Uncle's Dream - Alma Books

Uncle's Dream - Alma Books (PDF)

2022 • 26 Pages • 3.25 MB • English
Posted July 01, 2022 • Submitted by Superman

Visit PDF download

Download PDF To download page

Summary of Uncle's Dream - Alma Books

Uncle’s Dream Uncle’s Dream Fyodor Dostoevsky Translated by Roger Cockrell ALMA CLASSICS alma classics an imprint of alma books ltd 3 Castle Yard Richmond Surrey TW10 6TF United Kingdom www.almaclassics.co.uk Uncle’s Dream first published in Russian as Дядюшкин сон in 1859 This edition first published by Alma Classics in 2020 Translation, Introduction and Notes © Roger Cockrell, 2020 Cover design by Will Dady Extra Material © Alma Books Ltd Printed in Great Britain by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon CR0 4YY isbn: 978-1-84749-768-0 All the pictures in this volume are reprinted with permission or pre sumed to be in the public domain. Every effort has been made to ascertain and acknowledge their copyright status, but should there have been any unwitting oversight on our part, we would be happy to rectify the error in subsequent printings. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or other- wise), without the prior written permission of the publisher. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not be resold, lent, hired out or otherwise circulated without the express prior consent of the publisher. Contents Introduction xi Uncle’s Dream 1 Chapter 1 3 Chapter 2 9 Chapter 3 15 Chapter 4 27 Chapter 5 41 Chapter 6 57 Chapter 7 69 Chapter 8 79 Chapter 9 89 Chapter 10 103 Chapter 11 113 Chapter 12 123 Chapter 13 133 Chapter 14 149 Chapter 15 157 Note on the Text 173 Notes 173 Extra Material 177 Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Life 179 Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Works 192 Select Bibliography 203 Acknowledgements 205 Other books by fyodor dostoevsky published by Alma Classics The Adolescent (tr. by Dora O’Brien) Devils (tr. by Roger Cockrell) The Double (tr. by Hugh Aplin) The Eternal Husband (tr. by Hugh Aplin) The Gambler (tr. by Hugh Aplin) The House of the Dead (tr. by Roger Cockrell) Humiliated and Insulted (tr. by Ignat Avsey) The Idiot (tr. Ignat Avsey) Notes from Underground (tr. by Kyril Zinovieff and Jenny Hughes) Poor People (tr. by Hugh Aplin) Winter Notes on Summer Impressions (tr. by Kyril FitzLyon) Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–81) Mikhail Andreyevich Dostoevsky, Fyodor’s father Maria Fyodorovna Dostoevskaya, Fyodor’s mother Mikhail Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, Fyodor’s brother Maria Dmitrievna Dostoevskaya, Fyodor’s first wife Uncle’s Dream (From the Chronicles of Mordasov)* 3 Chapter 1 M aria alexandrovna moskalyova is of course the first lady of Mordasov – of that there cannot be the slightest doubt. She behaves in a way that seems to suggest she has no need of anyone, but that on the contrary everyone needs her. True, hardly anybody loves her, and there are even very many who genuinely detest her – but on the other hand everyone is afraid of her, and that is precisely what she needs. Such a requirement is a clear sign of manipulative behaviour. How is it, for example, that Maria Alexandrovna, with her inordinate fondness for gossip, is unable to fall asleep at night unless she has heard something new the day before – how is it that she is nevertheless able to conduct herself so that, look- ing at her, you would never think that this grand lady was herself the greatest gossip in the world – or in Mordasov, at least? Quite the opposite: it seems that gossip has no choice but to melt away in her presence; that all the scandalmongers themselves can do is to go red in the face and quiver from fear, like schoolboys in front of their teacher, and that the conver- sation must turn only to topics of the highest possible tone. She knows such serious and outrageous things about one or two of the Mordasov residents, for example, that, were she to relate them at an opportune moment and substantiate them in a way of which only she is capable, Mordasov would experi- ence the equivalent of the Lisbon earthquake.* She keeps these secrets very much to herself, however, and will divulge them only at exceptional moments, and even then only to her clos- est acquaintances. She will scare people by teasingly hinting at what she knows, preferring to keep the gentleman or lady 4 uncle’s dream in perpetual suspense rather than shocking them once and for all. What a mind – what a brilliant tactical brain! Maria Alexandrovna has always been distinguished among us for her exemplary comme il faut,* which everyone strives to imitate. As far as her comme il faut is concerned, no other Mordasov lady comes close to her. As we can testify, she is able, for example, to destroy, rip to pieces, annihilate a female rival with a single word, while at the same time pretending not to be aware she has said anything. Everyone knows that the ability to do this is a characteristic of the most exalted society. Generally speaking, with such tricks she surpasses Chevalier Pinetti* himself. She is enormously well connected. Many visitors to Mordasov have left the town in raptures at the way she has received them, and have even continued to correspond with her. People have even written poems to her – poems which Maria Alexandrovna will proudly show everyone. One visiting writer once dedicated a short story to her, reading it to her at a soirée and prompting an extraordinarily positive response. One German scientist, who had come from Karlsruhe to investigate a particular species of horned worm that can be found in our province and who had written four volumes in quarto about it, was so enchanted by Maria Alexandrovna’s kind hospitality that to this day he continues writing to her from Karlsruhe in the most respectful and tactful manner. Maria Alexandrovna used to be compared in certain respects to Napoleon. Her enemies naturally used to turn this into a joke, but more for caricature’s sake than out of regard for the truth. But while fully recognizing how strange such a comparison was, I venture nevertheless to pose an innocent question: can anyone tell me why it was that Napoleon’s head began to swim once he had risen to such a great height? The advocates of the Ancien Régime maintained it was not only because Napoleon was