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Reading Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling #2–the Underground Man, Prufrock and Other Thoughts.

I’d been wanting to make my next “Reading Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling” post a post about the connection between a story in the Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Kierkegaard’s pseudonym, Johannes de Silentio, in Fear and Trembling, but it’s been a stressful and busy month and I haven’t yet been able to afford the time. So instead, I thought I’d blog about this quote that made me laugh out loud:

IMG_0788“The slaves of misery, the frogs in life’s swamp naturally exclaim: ‘Such love is foolishness: the rich brewer’s widow is just as good and sound a match.’ Let them croak away undisturbed in the swamp. “
–Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

It’s been a very pleasant surprise discovering Kierkegaard’s sense of humour, especially, his way of addressing and countering those he’s opposing. The above quote is a perfect example. It reminds me a lot of the way Dostoevsky has the Underground Man address and dismiss his naysayers in Notes From Underground. The Underground Man is, of course, far more acerbic and arrogant; Johanne de Silentio is definitely more humble and benign. Nonetheless, I can’t help but see similarities between them when it comes to addressing the opposition. 🙂

Something else I’ve been surprised to discover (though it may be too early for me to really judge properly, as I am still only a bit over halfway through) is how Fear and Trembling seems to be just as much about Kierkegaard’s regret regarding his lack of faith for, and the resulting loss of, his relationship with Regine as it is about the faith of Abraham in being willing to sacrifice Isaac. Going into it, I knew there was going to be a knight of faith and a knight of infinite resignation (hopefully, more on them another time), but I had no idea they were both hopeless romantics.

IMG_0791[1]And yet it must be glorious to get the princess…”
–Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

Footnote “50”  (in the above, second to last, paragraph) says:

“Kierkegaard writes in his journals (Papirer IV, A 107): ‘If I had had faith I would have stayed with Regine’ The entry is dated 17 May 1843.”
–Alastair Hannay, Fear and Trembling

I might expand on this further at some point, but reading this section I was reminded a lot of T. S. Eliot’s Prufrock and John Greenleaf Whittier’s saddest of all sad words:

“For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!'”
–John Greenleaf Whittier “Maud Muller

Sad stuff. 😦 But it’s definitely not all heartbreak and “What if?” There’s been plenty about faith and sacrifice (though mostly faith) that I’ve been reevaluating and pondering, and an equal amount of stuff I’ve been perplexed with, and a whole lot of other unexpected stuff that Kierkegaard’s surprised me with. I’m looking forward to what’s to come. 🙂

This is another one of those books that I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of in my understanding of it. It’s definitely a book I’m going to have to keep coming back to in order to really understand. Luckily, Kierkegaard is a brilliant writer and thinker; he’s one of those minds you can visit over and over again and never tire of.

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What I’m Reading #10

After my last frustrating experience photographing a year’s worth of reading, I figure it’s probably a better idea to get back to doing my What I’m Reading posts more regularly. 🙂

Here’s a look at what I’ve read, so far, in 2017.DSC_8949rs

  1. The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
  2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  3. A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle
  4. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
  5. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
  6. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
  7. The Double by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Richard Pevear (Translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (Translator)
  8. Nevsky Prospect, The Diary of a Madman, The Nose, The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol (four out of six of the St. Petersburg Tales), Richard Pevear (Translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (Translator)
  9. Oddkins by Dean R. Koontz
  10. The Martian by Andy Weir (Not pictured because I borrowed it from a friend)
  11. Rise of Endymion (Hyperion Cantos #4) by Dan Simmons (Not pictured; I listened to the audiobook)

I’m having a bit of a dilemma regarding Nikolai Gogol’s works; I’m not exactly sure how to count or list them, as his tales are collected/listed differently depending on the publisher. I think I’ll just wait until I’ve finished reading the other two St. Petersburg Tales and then count all of them as one book. In that case, so far, I’ve finished reading ten books this year (1/3 of the way through my reading goal for the year, yay! 🙂 ). All of them were great reads, though I’ve only managed to blog about one. Hopefully, I’ll eventually get around to blogging about a few more of them.

