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


Fyodor Dostoevsky
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PART FOUR

Chapter One

-

"CAN this be still a dream?" Raskolnikov thought once more.

He looked carefully and suspiciously at the unexpected visitor.

"Svidrigailov! What nonsense! It can't be!" he said at last aloud in

bewilderment.

His visitor did not seem at all surprised at this exclamation.

"I've come to you for two reasons. In the first place, I wanted to

make your personal acquaintance, as I have already heard a great

deal about you that is interesting and flattering; secondly, I cherish

the hope that you may not refuse to assist me in a matter directly

concerning the welfare of your sister, Avdotya Romanovna. For

without your support she might not let me come near her now, for she

is prejudiced against me, but with your assistance I reckon on..."

"You reckon wrongly," interrupted Raskolnikov.

"They only arrived yesterday, may I ask you?"

Raskolnikov made no reply.

"It was yesterday, I know. I only arrived myself the day before.

Well, let me tell you this, Rodion Romanovitch, I don't consider it

necessary to justify myself, but kindly tell me what was there

particularly criminal on my part in all this business, speaking

without prejudice, with common sense?"

Raskolnikov continued to look at him in silence.

"That in my own house I persecuted a defenceless girl and

'insulted her with my infamous proposals'- is that it? (I am

anticipating you.) But you've only to assume that I, too, am a man

et nihil humanum... in a word, that I am capable of being attracted

and falling in love (which does not depend on our will), then

everything can be explained in the most natural manner. The question

is, am I a monster, or am I myself a victim? And what if I am a

victim? In proposing to the object of my passion to elope with me to

America or Switzerland, I may have cherished the deepest respect for

her, and may have thought that I was promoting our mutual happiness!

Reason is the slave of passion, you know; why, probably, I was doing

more harm to myself than any one!"

"But that's not the point," Raskolnikov interrupted with disgust.

"It's simply that whether you are right or wrong, we dislike you. We

don't want to have anything to do with you. We show you the door. Go

out!"

Svidrigailov broke into a sudden laugh.

"But you're... but there's no getting round you," he said,

laughing in the frankest way. "I hoped to get round you, but you

took up the right line at once!"

"But you are trying to get round me still!"

"What of it? What of it?" cried Svidrigailov, laughing openly.

"But this is what the French call bonne guerre, and the most

innocent form of deception!... But still you have interrupted me;

one way or another, I repeat again: there would never have been any

unpleasantness except for what happened in the garden. Marfa

Petrovna..."

"You have got rid of Marfa Petrovna, too, so they say?"

Raskolnikov interrupted rudely.

"Oh, you've heard that, too, then? You'd be sure to, though....

But as for your question, I really don't know what to say, though my

own conscience is quite at rest on that score. Don't suppose that I am

in any apprehension about it. All was regular and in order; the

medical inquiry diagnosed apoplexy due to bathing immediately after

a heavy dinner and a bottle of wine, and indeed it could have proved

nothing else. But I'll tell you what I have been thinking to myself of

late, on my way here in the train, especially: didn't I contribute

to all that... calamity, morally, in a way, by irritation or something

of the sort. But I came to the conclusion that that, too, was quite

out of the question."

Raskolnikov laughed.

"I wonder you trouble yourself about it!"

"But what are you laughing at? Only consider, I struck her just

twice with a switch- there were no marks even... don't regard me as

a cynic, please; I am perfectly aware how atrocious it was of me and

all that; but I know for certain, too, that Marfa Petrovna was very

likely pleased at my, so to say, warmth. The story of your sister

had been wrung out to the last drop; for the last three days Marfa

Petrovna had been forced to sit at home; she had nothing to show

herself with in the town. Besides, she had bored them so with that

letter (you heard about her reading the letter). And all of a sudden

those two switches fell from heaven! Her first act was to order the

carriage to be got out.... Not to speak of the fact that there are

cases when women are very, very glad to be insulted in spite of all

their show of indignation. There are instances of it with every one;

human beings in general, indeed, greatly love to be insulted, have you

noticed that? But it's particularly so with women. One might even

say it's their only amusement."

