Yesterday, I finally finished Moby Dick.
Since the onset of the pandemic and the first strict lockdown, I felt as if I was on a desert island or in some other form of solitary confinement but with access to books. It is at times like this that one thinks of what remains to be done in life. For many today, that, for some extraordinary reason, involves bungee jumping. For others, especially since lockdown curtailed bungee jumping avenues, it became a chance to read the books one should read in a lifetime.
Time in such periods of solitary confinement becomes both endless and terribly short. One thinks about the time one has left on earth, in this odd combination of flesh and consciousness. Physically, we can only explore so very little of the world. And, temporally, we can only be in the now, physically speaking.
The only way, then, to be able to see a great deal of the world and to travel past our lifetimes in either direction, is to read. Great books describe places and things and people and more. They are a passport that is always valid to visit anywhere and anytime.
And it is thus that I consumed War and Peace.
I felt a twinge of regret that such a book was not suggested to me when I was very young. After gobbling up the Tolstoy tomes, I fell upon that whale of a book – Moby Dick. And nibbled my way through the giant. Again, I wondered why such a book was not handy when I was at my most bookwormish. Yesterday, I completed the huge Herman Melville early in the day.
Alexey Fyodorovitch Karamazov was the third son of Fyodor Pavlovitch Karamazov, a landowner well known in our district in his own day, and still remembered among us owing to his gloomy and tragic death, which happened thirteen years ago, and which I shall describe in its proper place. For the present I will only say that this “landowner”—for so we used to call him, although he hardly spent a day of his life on his own estate—was a strange type, yet one pretty frequently to be met with, a type abject and vicious and at the same time senseless. But he was one of those senseless persons who are very well capable of looking after their worldly affairs, and, apparently, after nothing else. Fyodor Pavlovitch, for instance, began with next to nothing; his estate was of the smallest; he ran to dine at other men's tables, and fastened on them as a toady, yet at his death it appeared that he had a hundred thousand roubles in hard cash. At the same time, he was all his life one of the most senseless, fantastical fellows in the whole district. I repeat, it was not stupidity—the majority of these fantastical fellows are shrewd and intelligent enough—but just senselessness, and a peculiar national form of it.