...nothing ventured, nothing gained. (45)
The deep-felt desire for spontaneity. The plague of inhibition.
Be natural; be reserved. Be demonstrative; be discreet.
An excess of vulnerability could turn you into the protagonist of an unpleasant anecdote. Speak butnot too much. Write but do not expose too much. Be honest but do not reveal too much. Nothing seems already too much.
Be at ease; control yourself. Because,
'What will people say? Where will it end? What will tomorrow bring, tomorrow, tomorrow!...' (35)
Have you ever imagined how a particular situation was exactly going to be? Of course. The ultimate rehearsal. Carefully chosen words begin to form a line in your mind. They have methodically decided the order of appearance, the tone, the rhythm. The dramatic pauses. The silences that allow the other person or group to come up with an answer. You have been imagining that conversation for hours, for days. Like a minor god of time, you feel in control of that little piece of future. You know how the events are going to develop. You want things a certain way, then you picture everything in your head. That should be enough.
And then, that fragment of future arrives.
He knew, he knew very well, that he should have left long ago, and not only so as to leave, but so as to save himself. That all this had suddenly become something else—well, had turned out totally unlike his dream on the planks that evening. (34)
The roles have been changed. Your mind needs a Plan B. Plan B... We do not have a Plan B. As your face begins to feel the warm color of anxiety, you freeze. Your muscles cannot move. Your heart feels the tension and behaves accordingly, with frantic palpitations that no one could ever count. You wish for a benevolent ground to swallow the entire room. Nothing happens and you are trying to think. While your thoughts are irrepressibly flashing through your head, you survey the area. The eyes of the world are all over you. You watch. That is all you can do. Watch as the walls of that piece of future you thought you could control, start to collapse. Silently, in slow motion. Total devastation during the minute that will never end.
Then moral fits began, concerned with his existence manquée. Then shame again flared up in his soul, taking possession of it all at once, burning and exacerbating everything. He shuddered, imagining various pictures to himself. What would they say... (47)
Have you ever felt that? Never, always? Frequently.
That also happens to our friend Ivan Ilyich Pralinsky. After a conversation with other civil servants, he decided to implement a philosophy of his by crashing the wedding celebration of Pseldonymov, one of his subordinates. A susceptible imagination led Pralinsky to believe that every action that he visualized could really happen. He would enlighten those less fortunate than himself; they would become better human beings by learning his philosophy based on kindness—a love of mankind he was willing to teach while pointing out the differences between them and keeping some distance.
This is a satirical short story that brings to mind the fact that there is a bit of comedy in some tragedies.
The plot is simple; what truly makes this story a delightful thing to read are the protagonist's impressions. Dostoyevsky's essential quality. However, in this case, it was a little difficult to follow the narrator as well as Pralinsky's reflections. It confused me at times. I assume it was meant to mystify, having in mind the main character's erratic train of thought. I would hesitate about the translation's fidelity if it wasn't one by Pevear and Volokhonsky.
I must admit, Pralinsky annoyed me at times. To be honest, I wanted to grab him by the arm and just ask him “what the hell are you doing?” But I understand him. And more than once I asked myself the same question. Nothing goes as we plan. Everything he dreamed one evening fell apart in a minute. Every word, every reaction, all the happy endings he envisioned. Reality crushed his thoughts several times, and opened the path for relentless shame and a touch of regret.
As the naive architects that we are, we design in our minds the course of events. What we are going to say. What we are going to write. But in further reflection, how presumptuous of us to think that we can predict what the other person is going to understand. Reactions, interpretations, sentiments.
Another inconceivable translation.
It is known that whole trains of thought sometimes pass instantly through our heads, in the form of certain feelings, without translation into human language, still less literary language... Because many of our feelings, when translated into ordinary language, will seem perfectly implausible. That is why they never come into the world, and yet everybody has them. (22)
Words are kept inside and the story never begins.