At one time Raskolnikov thought of getting up and walking out and so

finishing the interview. But some curiosity and even a sort of

prudence made him linger for a moment.

"You are fond of fighting?" he asked carelessly.

"No, not very," Svidrigailov answered, calmly. "And Marfa Petrovna

and I scarcely ever fought. We lived very harmoniously, and she was

always pleased with me. I only used the whip twice in all our seven

years (not counting a third occasion of a very ambiguous character).

The first time, two months after our marriage, immediately after we

arrived in the country, and the last time was that of which we are

speaking. Did you suppose I was such a monster, such a reactionary,

such a slave driver? Ha, ha! By the way, do you remember, Rodion

Romanovitch, how a few years ago, in those days of beneficent

publicity, a nobleman, I've forgotten his name, was put to shame

everywhere, in all the papers, for having thrashed a German woman in

the railway train. You remember? It was in those days, that very

year I believe, the 'disgraceful action of the Age' took place (you

know, 'The Egyptian Nights,' that public reading, you remember? The

dark eyes, you know! Ah, the golden days of our youth, where are

they?). Well, as for the gentleman who thrashed the German, I feel

no sympathy with him, because after all what need is there for

sympathy? But I must say that there are sometimes such provoking

'Germans' that I don't believe there is a progressive who could

quite answer for himself. No one looked at the subject from that point

of view then, but that's the truly humane point of view, I assure

you."

After saying this, Svidrigailov broke into a sudden laugh again.

Raskolnikov saw clearly that this was a man with a firm purpose in his

mind and able to keep it to himself.

"I expect you've not talked to any one for some days?" he asked.

"Scarcely any one. I suppose you are wondering at my being such an

adaptable man?"

"No, I am only wondering at your being too adaptable a man."

"Because I am not offended at the rudeness of your questions? Is

that it? But why take offence? As you asked, so I answered," he

replied, with a surprising expression of simplicity. "You know,

there's hardly anything I take interest in," he went on, as it were

dreamily, "especially now, I've nothing to do.... You are quite at

liberty to imagine though that I am making up to you with a motive,

particularly as I told you I want to see your sister about

something. But I'll confess frankly, I am very much bored. The last

three days especially, so I am delighted to see you.... Don't be

angry, Rodion Romanovitch, but you seem to be somehow awfully

strange yourself. Say what you like, there's something wrong with you,

and now, too... not this very minute, I mean, but now, generally....

Well, well, I won't, I won't, don't scowl! I am not such a bear, you

know, as you think."

Raskolnikov looked gloomily at him.

"You are not a bear, perhaps, at all," he said. "I fancy indeed that

you are a man of very good breeding, or at least know how on

occasion to behave like one."

"I am not particularly interested in any one's opinion,"

Svidrigailov answered, dryly and even with a shade of haughtiness,

"and therefore why not be vulgar at times when vulgarity is such a

convenient cloak for our climate... and especially if one has a

natural propensity that way," he added, laughing again.

"But I've heard you have many friends here. You are, as they say,

'not without connections.' What can you want with me, then, unless

you've some special object?"

"That's true that I have friends here," Svidrigailov admitted, not

replying to the chief point. "I've met some already. I've been

lounging about for the last three days, and I've seen them, or they've

seen me. That's a matter of course. I am well dressed and reckoned not

a poor man; the emancipation of the serfs hasn't affected me; my

property consists chiefly of forests and water meadows. The revenue

has not fallen off; but... I am not going to see them, I was sick of

them long ago. I've been here three days and have called on no one....

What a town it is! How has it come into existence among us, tell me

that? A town of officials and students of all sorts. Yes, there's a

great deal I didn't notice when I was here eight years ago, kicking up

my heels.... My only hope now is in anatomy, by Jove, it is!"

"Anatomy?"

"But as for these clubs, Dussauts, parades, or progress, indeed, may

be- well, all that can go on without me," he went on, again without

noticing the question. "Besides, who wants to be a card-sharper?"

"Why, have you been a card-sharper then?"

