A version of this essay was published in the Gray Matters section of the Houston Chronicle on 27 December 2015.
It is impossible to explain Russia. But I have to try. http://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/gray-matters/article/It-is-impossible-to-explain-Russia-But-I-have-to-5979794.php?t=96073205e6&cmpid=twitter-premium via @HoustonChron
This week I teach Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, a wild ride of a novel that gets you into the head of a murderer. It is heavy stuff, hard to read, and not because of the sentences. You feel like you are on a roller coaster, in the mind of someone who might be a sociopath, or a political malcontent, or just a guy who is so crushed by poverty that he doesn’t really know what he is doing.
Except when he does.
Even before William James was talking about “stream of consciousness,” before his brother Henry was becoming the father of the “psychological novel,” Fyodor Dostoevsky was writing the prose that happens after you have experienced things like flirting with political dissent, enduring the spectre of epileptic seizures, facing a firing squad.
I kid you not.