Bobok by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1873
The magic trick:
Magnifying a social critique by implying that the same faults and flaws only continue after death
Strange story today. Very strange.
The second half is set in a cemetery with the narrator hearing voices of the dead. They’re not saying anything profound. No. They are making the same complaints and trading the same gossip as the society of the living. That’s a pretty depressing comment.
The only thing more negative than a scathing critique of society is the implication that the scathing critique remains valid after we die.
And that’s quite a trick on Dostoyevsky’s part.
What conceited words! And it was queer and unexpected. One was such a ponderous, dignified voice, the other softly suave; I should not have believed it if I had not heard it myself. I had not been to the requiem dinner, I believe. And yet how could they be playing preference here and what general was this? That the sounds came from under the tombstones of that there could be no doubt. I bent down and read on the tomb:
“Here lies the body of Major-General Pervoyedov . . . a cavalier of such and such orders.” Hm! “Passed away in August of this year . . . fifty-seven. . . . Rest, beloved ashes, till the joyful dawn!”
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