Lockdown Diaries: Day 27 (Bête Noire)

Locked Down in London, Day 27: Meh

That about sums it up for today!


Virtual Escape: Bête Noire

Desperate times call for desperate measures. And times must be desperate indeed, because I’m considering reading Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky, one of my bête noire books…

When it comes to books, I have three bête noires:

  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Miklailovich Dostoevsky
  • In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot

This is not to say that there aren’t other books which I profoundly dislike of course. There is for example Pamela by Richardson, which they made me read at university – a lachrymose piece of moralising **** (excuse the strong language) from 1740, which boasts of being the first genuine English novel, well, ¡válgame Dios!, that’s all I can say. Or, let’s take any book by Thomas Hardy, I know many people are fond of him, my brother-in-law is one, but Hardy literally bores me to tears. And when it comes to it, actually I’m not that keen on Dickens either (yeah, I know, shocking, man, simply shocking, I mean I did graduate in literature twice) but if you ever have to read Dickens, go for The Tale of Two Cities, it’s top of the sentimental bunch.

But my bête noires! Each of the three mentioned above has something fundamentally serious that I chalked up against them:

Crime and Punishment

According to critics and fans, this is a brilliant psychological study of a man who commits murder and then goes to pieces.

I only tried to read it once, I think I was 18 or perhaps 22 – young, at any rate. If I remember correctly, Raskolnikov makes up his mind to kill the pawnbroker on page 1 and on page 100 is still hesitating before her front door. Many people regard it a wholly unreasonable response on my part but I could never stand people who couldn’t make up their minds and pronto, so that’s where I abandoned the novel never to pick it up again, and you know what, I never regretted not picking it up again. Plus there’s the fact that after the murder he goes to pieces: if I chose to murder someone for their money (highly unlikely), I’d enjoy that money instead of going to pieces. I’m callous like that.

In Search of Lost Time

The famous bit in this book of more than 4000 pages is the moment when the narrator bites into a madeleine, a kind of a tea cake I for one have never had, and memories come flooding back to him. This occurs somewhere about page 75. Well, if that was the highlight, frankly, I don’t think I need to read the other 4000 pages.

Middlemarch

Well, now, another favourite of literature professors, and I’m sure it has its merits. I just can’t see what those merits are. I tried to read it three times, no more, no less, because it was on my literature curriculum three times and each time I managed to get to about halfway before I gave up. It’s just I couldn’t care less if the characters lived or died. I literally can’t remember anything of this book other than it was a non-entity.

Conclusion

Literature, like all art, is extremely personal. I said it before and I’m sure I will repeat it in the future: it’s the interaction of the text, the author and the reader. As readers we each being our life experiences and preferences to the text; that is why each reading is unique and that is why we’ve got so much to talk about when we’re talking about literature. There’s no right or wrong way to read a book; there is only your way, in that particular moment of time.

If this lockdown lasts long enough, I will give another go to Dostoevsky – perhaps I’m mature enough now to appreciate the book despite of still profoundly disliking people who can’t make up their minds.

On the other hand, under no circumstances would I bother to have another go at Proust, or Eliot’s Middlemarch. Those books are simply not for me.

If a book is tedious to you, don’t read it… that book was not written for you.

(Jorge Luis Borges)

What is your bête noire in literature? And is it perhaps time to consider attempting that book again?

Let me know. 🙂

If You Need Cheering Up:The Best One-Star Reviews of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment
Keep safe, keep sane – keep reading!

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