These are the books I’m currently reading.DSC_8974rs

How to be Decadent by George Mikes
I and Thou by Martin Buber, Ronald Gregor Smith (Translator)
Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Richard Pevear (Translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (Translator)
Notes from Underground (A Norton Critical Edition / 1st Edition) by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Michael R. Katz (Translator/Editor)
The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Richard Pevear (Translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (Translator)
St. Petersburg Tales (The Portrait, The Carriage) by Nikolai Gogol, Richard Pevear (Translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (Translator)
The Resurrection of the Son of God by N. T. Wright

For the last few weeks, I’ve been focusing on Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground. I’ll be meeting up with a friend this Sunday to discuss it, so I’ve been using that as impetus to really dig in and finish all the critical essays and background information included in my Norton Critical Edition. In addition to that, I’ve also been re-reading Notes from Underground for the second and third time simultaneously. (As you can see I’m somewhat obsessed. 🙂 ) I’m actually not exactly sure how you would count it, as I’m reading two different translations simultaneously (i.e. I finish a chapter in the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation, and then I read Michael R. Katz’s translation of the same chapter). I don’t think I could manage to pull off this kind of simultaneous reading with any other book, but Notes from Underground is short enough and such brilliant piece of work, I’m finding it’s actually a really interesting way to read it. 🙂

I’ve been slowly making my way through George Mikes’ How to be Decadent and Martin Buber’s I and Thou for about a year now. I actually started reading Buber’s I and Thou last May, but it was a tough read and hard to follow. I only got about 20 pages in before I put it down. I figured maybe it was problem with Ronald Smith’s translation and decided to wait till I could get my hands on a Walter Kaufmann translation instead. But, recently, I came across a few paragraphs from I and Thou that I really liked that turned out to be a section from the Ronald Smith translation just a few pages down from where I left off. So I figured maybe I’d just stopped before the good stuff, and decided to have another go at it. I’ll still likely still buy the Kaufmann translation, eventually, but I’m gonna give Ronald Smith another go and we’ll see how that turns out.

N. T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God is a tome I’ve been meaning to read for nearly a decade now. I finally bought a copy as a sort of Christmas present to myself last year and figured I’d make it my Lent reading project this year. Unfortunately, that plan got hijacked, by my Notes from Underground reading project. Still, I’ve been slowly chugging along at it. I’m only 50 pages in, so there’s no way I’m gonna finish it by Easter, but I’m determined to slowly make my way through it this year.

I haven’t started reading Dostoevsky’s The Gambler or the last two of Gogol’s Petersburg Tales, but they’re up next, after I’m finished with Notes from Underground.

Aside from those books, in celebration of National Poetry Month, I’m hoping to dig into some of the poetry of my two favourite poets T. S. Eliot and Gerard Manley Hopkins.

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I especially want to focus on T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, and possibly “Ash Wedsnesday”. But definitely Four Quartets, which I think is the best of T. S. Eliot’s best. I’ve been wanting to really dig into to it ever since I read it for the first time in November, 2015.

It’s such a deep and profound and beautiful and perfect collection of poetry, I think I could explore and meditate on it for a lifetime and still have more to discover and explore. I feel like it will take me years to even begin to scratch the surface of it’s depth, but I’m looking forward to making some progress towards that this next month. 🙂

Books I Read in 2016 (What I’m Reading #9)

It’s been over six months since I posted anything here; mostly because, well, life. But I have been busy reading.

This is pretty much what my last year in books looked like. 🙂

dsc_8849rsAs a side note, taking this photo was, by far, the most frustrating experience I’ve had photographing books for my blog.

