The Dream Of A Ridiculous Man by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1877
The magic trick:
Turning one man’s conflict into a fantasy-adventure story about original sin
Somewhere between Gogol and Gulliver’s Travels, we find Dostoyevsky exploring some kind of Christian fantasy fiction. The scope of the story is impressive. The narrator’s dream takes him to a different world – a Garden of Eden of sorts. The narrative never really seems to reach the mood of adventure and wonder that I wanted. It feels like a page-turner that could’ve been. As it is, though, the story still presents a lot of ideas in a short form. Huge ideas, too. Original sin, the meaning of life and the like. And that’s quite a trick on Dostoyevsky’s part.
“But if this is the sun, if this is absolutely the same as our sun,” I cried out, “then where is the earth?” And my companion pointed to the little star that shone in the darkness with an emerald brilliance. We were rushing straight toward her.
“And are such replicas really possible in the universe, is that really the law of nature? …And if that is the earth there, is it really the same as our earth . . . absolutely the same, unfortunate, poor, but dear and eternally beloved, giving birth to the same tormenting love for herself even in her most ungrateful chil- dren?…” I cried out, shaking with irrepressible, rapturous love for that former native earth I had abandoned. The image of the poor little girl whom I had of- fended flashed before me.
“You will see all,” my companion replied, and some sadness sounded in his words.
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