William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Tag Archive for ‘Dostoevsky’

Long Gray Train (I Pay the Porter)

I woke up in the middle of the night needing a sip of water. I walked down the hall, and as I passed through the dark sitting room, a sentence sprang to mind, or the beginning of a sentence — a phrase, a breath, a sound, a combination of sounds — a powerful suggestion, insistent, dreamlike, meaningful, profound, but I didn’t have the focus to pick up a pen and […]

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The Overcoat

Shall I insert a novel here, as Balzac might have done? Or go off on a vast historical tangent, as Hugo did in Les Misérables? I could even become repetitively religious like Tolstoy — but I should probably save that for my old age, in case I live that long. Cognac and a fine cigar, then a stroll à la Maupassant, along the boulevard, where everything is so beautiful, ironic, and […]

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Here Lies

The Dream of a Ridiculous Man — I wonder how many years have passed since I read this story aloud to my wife in the kitchen of the house we were renting at the time. Twenty? Twenty-five? The reading ended in tears — mine. And even then, it was not the first time I had read the story. Had Dostoevsky written nothing else, his mission on earth would have been […]

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This I Call Happiness

Even just a few casual observations by Dostoevsky on the then-current publication of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina are of such a depth as to distinguish both as great writers. My own reading of the book years ago, as much as I enjoyed it, by comparison, was that of a naïve schoolboy. Considered in the context of Russian society and Russian history, of which then I had but a slight understanding, there […]

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Contaminated Spirits

It’s well worth putting on a mask and spending a short time in the thick, hazardous smoke for the birds’ sake alone. As before, within minutes of refilling and refreshing the birdbath, I saw a robin vigorously splashing in the water. Even as I stood there with the hose, I heard him chirping not far above me in the birches. Found early in the first chapter of the January 1877 […]

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Dostoevsky and Van Gogh

Having fortunately lived long enough to finish reading all three volumes of Vincent’s letters, I have moved on to Dostoevsky’s Diary of a Writer, in Boris Brasol’s English translation, published in two volumes by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1949. After years of being away from Dostoevsky’s great novels and stories, coming upon him in the somewhat more casual, conversational mode of his periodical writings is much like having coffee with […]

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