It took me three tries to get all the books in the stack right. Each time, it was only after I’d actually stacked the books, taken the picture, and nearly finished putting all the books away on my shelves, that I would suddenly realise I’d forgotten to include a book and back out all the books would have to come. 😦 In addition to that, there was always the matter of getting the balance right. See that wise old owl at the top of the stack? He’s only there so I could balance the darn thing. I can’t even count the amount of times the entire stack fell over. Fortunately, my stack was heavily cushioned and no books were damaged or hurt in the making of this photo. 🙂

Moving on…

In my last “official” What I’m Reading post, I mentioned I was going to be taking on the Goodreads’ Reading Challenge again. In 2015, I’d made it my goal to complete 36 books, but I found myself struggling at the end of the year. So I decided to be more realistic with my reading goals in 2016 and made it a goal to finish reading 30 books. I’m happy to say I reached my goal and even surpassed it! I read 33 books, which turns out to be the exactly same amount I read in 2015.

Here’s a complete list of the books I managed to complete, in the order they were read (generally speaking), with the latest reads appearing first.

2016-books

  1. What We Talk about When We Talk about God by Rob Bell
  2. Endymion (Hyperion Cantos #3) by Dan Simmons
  3. The Fall of Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos #2) by Dan Simmons
  4. Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos #1) by Dan Simmons
  5. Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
  6. Prayer: Letters to Malcolm by C.S. Lewis
  7. Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense by Francis Spufford
  8. The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #3) by Philip Pullman
  9. The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials #2) by Philip Pullman
  10. The Northern Lights (His Dark Materials #1) by Philip Pullman
  11. The Brothers Karamazov: A Norton Critical Edition / Edition 1 by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ralph E. Matlaw (Editor/Translator, Constance Garnett (Translator)
  12. The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman by Angela Carter
  13. Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Constance Garnett (Translator)
  14. Mistress Masham’s Repose by T.H. White
  15. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  16. God Will Make a Way: What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do by Henry Cloud, John Townsend
  17. Dune (Dune #1) by Frank Herbert
  18. Growing up and Other Vices by Sara Midda
  19. Twelve Step Fandango by Chris Haslam
  20. The Brothers Karamazov: A Novel in Four Parts With Epilogue by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Richard Pevear (Translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (Translator)
  21. Eggs, Beans And Crumpets (Ukridge #1.3) by P.G. Wodehouse
  22. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  23. The Inner Life by Thomas à Kempis
  24. John for Everyone: Part One by N.T. Wright
  25. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  26. The Death Cure (The Maze Runner #3) by James Dashner
  27. The Scorch Trials (The Maze Runner #2) by James Dashner
  28. The Maze Runner (The Maze Runner #1) by James Dashner
  29. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  30. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
  31. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  32. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  33. The Wise Woman and Other Stories by George MacDonald

Here are a few more statistics. 🙂2016-in-review-editedIt’s interesting to compare 2016’s with 2015’s. They’re both surprisingly similar.2015 in review

Again, these stats aren’t entirely accurate.

For example, I’m sure Notes from the Underground is far more popular than the statistics here show. I chose this edition because it was the closest I could find to a stand-alone Constance Garnett translation, which is the version I completed (I’m still in the middle of reading the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation). The least popular book I read is actually Sarah Midda’s Growing up and Other Vices followed closely by Chris Haslam’s Twelve Step Fandango (which I only read because my friend wanted to know my opinion of it and promised me he’d read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World if I read Twelve Step Fandango. I kept my end of the bargain, he didn’t. Heh.).

In addition, I didn’t completely read both translations of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. I read the entire Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation and read about 1/5 of the Norton Critical edition (translated by Constance Garnett and revised by Ralph E. Matlaw). The Norton Critical edition, includes about 140 pages of background and sources and critical essays, all of which I read, so I felt it was fine to count it as an additional book. The only drawback to including it in the list is that it added an extra 600-700 pages to my final page count for the year.

