll crush her," was shouted round him. "He'll kill her!"

"It's my property," shouted Mikolka and brought the shaft down

with a swinging blow. There was a sound of a heavy thud.

"Thrash her, thrash her! Why have you stopped?" shouted voices in

the crowd.

And Mikolka swung the shaft a second time and it fell a second

time on the spine of the luckless mare. She sank back on her haunches,

but lurched forward and tugged forward with all her force, tugged

first on one side and then on the other, trying to move the cart.

But the six whips were attacking her in all directions, and the

shaft was raised again and fell upon her a third time, then a

fourth, with heavy measured blows. Mikolka was in a fury that he could

not kill her at one blow.

"She's a tough one," was shouted in the crowd.

"She'll fall in a minute, mates, there will soon be an end of

her," said an admiring spectator in the crowd.

"Fetch an axe to her! Finish her off," shouted a third.

"I'll show you! Stand off," Mikolka screamed frantically; he threw

down the shaft, stooped down in the cart and picked up an iron

crowbar. "Look out," he shouted, and with all his might he dealt a

stunning blow at the poor mare. The blow fell; the mare staggered,

sank back, tried to pull, but the bar fell again with a swinging

blow on her back and she fell on the ground like a log.

"Finish her off," shouted Mikolka and he leapt beside himself, out

of the cart. Several young men, also flushed with drink, seized

anything they could come across- whips, sticks, poles, and ran to

the dying mare. Mikolka stood on one side and began dealing random

blows with the crowbar. The mare stretched out her head, drew a long

breath and died.

"You butchered her," some one shouted in the crowd.

"Why wouldn't she gallop then?"

"My property!" shouted Mikolka, with bloodshot eyes, brandishing the

bar in his hands. He stood as though regretting that he had nothing

more to beat.

"No mistake about it, you are not a Christian," many voices were

shouting in the crowd.

But the poor boy, beside himself, made his way screaming through the

crowd to the sorrel nag, put his arms round her bleeding dead head and

kissed it, kissed the eyes and kissed the lips.... Then he jumped up

and flew in a frenzy with his little fists out at Mikolka. At that

instant his father who had been running after him, snatched him up and

carried him out of the crowd.

"Come along, come! Let us go home," he said to him.

"Father! Why did they... kill... the poor horse!" he sobbed, but his

voice broke and the words came in shrieks from his panting chest.

"They are drunk.... They are brutal... it's not our business!"

said his father. He put his arms round his father but he felt

choked, choked. He tried to draw a breath, to cry out- and woke up.

He waked up, gasping for breath, his hair soaked with

perspiration, and stood up in terror.

"Thank God, that was only a dream," he said, sitting down under a

tree and drawing deep breaths. "But what is it? Is it some fever

coming on? Such a hideous dream!"

He felt utterly broken; darkness and confusion were in his soul.

He rested his elbows on his knees and leaned his head on his hands.

"Good God!" he cried, "can it be, can it be, that I shall really

take an axe, that I shall strike her on the head, split her skull

open... that I shall tread in the sticky warm blood, break the lock,

steal and tremble; hide, all spattered in the blood... with the

axe.... Good God, can it be?"

He was shaking like a leaf as he said this.

"But why am I going on like this?" he continued, sitting up again,

as it were in profound amazement. "I knew that I could never bring

myself to it, so what have I been torturing myself for till now?

Yesterday, yesterday, when I went to make that... experiment,

yesterday I realised completely that I could never bear to do it....

Why am I going over it again, then? Why am I hesitating? As I came

down the stairs yesterday, I said myself that it was base,

loathsome, vile, vile... the very thought of it made me feel sick

and filled me with horror.

"No, I couldn't do it, I couldn't do it! Granted, granted that there

is no flaw in all that reasoning, that all that I have concluded

this last month is clear as day, true as arithmetic.... My God! Anyway

I couldn't bring myself to it! I couldn't do it, I couldn't do it!

Why, why then am I still...?"

He rose to his feet, looked round in wonder as though surprised at

finding himself in this place, and went towards the bridge. He was

pale, his eyes glowed, he was exhausted in every limb, but he seemed

suddenly to breathe more easily. He felt he had cast off that

fearful burden that had so long been weighing upon him, and all at

once there was a sense of relief and peace in his soul. "Lord," he

prayed, "show me my path- I renounce that accursed... dream of mine."

Crossing the bridge, he gazed quietly and calmly at the Neva, at the

glowing red sun setting in the glowing sky. In spite of his weakness

he was not conscious of fatigue. It was as though an abscess that

had been forming for a month past in his heart had suddenly broken.