"How could I help being? There was a regular set of us, men of the

best society, eight years ago; we had a fine time. And all men of

breeding, you know, poets, men of property. And indeed as a rule in

our Russian society, the best manners are found among those who've

been thrashed, have you noticed that? I've deteriorated in the

country. But I did get into prison for debt, through a low Greek who

came from Nezhin. Then Marfa Petrovna turned up; she bargained with

him and bought me off for thirty thousand silver pieces (I owed

seventy thousand). We were united in lawful wedlock and she bore me

off into the country like a treasure. You know she was five years

older than I. She was very fond of me. For seven years I never left

the country. And, take note, that all my life she held a document over

me, the I.O.U. for thirty thousand roubles, so if I were to elect to

be restive about anything I should be trapped at once! And she would

have done it! Women find nothing incompatible in that."

"If it hadn't been for that, would you have given her the slip?"

"I don't know what to say. It was scarcely the document restrained

me. I didn't want to go anywhere else. Marfa Petrovna herself

invited me to go abroad, seeing I was bored, but I've been abroad

before, and always felt sick there. For no reason, but the sunrise,

the bay of Naples, the sea- you look at them and it makes you sad.

What's most revolting is that one is really sad! No, it's better at

home. Here at least one blames others for everything and excuses

oneself. I should have gone perhaps on an expedition to the North

Pole, because j'ai le vin mauvais and hate drinking, and there's

nothing left but wine. I have tried it. But, I say, I've been told

Berg is going up in a great balloon next Sunday from the Yusupov

Garden and will take up passengers at a fee. Is it true?"

"Why, would you go up?"

"I... No, oh, no," muttered Svidrigailov really seeming to be deep

in thought.

"What does he mean? Is he in earnest?" Raskolnikov wondered.

"No, the document didn't restrain me," Svidrigailov went on,

meditatively. "It was my own doing, not leaving the country, and

nearly a year ago Marfa Petrovna gave me back the document on my

name day and made me a present of a considerable sum of money, too.

She had a fortune, you know. 'You see how I trust you, Arkady

Ivanovitch'- that was actually her expression. You don't believe she

used it? But do you know I managed the estate quite decently, they

know me in the neighbourhood. I ordered books, too. Marfa Petrovna

at first approved, but afterwards she was afraid of my over-studying."

"You seem to be missing Marfa Petrovna very much?"

"Missing her? Perhaps. Really, perhaps I am. And, by the way, do you

believe in ghosts?"

"What ghosts?"

"Why, ordinary ghosts."

"Do you believe in them?"

"Perhaps not, pour vous plaire.... I wouldn't say no exactly."

"Do you see them, then?"

Svidrigailov looked at him rather oddly.

"Marfa Petrovna is pleased to visit me," he said, twisting his mouth

into a strange smile.

"How do you mean 'she is pleased to visit you'?"

"She has been three times. I saw her first on the very day of the

funeral, an hour after she was buried. It was the day before I left to

come here. The second time was the day before yesterday, at

daybreak, on the journey at the station of Malaya Vishera, and the

third time was two hours ago in the room where I am staying. I was

alone."

"Were you awake?"

"Quite awake. I was wide awake every time. She comes, speaks to me

for a minute and goes out at the door- always at the door. I can

almost hear her."

"What made me think that something of the sort must be happening

to you?" Raskolnikov said suddenly.

At the same moment he was surprised at having said it. He was much

excited.

"What! Did you think so?" Svidrigailov asked in astonishment. "Did

you really? Didn't I say that there was something in common between

us, eh?"

"You never said so!" Raskolnikov cried sharply and with heat.

"Didn't I?"

"No!"

"I thought I did. When I came in and saw you lying with your eyes

shut, pretending, I said to myself at once 'here's the man.'"

"What do you mean by 'the man?' What are you talking about?" cried

Raskolnikov.

"What do I mean? I really don't know...." Svidrigailov muttered

ingenuously, as though he, too, were puzzled.

For a minute they were silent. They stared in each other's faces.

"That's all nonsense!" Raskolnikov shouted with vexation. "What does

she say when she comes to you?"