I also read both versions of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, the 1890 Lippincott version and the 1891 revised and expanded version. So, technically, that would be two books, instead of one. But they were both included in the Norton Critical Edition and since I’d read a few other books that were terribly short, I figured I should just count it as one book to help even things out on the whole. 🙂

I’d say, overall, 2016 was a great year in reading. It included some of the best books I’ve ever read, as well as, some of the worst (*cough, James Dashner*); it also included the weirdest and most disturbing book I’ve ever read. Nearly every book was thought provoking in some way, which, to me, is the hallmark of a book worth reading.

I’d like to say, as I usually do, that I’ll be writing reviews for most or some of these books in the future, but, so far, that hasn’t seemed to have panned out. 😦 So I’ll refrain from saying anything this time, and que sera, sera. We’ll see how it goes. 🙂

I’ve signed up again for the 2017 Goodreads’ Reading Challenge. My goal is, again, to complete 30 books. I’m hoping to read a lot of tomes and magnum opuses, several large and weighty books, this year, so I’m not sure I’ll complete my goal. But I still think 30 books is a good and realistic-enough goal to shoot for.

How about you? Do you have any reading goals for 2017? If so, I’d love to hear about them. 🙂

Reading The Brothers Karamazov #1

Brothers Karamazov, Richard Pevear, Larissa Volokhonsky, Dostoevsky

About two months ago, a friend was going to have a month off. So he told me to give him a big reading project, which we could then discuss the next time we met. Fyodor Dostoevky’s The Brothers Karamazov had been sitting on my shelf and at the top of my priority reading list for years, but I’d been waiting till I could cut out a chunk of time to tackle it. This looked like the perfect opportunity. So I suggested The Brothers Karamazov (along with a disclaimer that, realistically, I probably wouldn’t be able to finish it in a month, but it was worth a start).

Two months later and, I haven’t finished, I’m about 2/5 into the book. But I’m not worried about taking my time. This isn’t a book I want to rush through.

One of the last books I read was Kurt Vonnegut’s SlaughterHouse-Five. In it, one of the characters says…

IMG_6014

“Rosewater said an interesting thing to Billy one time about a book that wasn’t science fiction. He said that everything there was to know about life was in The Brothers Karamazov, by Feodor Dostoevsky. ‘But that isn’t enough any more,’ said Rosewater.”
Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse-Five

Is everything there is to know about life really in this book? Maybe. Is it really not enough any more? I don’t know. 🙂

What I do know is, Dostoevsky was a master at understanding, expressing and exploring human nature and the human experience. And this–his last book–is him at his finest. Every chapter is in some way an exploration of, or insight into, some form of psychology, philosophy, or theology. And many chapters are brimming with food for thought.

In light of that, and because The Brothers Karamazov is such a long book, I thought it would be interesting to try something different. So I’m going to try to blog about my reading experience, as I read, instead of waiting until I’ve finished reading all 800 pages. After all, “A short pencil is better than a long memory.” I’m hoping this will be a good way to note and journal my thoughts, so that I won’t forget them. I’m not exactly sure how I’ll go about it, but I have a few ideas. 🙂

What I’m Reading #6

I’ve decided to change the title of my “This Week’s Books” posts to “What I’m Reading” as it better suits these posts. These are the books I’m reading, or intend to read, this summer.

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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
T. S. Eliot: Selected Poems by T. S. Eliot
The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins edited by W. H. Gardner and N. H. MacKenzie
T. S. Eliot: The Waste Land: A Casebook
by Charles Brian Cox (Editor) and Arnold P. Hinchliffe (Editor)
Anam Cara by John O’ Donohue
Paper Towns by John Green
A Beginner’s Guide to Ideas by William Raeper and Linda Smith
Dostoevsky: the Making of a Novelist by Ernest J. Simmons
Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock

Most of these books I’ve been reading for awhile and have already read a good portion of. I’m nearly finished re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird and it’s been every bit as wonderful to read now as when I read it for the first time about fifteen years ago. Actually, it’s even better than I remember it to be. I’m also nearly finished reading Anam Cara, which I’m borrowing from a friend. I’m hoping to finish it this week.