not of royal lineage, but that he was not even a gentilhomme of good breeding. He therefore took fright at the thought of how high he had 5 chapter 1 climbed and remembered his true place in life. Despite the self-evident ingenuity of such a surmise, so suggestive of the former French court at its most brilliant, I shall venture to append my own comment: why is it that Maria Alexandrovna never ever allows her head to swim and always remains the first lady of Mordasov? There have, for example, been occa- sions when people have wondered how Maria Alexandrovna is going to react to certain difficult circumstances. But the difficult circumstances have come and gone and… they have not affected her at all! Everything has stayed just as it was before – one might almost say they are even better than before. Everybody remembers, for example, the occasion when her husband, Afanasy Matveich, lost his job as a result of incom- petence and feeble-mindedness, having provoked the anger of a visiting government inspector. Everyone thought that Maria Alexandrovna would become dejected and stoop to begging and imploring – in short, passively accept her fate. Nothing of the sort: Maria Alexandrovna realized there would be no point in trying to implore anyone, and arranged matters so that her influence on society remained totally undiminished, with her house continuing to be seen as Mordasov’s leading residence. The public prosecutor’s wife, Anna Nikolayevna Antipova, Maria Alexandrovna’s sworn enemy (although ostensibly her friend) was already trumpeting victory, but when people saw how difficult it was to put Maria Alexandrovna off her stride, they realized she had put down roots much more deeply than they had previously thought. Incidentally, now that we have mentioned him, let us say a few words about Afanasy Matveich, Maria Alexandrovna’s husband. Firstly, he is a man of very imposing appearance and highly respectable principles. But at critical moments he gets flustered, with the dumb look of a sheep who cannot believe what he is seeing. He looks unusually imposing, especially when he is wearing his white bow tie at name-day celebrations. 6 uncle’s dream But this impression of a grand, commanding presence lasts only until the moment he opens his mouth. Forgive me, but at this point you have to cover your ears. The general opinion is that he is totally unworthy of being Maria Alexandrovna’s husband. He is where he is solely because of Maria Alexandrovna’s bril- liance. In my radical opinion, he should have gone off long ago and become a scarecrow – only then would he have been able to perform a useful service for his countrymen. It was therefore a brilliant idea for Maria Alexandrovna to dispatch Afanasy Matveich off to her out-of-town estate of one hundred and twenty serfs, some three versts from Mordasov. Let me say in passing that this estate was her only source of income, enabling her to maintain the high aristocratic standards of her town house with such dignity. Everyone understood that the only reason she had kept Afanasy Matveich by her side was because he had an official position and received a salary, together with… other income. But as soon as he stopped receiving a salary and this other income, he was immediately dismissed as being ineffectual and totally useless. And everyone praised Maria Alexandrovna for her decisiveness and clear judgement. In his country house Afanasy Matveich is in seventh heaven. I have driven out to see him, and spent a rather pleasant whole hour with him. He tries on his white bow ties, and cleans his own boots – not because he has to, but only from the aesthetic pleasure it gives him, as he loves his boots to be gleaming. He drinks tea three times a day, is extremely fond of his visits to the bathhouse and is in general very satisfied. Do you remember the vile story that caused such a to-do here about a year and a half ago – the story concerning Zinaida Afanasyevna, the only daughter of Maria Alexandrovna and Afanasy Matveich? Zinaida is an undoubted beauty, excellently educated, but she is twenty-three years old and still unmarried. Among the reasons explaining why Zinaida is still unmarried, one of the most important is thought to be the dark rumours that surfaced a 7 chapter 1 year and a half ago relating to certain mysterious links with a less than impressive district schoolteacher – rumours which are still circulating as I write. There is still talk of some love note, written by Zina, which was supposed to have been passed from hand to hand in Mordasov. But tell me: who has seen this note? If it has been passed from hand to hand, where has it got to now? Everybody has heard about it, but nobody has seen it. I, for one, have never met a single person who has actually ever seen this note. Mention it to Maria Alexandrovna, and she will simply have no idea what you’re talking about. Now, imagine that there actually was something and that Zina did write a note (I myself think there is no doubt that she did): what skill on Maria Alexandrovna’s part! To be able to suppress, to put an end to such an embarrassing, scandalous matter! Not a trace, not a hint! Maria Alexandrovna totally ignores such base accusations now, yet God knows how much effort she must have made to protect the unsullied honour of her only daughter! The fact that Zina is still unmarried is perfectly understandable: where can you find eligible bachelors in this place? She would be fit only for a sovereign prince. Have you ever seen such a beauty in all your life? True, she is proud – too proud. People say that Mozglyakov is seeking her hand, but a wedding is hardly likely. What can one say about Mozglyakov? True, he is young, not bad-looking, a Petersburg dandy with one hundred and fifty unmortgaged serfs. But, first of all, he’s not quite all there upstairs. A fly-by-night and gasbag, with some new ideas or other! And in any case, what are one hundred and fifty serfs, especially when you have all the latest ideas? Such a wedding is out of the question! Everything that my gracious readers have read up to this point was written some five months ago, purely for emotional reasons. I must confess in advance I have a soft spot for Maria Alexandrovna. I wanted to write something along the lines of a hymn of praise to this magnificent lady, setting it all out in