"She! Would you believe it, she talks of the silliest trifles and-

man is a strange creature- it makes me angry. The first time she

came in (I was tired you know: the funeral service, the funeral

ceremony, the lunch afterwards. At last I was left alone in my

study. I lighted a cigar and began to think), she came in at the door.

'You've been so busy to-day, Arkady Ivanovitch, you have forgotten

to wind the dining room clock,' she said. All those seven years I've

wound that clock every week, and if I forgot it she would always

remind me. The next day I set off on my way here. I got out at the

station at daybreak; I'd been asleep, tired out, with my eyes half

open, I was drinking some coffee. I looked up and there was suddenly

Marfa Petrovna sitting beside me with a pack of cards in her hands.

'Shall I tell your fortune for the journey, Arkady Ivanovitch?' She

was a great hand at telling fortunes. I shall never forgive myself for

not asking her to. I ran away in a fright, and, besides, the bell

rang. I was sitting to-day, feeling very heavy after a miserable

dinner from a cookshop; I was sitting smoking, all of a sudden Marfa

Petrovna again. She came in very smart in a new green silk dress

with a long train. 'Good day, Arkady Ivanovitch! How do you like my

dress? Aniska can't make like this.' (Aniska was a dressmaker in the

country, one of our former serf girls who had been trained in

Moscow, a pretty wench.) She stood turning round before me. I looked

at the dress, and then I looked carefully, very carefully, at her

face. 'I wonder you trouble to come to me about such trifles, Marfa

Petrovna.' 'Good gracious, you won't let one disturb you about

anything!' To tease her I said, 'I want to get married, Marfa

Petrovna.' 'That's just like you, Arkady Ivanovitch; it does you

very little credit to come looking for a bride when you've hardly

buried your wife. And if you could make a good choice, at least, but I

know it won't be for your happiness or hers, you will only be a

laughing-stock to all good people.' Then she went out and her train

seemed to rustle. Isn't it nonsense, eh?"

"But perhaps you are telling lies?" Raskolnikov put in.

"I rarely lie," answered Svidrigailov thoughtfully, apparently not

noticing the rudeness of the question.

"And in the past, have you ever seen ghosts before?"

"Y-yes, I have seen them, but only once in my life, six years ago. I

had a serf, Filka; just after his burial I called out forgetting

'Filka, my pipe!' He came in and went to the cupboard where my pipes

were. I sat still and thought 'he is doing it out of revenge,' because

we had a violent quarrel just before his death. 'How dare you come

in with a hole in your elbow,' I said. 'Go away, you scamp!' He turned

and went out, and never came again. I didn't tell Marfa Petrovna at

the time. I wanted to have a service sung for him, but I was ashamed."

"You should go to a doctor."

"I know I am not well, without your telling me, though I don't

know what's wrong; I believe I am five times as strong as you are. I

didn't ask you whether you believe that ghosts are seen, but whether

you believe that they exist."

"No, I won't believe it!" Raskolnikov cried, with positive anger.

"What do people generally say?" muttered Svidrigailov, as though

speaking to himself, looking aside and bowing his head: "They say,

'You are ill, so what appears to you is only unreal fantasy.' But

that's not strictly logical. I agree that ghosts only appear to the

sick, but that only proves that they are unable to appear except to

the sick, not that they don't exist."

"Nothing of the sort," Raskolnikov insisted irritably.

"No? You don't think so?" Svidrigailov went on, looking at him

deliberately. "But what do you say to this argument (help me with it):

ghosts are as it were shreds and fragments of other worlds, the

beginning of them. A man in health has, of course, no reason to see

them, because he is above all a man of this earth and is bound for the

sake of completeness and order to live only in this life. But as

soon as one is ill, as soon as the normal earthly order of the

organism is broken, one begins to realise the possibility of another

world; and the more seriously ill one is, the closer becomes one's

contact with that other world, so that as soon as the man dies he

steps straight into that world. I thought of that long ago. If you

believe in a future life, you could believe in that, too."

"I don't believe in a future life," said Raskolnikov.

