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Uneaten food in Dostoevsky

One could write an essay on uneaten food in Dostoevsky, culminating in the cold veal left untouched by Svidrigailov before his suicide.

In Dostoevsky the atmosphere of eroticism in which every novelist, even in the days of respectability, reposed as on a sofa, is utterly absent.

Only Kafka equals Dostoevsky here. Both use objects and people for the same purpose – to bury them in the mind, in obsessions, preoccupations, boredoms, so that they become part of the furniture of consciousness rather than that of the external world.

The French structuralist critic René Girard has a good metaphor for the Dostoevskyprocess:

 ‘In Proust the game proceeds slowly; the novelist constantly interrupts the players to remind them of previous hands and to anticipate those to come. In Dostoevsky, on the contrary, the cards are laid down very rapidly and the novelist lets the game proceed from beginning to end without interfering. The reader must be able to remember everything himself.’

 Freedom in Dostoevsky is the freedom to be confused, and there is a close relation between his method and the consciousness that ‘if God does not exist, all is permitted.’ The author has apparently ceased to function as God. The character and the reader have together taken over from him, in a relationship that is bound to be uneasy and claustrophobic.

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