Quote of the week:

"We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep."
- William Shakespeare.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Bobok by Fyodor Dostoevsky

When it comes to discussing truly great writers, the name Fyodor Dostoevsky inevitably comes to my mind. His extraordinary acumen of human nature and his wondrous ability to discern and vividly depict the psychological traits in human behavior are epitomized in his two best novels: Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. Nevertheless, many of his other less known works are just as insightful, poignant and more often than not, extremely engrossing.


Such is the case of his short story Bobok.


In this brief anecdote we find ourselves with what it might appear, at first, as the incoherent ramblings of a feverish man. Eventually the story acquires strength and once it gets hold of your mind it never lets go of it until the very last page, leaving you with an unquenchable thirst for more.


Bobok is the story of a man that, while attending the funeral of a distant relative of his, he happens to eavesdrop on a peculiar conversation. It is the people interred in the cemetery that begin to acquaint themselves with the “newly arrived”, discuss over a game of cards certain topics regarding those that live no more and eventually try to discern the nature of their condition. At first, social rank and decorum prevail in the interaction between the non-living, until a certain Baron decides to stir things up and proposes a change of things for the sake of enjoying the time they have left, before leaving our world for good.


Through this witty anecdote, Dostoevsky concocts an utterly tantalizing idea, the notion that after death there is not precisely death, but a brief span of time in which consciousness dwells still and is fully aware of its environment.


There is a certain detail in the story that I found extremely interesting:


While the story develops, both the narrator and the interred constantly complain of a redolent, foul smell that infects the whole cemetery. Although the dead have no sense of smell anymore, yet they claim to feel the stench; the possible explanation given to the reader is that the stench is a moral one, that is, the stench of the soul. Here we have a clear purgatory allusion, the notion that the remnant consciousness of oneself, still has to own up to the sins and shortcomings of its previous life.


Through its various characters, Bobok contains social criticism and satire, indicts several roles within the Russian society and touches upon the question that at least once has popped up in our minds: ¿Is there an afterlife? ¿And if so, what if..?


  1. Hi,
    Nice blog,Thank you for dropping by my blog and following.Following back.Keep writing,you are good at it.


    1. Thanks a lot! You have a very interesting blog as well. Hope you keep dropping by!