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"The Dream of a Ridiculous Man" is a story by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It chronicles the experiences of a man who decides that there is nothing of any value in the world. Slipping into nihilism with the “terrible anguish” he is determined to commit suicide. A chance encounter with a young girl, however, begins the man on a journey that re-instills a love for his fellow man. The story opens with the narrator wandering the streets of St. Petersburg. He contemplates how he has always been a ridiculous person, and also, how recently, he has come to the realization that nothing much matters to him any more. It is this revelation that leads him to the idea of suicide. The narrator of the story reveals that he had bought a revolver months previous with the intent of shooting himself in the head. Despite a dismal night, the narrator looks up to the sky and views a solitary star. Shortly after seeing the star, a little girl comes running towards him. The narrator surmises that something is wrong with the girl's mother. He shakes the girl away and continues on to his apartment. Once in his apartment, the narrator sinks into a chair and places his gun on a table next to him. He hesitates to shoot himself because of a nagging feeling of guilt that has plagued him ever since he shunned the girl. The narrator grapples with internal questions for a few hours before falling asleep in the chair. As he sleeps, he descends into a very vivid dream.
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Published by OPU, 2017
I am a ridiculous person. Now they call me a madman. That would be a promotion if it were not that I remain as ridiculous in their eyes as before. But now I do not resent it, they are all dear to me now, even when they laugh at me — and, indeed, it is just then that they are particularly dear to me. I could join in their laughter — not exactly at myself, but through affection for them, if I did not feel so sad as I look at them. Sad because they do not know the truth and I do know it. Oh, how hard it is to be the only one who knows the truth! But they won't understand that. No, they won't understand it.
In old days I used to be miserable at seeming ridiculous. Not seeming, but being. I have always been ridiculous, and I have known it, perhaps, from the hour I was born. Perhaps from the time I was seven years old I knew I was ridiculous. Afterwards I went to school, studied at the university, and, do you know, the more I learned, the more thoroughly I understood that I was ridiculous. So that it seemed in the end as though all the sciences I studied at the university existed only to prove and make evident to me as I went more deeply into them that I was ridiculous. It was the same with life as it was with science. With every year the same consciousness of the ridiculous figure I cut in every relation grew and strengthened. Everyone always laughed at me. But not one of them knew or guessed that if there were one man on earth who knew better than anybody else that I was absurd, it was myself, and what I resented most of all was that they did not know that. But that was my own fault; I was so proud that nothing would have ever induced me to tell it to anyone. This pride grew in me with the years; and if it had happened that I allowed myself to confess to anyone that I was ridiculous, I believe that I should have blown out my brains the same evening. Oh, how I suffered in my early youth from the fear that I might give way and confess it to my schoolfellows. But since I grew to manhood, I have for some unknown reason become calmer, though I realised my awful characteristic more fully every year. I say 'unknown', for to this day I cannot tell why it was. Perhaps it was owing to the terrible misery that was growing in my soul through something which was of more consequence than anything else about me: that something was the conviction that had come upon me that nothing in the world mattered. I had long had an inkling of it, but the full realisation came last year almost suddenly. I suddenly felt that it was all the same to me whether the world existed or whether there had never been anything at all: I began to feel with all my being that there was nothing existing. At first I fancied that many things had existed in the past, but afterwards I guessed that there never had been anything in the past either, but that it had only seemed so for some reason. Little by little I guessed that there would be nothing in the future either. Then I left off being angry with people and almost ceased to notice them. Indeed this showed itself even in the pettiest trifles: I used, for instance, to knock against people in the street. And not so much from being lost in thought: what had I to think about? I had almost given up thinking by that time; nothing mattered to me. If at least I had solved my problems! Oh, I had not settled one of them, and how many there were! But I gave up caring about anything, and all the problems disappeared.
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