The narrator and protagonist of Dostoevsky's novel The Adolescent (first published in English as A Raw Youth) is Arkady Dolgoruky, a na.ve 19-year-old boy bursting with ambition and opinions. The illegitimate son of a dissipated landowner, he is torn between his desire to expose his father's wrongdoing and the desire to win his love. He travels to St. Petersburg to confront the father he barely knows, inspired by an inchoate dream of communion and armed with a mysterious document that he believes gives him power over others. This new English version by the most acclaimed of Dostoevsky's translators is a masterpiece of pathos and high comedy.
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December 06, 2004
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Excerpt from The Adolescent by Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky
Unable to restrain myself, I have sat down to record this history of my first steps on life's career, though I could have done as well without it. One thing I know for certain: never again will I sit down to write my autobiography, even if I live to be a hundred. You have to be all too basely in love with yourself to write about yourself without shame. My only excuse is that I'm not writing for the same reason everyone else writes, that is, for the sake of the reader's praises. If I have suddenly decided to record word for word all that has happened to me since last year, then I have decided it as the result of an inner need: so struck I am by everything that has happened. I am recording only the events, avoiding with all my might everything extraneous, and above all--literary beauties. A literary man writes for thirty years and in the end doesn't know at all why he has written for so many years. I am not a literary man, do not want to be a literary man, and would consider it base and indecent to drag the insides of my soul and a beautiful description of my feelings to their literary marketplace. I anticipate with vexation, however, that it seems impossible to do entirely without the description of feelings and without reflections (maybe even banal ones): so corrupting is the effect of any literary occupation on a man, even if it is undertaken only for oneself. The reflections may even be very banal, because something you value yourself will quite possibly have no value in a stranger's eyes. But this is all an aside. Anyhow, here is my preface; there won't be anything more of its kind. To business; though there's nothing trickier than getting down to some sort of business--maybe even any sort.
I begin, that is, I would like to begin my notes from the nineteenth of September last year, that is, exactly from the day when I first met . . .
But to explain whom I met just like that, beforehand, when nobody knows anything, would be banal; I suppose even the tone is banal: having promised myself to avoid literary beauties, I fall into those beauties with the first line. Besides, in order to write sensibly, it seems the wish alone is not enough. I will also observe that it seems no European language is so difficult to write in as Russian. I have now reread what I've just written, and I see that I'm much more intelligent than what I've written. How does it come about that what an intelligent man expresses is much stupider than what remains inside him? I've noticed that about myself more than once in my verbal relations with people during this last fateful year and have suffered much from it.
Though I'm starting with the nineteenth of September, I'll still put in a word or two about who I am, where I was before then, and therefore also what might have been in my head, at least partly, on that morning of the nineteenth of September, so that it will be more understandable to the reader, and maybe to me as well.
I am a high-school graduate, and am now going on twenty-one. My last name is Dolgoruky, and my legal father is Makar Ivanovich Dolgoruky, a former household serf of the Versilov family. Thus I'm a legitimate, though in the highest degree illegitimate, son, and my origin is not subject to the slightest doubt. It happened like this: twenty-two years ago, the landowner Versilov (it's he who is my father), twenty-five years of age, visited his estate in Tula province. I suppose at that time he was still something rather faceless. It's curious that this man, who impressed me so much ever since my childhood, who had such a capital influence on my entire cast of mind and has maybe even infected my whole future with himself for a long time to come--this man even now remains in a great many ways a complete riddle to me. But of that, essentially, later. You can't tell it like that. My whole notebook will be filled with this man as it is.