Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Letter from Raskolnikov.

When I was researching my piece for the Guardian blog, I received an extraordinary letter from my friend the double axe-murderer Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov. I had hoped that the editor of the Guardian Online books section would publish it in its entirety, but she didn't. So I reproduce it, with permission, below:

When the last page is read, the book closed and placed on the shelf, dust already descending on its cover mercifully shrouding the author's name and the work's title, is it really where the story ends? For those who care enough to wonder (and in my case to experience such question as a vital doubt) the answer will be 'No'.
I went to Siberia. I spent years imprisoned with those who, according to the zar's idea of what is 'right', broke the law. I was left aside by most of them. Scorned. Avoided. Yet i was not alone, ever. Myself, that is the ultimate prison i still haven't found a way out of. But i survived. I grew older. Wiser, maybe. For sure, I read the Holy Scriptures a lot. Out of boredom at first. Then in search of relief. Finally, as rule for self preservation. Words did save me. I don't think their alledged holiness did, but the fact that they provided my soul's chaotic, untamed, darkest instincts with a shape in which I could face them. And there was Sonja. She made all my efforts really make sense. Her presence, her voice, her touch on my feverish forehead were a proof. The proof that I was worth it: I was worth being forgiven. I was worth living again. Anew.
The fact that I can talk to you Roger is just another proof of my enduring presence in the lives of many, so many who were blessed with the gift (or damned with curse, if you prefer) of being uncertain. The doubt. The riddle. The edge. That's were I lived, and were I can always be found. That's were i've always been, even in my Creator's mind, when he, has anybody, found himself torn apart, split by an anaswerable question, in the vertigo of doubt.
I'm here in Myspace due to the devotion of someone not very different from me, a young man, a nervous man, a former student of law (yes, the Law so easily and so persistently breeds its own defiers) who met me before meeting his own pawnbroker to murder. I am proud of this, if of anything at all. My story, my life, my mistakes, my madness and my suffering were not in vain. Somebody not unlike me learned from my life the lesson that I stood to question. He became interested in the works of my Master, he studie Literature and eventually graduated: needless to say, his graduation paper was about me, someone he knew and he (surprisingly enough) admired. And thanks to him here I am, talking to you, Roger. My Creator, Fyodor Mihailovic, is on Myspace too, and I paid my respects to him of course. He has many more acolytes than I have, but in my experience, just one mind is deep and mysterious enough as it is.
I often think of Porfiry. At first i had mixed feelings about him. I found myself cursing his name and thinking that maybe everything could have ended very differently. Sometimes I clearly saw myself, free, back in St Petersburg, having gotten away with the murders of Alyona Ivanovna and Lizaveta, but then, always, I pictured him, Porfiry, and everything blurred back into reality. No, i don't hate him anymore. I remember him with a deep feeling of... well, of underestanding. Now, finally, I understand. And I know he had to do it. Not because it was his job, but because he was just. Not good, but just. I painfully learned the difference. The good forgives anybody, no matter what they do. The just doesn't forgive, he leads you as far as to forgive yourself. And he knows how long and hard the way is, and he doesn't lie about it, and he shows you the way. And if you're smart enough, you go. And i did so, and I thank Porfiry for showing me the way without pushing me, and without judging me. That, I can assume now, was justice.
To answer your question, I'll have to say that yes, sometimes I wish I could escape from my own head, but everytime I feel that way I end up realizing that my mind (though contorted, distorted, dark and twisted and scary) is the only place where I feel authentic, the core of me, whatever 'me' might mean. Exploring it is my final destiny, and for all my life it has been my constant goal, though sometimes it turned into a painful and treacherous necessity. And even now, I still face myself with horror at times, and I cannot express my frustration for going so far just to feel like I'm always at the beginning of another tour of my own private hell. But I imagine that this how it was meant to be. The fall into the bottomless pit of my soul doesn't seem to end, and I take it for what I suppose my Creator Fyodor Mihailovic intended it: a destiny. My own destiny? Unfortunately (of fortunately? I'll never really know...) it's not just my own....

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friends in high places.

A piece I did for Guardian Unlimited's book blog has just gone live. It's all about famous dead authors and their characters on MySpace. So today's blog entry is over here.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Friday, October 12, 2007

Russian Policmen kiss.

I love this image. Unfortunately, as reported in today's Guardian, the Russian culture minister, Alexander Sokolov, does not. He's banned it. Well, weirdly, he's banned it from being shown in Paris, although it's already appeared in Russia, at Moscow's state-owned Tretyakov gallery, no less.

His reason for not giving the kissing policemen (and 15 other artworks by Russian art collective Blue Noses ) permission to leave the country is: "If this exhibition appears [in Paris] it will bring shame on Russia. In this case, all of us will bear full responsibility."

Ah well, Mr Sokolov, I'm afraid to say that by preventing this image from appearing in one Parisian art gallery you may have provoked its dissemination to millions of computers around the world, via the power of the internet.

I'm hoping to visit Russia next month, to coincide with the Russian publication of my Russia-set novel A Gentle Axe. I can't begin to express how thrilled and honoured, yes honoured, I am that a Russian publisher is willing to embrace my own vision of 19th century St Petersburg, influenced as it is by one of their greatest writers, Fyodor Dostoevsky. It seems to me to be an act of great magnanimity and open-mindedness on their part. It will be interesting to see how the book goes down with Russian readers and critics. I expect there will be some who take against it (Mr Sokolov, for one?) though I've had some good Russian responses to the English edition so far.

Don't forget, while we're on the subject of all things Russian, there's another double bill of Eisenstein at the Curzon Mayfair on Sunday. The highlight is Battleship Potemkin with Ed Hughes' stunning score. Ed will be fielding questions afterwards. I have one for him: "Don't you feel it's presumptuous of you to take one of the masterpieces of world cinema and put your own score on it?" And if he comes back with "A case of the pot calling the kettle black" I won't be offended!

Monday, October 01, 2007

I love it! (But then, I would, wouldn't I?)

My thanks to Edward Pettit at the Bibliothecary
for alerting me to the existence of R. Sikoryak's comic book adaptation of Dostoevsky's masterpiece Crime and Punishment. At last! Someone who has risked the wrath of the purists even more than me! And if you follow this link to a feature in Brian Hughes' Again with the Comics blog, and check out some of the comments, you'll see that a fair amount of spleen has been predictably spent.

Well, I left my own comment, in support of the venture, of course. After all it looks like it could deflect a fair amount of flak from me, as it's far more irreverent than anything I would have dared. Possibly. I mean, I only had the temerity to imagine Porfiry Petrovich investigating other cases. Sikoryak goes so far as to depict Raskolnikov as Batman? He even, I believe, transforms Sonia into Sonny, a cross-dressing Robin-style sidekick. It sounds... brilliant.

What people forget is that Fyodor had a great sense of humour. I think he would have loved it. But I would say that, wouldn't I?