Paper Towns is the only John Green novel I haven’t read yet (aside from Will Grayson Will Grayson which he coauthored). I intend to read it after I finish To Kill a Mockingbird and have high expectations for it.  Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town is the first book I will read by Stephen Leacock, whom I have been wanting to read for over a year now. I’m looking forward to it.

I’ve also decided to take on T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and really dig into it, so I’m hoping that T. S. Eliot: The Waste Land: A Casebook will help.  And speaking of poetry, I have been so enamored with The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins since I came across his poetry, earlier this year. His poetry will probably end up on every “What I’m Reading” list from now on. You will also, likely, see me blogging about him A LOT, so consider yourself warned. 🙂

What I’m Reading #5: Books I Read This Spring

So my lovely new laptop arrived and I’m now ready to commence with blogging.

I thought I’d start with a little update on what I’ve been reading these past months. Altogether, I’ve read about 25-30 books, but these are the ones I completed.

DSC_5429rs

Listed, they are:
The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Nine Stories (aka For Esmé—with Love and Squalor) by J. D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Oscar and the Lady in Pink by Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt
Matthew for Everyone–Part One
 
by N. T. Wright
Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller
Looking for Alaska by John Green
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Just about all of these books were first-rate reads and went straight to my list of favorites. I hope I can get around to blogging about about them, because I have so much to say.

Going back to what I’d planned to read in my last “This ‘Week’s’ Books” post, I read all except one. As you can see, the four books on top, in the pictures, are also on my list of completed books, including N. T. Wright‘s Matthew for Everyone–Part One (finally!).

DSC_1984rs DSC_1956rs

I read the Crime and Punishment section in Characters of Dostoevsky: Studies from Four Novels by Richard Curle, but didn’t read the entire book as the rest of the book (as the title suggests) deals with other Dostoevsky novels. I’m still reading Dostoevsky: the Making of a Novelist by Ernest J. Simmons. It’s a fascinating read, but difficult, as I’m trying to mainly read the parts that pertain to Dostoevsky, the man and writer, and the parts that specifically relate to Crime and Punishment without reading spoilers or parts that pertain to his other novels. It’s harder than I thought it would be.

The one book I didn’t read was The Young Dostoevsky (1846-1849): A Critical Study by Victor Terras; I didn’t even crack it open. I plan on reading it once I’ve finished reading Ernest J. Simmon’s Dostoevsky book.

This “Week’s” Books #4

It’s been ages since I’ve done one of these, but I’m hoping to resurrect my “This Week’s Books” posts again. Here’s a peek at the books I’ve been reading and plan to read in the next few weeks.

Red books: 🙂

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Books that aren’t red:

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I find it amusing that the red color theme just happens to coincide perfectly with Valentine’s day. You could say The Four Loves fits the Valentine’s Day theme too. 🙂

The complete list looks something like this:
The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis
Matthew for Everyone–Part One by N. T. Wright
Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Characters of Dostoevsky: Studies from Four Novels by Richard Curle
Dostoevsky: the Making of a Novelist by Ernest J. Simmons
The Young Dostoevsky (1846-1849): A Critical Study by Victor Terras

As you can see, right now, I’m focusing on Dostoevsky. I’ve finished Crime and Punishment, but it’s on the list because I’m re-reading parts and comparing my Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonky translation with the Constant Garnett translation that appears in the books I’m reading on Dostoevsky.

Speaking of lists, I’m ashamed to say, N. T. Wright’s Matthew for Everyone–Part One is still on the list. It’s been on every “This Week’s Books” post so far. 😦 Obviously, I haven’t made it a priority. I’m determined to have moved on to Part Two, by my next “This Week’s” post

I’m looking forward to tucking into C. S. Lewis’ The Four Love’s and J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. They’re books I’ve been wanting to read for a long time. It was actually a toss up between Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and John Green’s Looking for AlaskaI settled on The Catcher in the Rye, but I plan on devouring the rest of John Green’s novels (except for Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which I don’t have) as soon as I’m finished.