Svidrigailov sat lost in thought.

"And what if there are only spiders there, or something of that

sort," he said suddenly.

"He is a madman," thought Raskolnikov.

"We always imagine eternity as something beyond our conception,

something vast, vast! But why must it be vast? Instead of all that,

what if it's one little room, like a bathhouse in the country, black

and grimy and spiders in every corner, and that's all eternity is? I

sometimes fancy it like that."

"Can it be you can imagine nothing juster and more comforting than

that?" Raskolnikov cried, with a feeling of anguish.

"Juster? And how can we tell, perhaps that is just, and do you

know it's what I would certainly have made it," answered Svidrigailov,

with a vague smile.

This horrible answer sent a cold chill through Raskolnikov.

Svidrigailov raised his head, looked at him, and suddenly began

laughing.

"Only think," he cried, "half an hour ago we had never seen each

other, we regarded each other as enemies; there is a matter

unsettled between us; we've thrown it aside, and away we've gone

into the abstract! Wasn't I right in saying that we were birds of a

feather?"

"Kindly allow me," Raskolnikov went on irritably, "to ask you to

explain why you have honoured me with your visit... and... and I am in

a hurry, I have no time to waste. I want to go out."

"By all means, by all means. Your sister, Avdotya Romanovna, is

going to be married to Mr. Luzhin, Pyotr Petrovitch?"

"Can you refrain from any question about my sister and from

mentioning her name? I can't understand how you dare utter her name in

my presence, if you really are Svidrigailov."

"Why, but I've come here to speak about her; how can I avoid

mentioning her?"

"Very good, speak, but make haste."

"I am sure that you must have formed your own opinion of this Mr.

Luzhin, who is a connection of mine through my wife, if you have

only seen him for half an hour, or heard any facts about him. He is no

match for Avdotya Romanovna. I believe Avdotya Romanovna is

sacrificing herself generously and imprudently for the sake of...

for the sake of her family. I fancied from all I had heard of you that

you would be very glad if the match could be broken off without the

sacrifice of worldly advantages. Now I know you personally, I am

convinced of it."

"All this is very naive... excuse me, I should have said impudent on

your part," said Raskolnikov.

"You mean to say that I am seeking my own ends. Don't be uneasy,

Rodion Romanovitch, if I were working for my own advantage, I would

not have spoken out so directly. I am not quite a fool. I will confess

something psychologically curious about that: just now, defending my

love for Avdotya Romanovna, I said I was myself the victim. Well,

let me tell you that I've no feeling of love now, not the slightest,

so that I wonder myself indeed, for I really did feel something..."

"Through idleness and depravity," Raskolnikov put in.

"I certainly am idle and depraved, but your sister has such

qualities that even I could not help being impressed by them. But

that's all nonsense, as I see myself now."

"Have you seen that long?"

"I began to be aware of it before, but was only perfectly sure of it

the day before yesterday, almost at the moment I arrived in

Petersburg. I still fancied in Moscow, though, that I was coming to

try to get Avdotya Romanovna's hand and to cut out Mr. Luzhin."

"Excuse me for interrupting you; kindly be brief, and come to the

object of your visit. I am in a hurry, I want to go out..."

"With the greatest pleasure. On arriving here and determining on a

certain... journey, I should like to make some necessary preliminary

arrangements. I left my children with an aunt; they are well

provided for; and they have no need of me personally. And a nice

father I should make, too! I have taken nothing but what Marfa

Petrovna gave me a year ago. That's enough for me. Excuse me, I am

just coming to the point. Before the journey which may come off, I

want to settle Mr. Luzhin, too. It's not that I detest him so much,

but it was through him I quarrelled with Marfa Petrovna when I learned

that she had dished up this marriage. I want now to see Avdotya

Romanovna through your mediation, and if you like in your presence, to

explain to her that in the first place she will never gain anything

but harm from Mr. Luzhin. Then begging her pardon for all past

unpleasantness, to make her a present of ten thousand roubles and so

assist the rupture with Mr. Luzhin, a rupture to which I believe she

is herself not disinclined, if she could see the way to it."

