Monday, November 23, 2009

House of the Dead

I must make a confession today. The confession of being a great lover of Dostoevsky's novels. I used to buy good many of them. And indeed, several of them have been just lost, as it happens when you give them to your trusted friends for reading. They never come back. One of the most beautiful novels that hardly gets quoted is "The House of the Dead", in which the hero Alexander Petrovich is condemned to life of imprisonment in Siberia. (Even in seminaries they quote his most famous books: Brothers Karamazov and Crime & Punishment). In the House of the Dead, the gentleman Petrovich sees the sufferings of the people, both sublime and hardcore criminals in their best and the worst, their energy and lethargy, in the confines of Siberia, where he is destined to suffer along with them. And in one of those scenes he makes a point about the hardness of life in prison. He says, life in prison is hard for three reasons: firstly, Hard labour (Hard labour means, not physically making you sick; peasants in the field do more work than a prisoner. But it is hard because, you work, and you will not have the fruit of it. It is a fruitless labour) . The second reason is, Loss of Freedom. (This is easily understood, as it involves a total of loss of control of yourself, and letting someone else control your time, your food, your entertainment etc.) And thirdly, he says, life in prison is hard because of Enforced Communal Living. (One cannot make a choice with whom he or she will live with. One cannot choose to avoid. You are just condemned.)

Life seems to be going in that direction for many. One big Siberia for all. One big world, and yet little place to escape.

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