Freedom, freedom! He was free from that spell, that sorcery, that

obsession!

Later on, when he recalled that time and all that happened to him

during those days, minute by minute, point by point, he was

superstitiously impressed by one circumstance, which though in

itself not very exceptional, always seemed to him afterwards the

predestined turning-point of his fate. He could never understand and

explain to himself why, when he was tired and worn out, when it

would have been more convenient for him to go home by the shortest and

most direct way, he had returned by the Hay Market where he had no

need to go. It was obviously and quite unnecessarily out of his way,

though not much so. It is true that it happened to him dozens of times

to return home without noticing what streets he passed through. But

why, he was always asking himself, why had such an important, such a

decisive and at the same time such an absolutely chance meeting

happened in the Hay Market (where he had moreover no reason to go)

at the very hour, the very minute of his life when he was just in

the very mood and in the very circumstances in which that meeting

was able to exert the gravest and most decisive influence on his whole

destiny? As though it had been lying in wait for him on purpose!

It was about nine o'clock when he crossed the Hay Market. At the

tables and the barrows, at the booths and the shops, all the market

people were closing their establishments or clearing away and

packing up their wares and, like their customers, were going home.

Ragpickers and costermongers of all kinds were crowding round the

taverns in the dirty and stinking courtyards of the Hay Market.

Raskolnikov particularly liked this place and the neighbouring alleys,

when he wandered aimlessly in the streets. Here his rags did not

attract contemptuous attention, and one could walk about in any attire

without scandalising people. At the corner of an alley a huckster

and his wife had two tables set out with tapes, thread, cotton

handkerchiefs, &c. They, too, had got up to go home, but were

lingering in conversation with a friend, who had just come up to them.

This friend was Lizaveta Ivanovna, or, as every one called her,

Lizaveta, the younger sister of the old pawnbroker, Alyona Ivanovna,

whom Raskolnikov had visited the previous day to pawn his watch and

make his experiment.... He already knew all about Lizaveta and she

knew him a little too. She was a single woman of about thirty-five,

tall, clumsy, timid, submissive and almost idiotic. She was a complete

slave and went in fear and trembling of her sister, who made her

work day and night, and even beat her. She was standing with a

bundle before the huckster and his wife, listening earnestly and

doubtfully. They were talking of something with special warmth. The

moment Raskolnikov caught sight of her, he was overcome by a strange

sensation as it were of intense astonishment, though there was nothing

astonishing about this meeting.

"You could make up your mind for yourself, Lizaveta Ivanovna," the

huckster was saying aloud. "Come round tomorrow about seven. They will

be here too."

"To-morrow?" said Lizaveta slowly and thoughtfully, as though unable

to make up her mind.

"Upon my word, what a fright you are in of Alyona Ivanovna," gabbled

the huckster's wife, a lively little woman. "I look at you, you are

like some little babe. And she is not your own sister either-

nothing but a stepsister and what a hand she keeps over you!"

"But this time don't say a word to Alyona Ivanovna," her husband

interrupted; "that's my advice, but come round to us without asking.

It will be worth your while. Later on your sister herself may have a

notion."

"Am I to come?"

"About seven o'clock to-morrow. And they will be here. You will be

able to decide for yourself."

"And we'll have a cup of tea," added his wife.

"All right, I'll come," said Lizaveta, still pondering, and she

began slowly moving away.

Raskolnikov had just passed and heard no more. He passed softly,

unnoticed, trying not to miss a word. His first amazement was followed

by a thrill of horror, like a shiver running down his spine. He had

learnt, he had suddenly quite unexpectedly learnt, that the next day

at seven o'clock Lizaveta, the old woman's sister and only

companion, would be away from home and that therefore at seven o'clock

precisely the old woman would be left alone.

He was only a few steps from his lodging. He went in like a man

condemned to death. He thought of nothing and was incapable of

thinking; but he felt suddenly in his whole being that he had no

more freedom of thought, no will, and that everything was suddenly and

irrevocably decided.

Certainly, if he had to wait whole years for a suitable opportunity,

he could not reckon on a more certain step towards the success of

the plan than that which had just presented itself. In any case, it

would have been difficult to find out beforehand and with certainty,

with greater exactness and less risk, and without dangerous

inquiries and investigations, that next day at a certain time an old

woman, on whose life an attempt was contemplated, would be at home and

entirely alone.


Ce qu'on fait n'est jamais compris mais seulement loué ou blâmé. Nietzsche, Gay Science

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