"You are certainly mad," cried Raskolnikov not so much angered as

astonished. "How dare you talk like that!"

"I knew you would scream at me; but in the first place, though I

am not rich, this ten thousand roubles is perfectly free; I have

absolutely no need for it. If Avdotya Romanovna does not accept it,

I shall waste it in some more foolish way. That's the first thing.

Secondly, my conscience is perfectly easy; I make the offer with no

ulterior motive. You may not believe it, but in the end Avdotya

Romanovna and you will know. The point is, that I did actually cause

your sister, whom I greatly respect, some trouble and

unpleasantness, and so, sincerely regretting it, I want- not to

compensate, not to repay her for the unpleasantness, but simply to

do something to her advantage, to show that I am not, after all,

privileged to do nothing but harm. If there were a millionth

fraction of self interest in my offer, I should not have made it so

openly; and I should not have offered her ten thousand only, when five

weeks ago I offered her more, Besides, I may, perhaps, very soon marry

a young lady, and that alone ought to prevent suspicion of any

design on Avdotya Romanovna. In conclusion, let me say that in

marrying Mr. Luzhin, she is taking money just the same, only from

another man. Don't be angry, Rodion Romanovitch, think it over

coolly and quietly."

Svidrigailov himself was exceedingly cool and quiet as he was saying

this.

"I beg you to say no more," said Raskolnikov. "In any case this is

unpardonable impertinence."

"Not in the least. Then a man may do nothing but harm to his

neighbour in this world, and is prevented from doing the tiniest bit

of good by trivial conventional formalities. That's absurd. If I died,

for instance, and left that sum to your sister in my will, surely

she wouldn't refuse it?"

"Very likely she would."

"Oh, no, indeed. However, if you refuse it, so be it, though ten

thousand roubles is a capital thing to have on occasion. In any case I

beg you to repeat what I have said to Avdotya Romanovna."

"No, I won't."

"In that case, Rodion Romanovitch, I shall be obliged to try and see

her myself and worry her by doing so."

"And if I do tell her, will you not try to see her?"

"I don't know really what to say. I should like very much to see her

once more."

"Don't hope for it."

"I'm sorry. But you don't know me. Perhaps we may become better

friends."

"You think we may become friends?"

"And why not?" Svidrigailov said, smiling. He stood up and took

his hat. "I didn't quite intend to disturb you and I came here without

reckoning on it... though I was very much struck by your face this

morning."

"Where did you see me this morning?" Raskolnikov asked uneasily.

"I saw you by chance.... I kept fancying there is something about

you like me.... But don't be uneasy. I am not intrusive; I used to get

on all right with card-sharpers, and I never bored Prince Svirbey, a

great personage who is a distant relation of mine, and I could write

about Raphael's Madonna in Madam Prilukov's album, and I never left

Marfa Petrovna's side for seven years, and I used to stay the night at

Viazemsky's house in the Hay Market in the old days, and I may go up

in a balloon with Berg, perhaps."

"Oh, all right. Are you starting soon on your travels, may I ask?"

"What travels?"

"Why, on that 'journey'; you spoke of it yourself."

"A journey? Oh, yes. I did speak of a journey. Well, that's a wide

subject.... if only you knew what you are asking," he added, and

gave a sudden, loud, short laugh. "Perhaps I'll get married instead of

the journey. They're making a match for me."

"Here?"

"Yes."

"How have you had time for that?"

"But I am very anxious to see Avdotya Romanovna once. I earnestly

beg it. Well, good-bye for the present. Oh, yes, I have forgotten

something. Tell your sister, Rodion Romanovitch, that Marfa Petrovna

remembered her in her will and left her three thousand rubles.

That's absolutely certain. Marfa Petrovna arranged it a week before

her death, and it was done in my presence. Avdotya Romanovna will be

able to receive the money in two or three weeks."

"Are you telling the truth?"

"Yes, tell her. Well, your servant. I am staying very near you."

As he went out, Svidrigailov ran up against Razumihin in the

doorway.


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

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