Archive for 8 February 2021

Is Sonia a Great Sinner?

Posted in Essay 2012-2021 with tags , , , , , , , , on 8 February 2021 by kenwada

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, FYODOR DOSTOYEVSKY, TRANSLATED BY DAVID MAGARSHACK, THE PENGUIN CLASSICS

‘I was lying on the bed just then ー well, why keep it dark? ー I was dead drunk at the time, and suddenly I heard my Sonia (like a little lamb she is, the poor child, and her voice, too, so meek ー she has fair hair and her face has always been so thin and pale), “Well,” she said, “you don’t want me to do that, do you?” And Darya Franzovna, a wicked woman who’s been in trouble with the police, had several times already been making inquiries about her through our land lady. “Why,” my wife replied jeeringly, “what’s so terrible about that? Who are you keeping it for? What a treasure!” But don’t blame her, don’t blame her, sir, don’t blame her! She was not in her right mind when she said it. She was beside herself, and ill, too, and the children were hungry and crying, and she didn’t mean it, really. Just wanted to say something humiliating. She can’t help herself, I’m afraid. It’s her character, you see. And when the children begin to cry, even if it is only because they’re hungry, she at once starts beating them. And so at about six o’clock I saw Sonia get up, put on her coat and a shawl, and leave the room, and at about nine o’clock she came back. She came back, went straight up to my wife, and put thirty roubles on the table before her without uttering a word. Not a word did she utter, nor did she even look at my wife, but just took our large green drap-de-dames shawl (we have such a shawl which we all use, a drap-de-dames shawl), put it over her head and face, and lay down on her bed with her face to the wall, her thin shoulders shaking all the times, And I, sir, was just lying there as I did before ー dead drunk. And it was then, young man, that I saw my wife, also without uttering a word, walk up to Sonia’s bed, go down on her knees, and kiss Sonia’s feet. And the whole evening she was on her knees, kissing Sonia’s feet and refusing to get up. And eventually they both fell asleep in each other’s arms ー the two of them. Yes, sir, the two of them, and me lying there drunk as a lord!’
(ibid. p.35)


Ken WADA, 2014, Watercolour and pencil on paper, 27.3×22.0cm

‘So you are fond of her?’
‘Fond of her? Of course I am,’ Sonia said in a plaintive, drawn-out voice, folding her hands in distress. ‘Oh, if you ー if you only knew her! She’s just like a child really. She ー she’s almost out of her mind with grief. And what a clever woman she used to be ー how generous ー how kind! Oh, you don’t know anything ー anything!’
(ibid. p.333)

‘I did not bow down to you, I bowed down to all suffering humanity,’ he said wildly, and walked off to the window. ‘Listen,’ he added, coming back to her in a minute. ‘I told some bully an hour or so ago that he was not worth your little finger and ー and that I did my sister an honor to-day when I made her sit beside you.’
‘Oh, you shouldn’t have said that to them! And was she there, too?’ Sonia cried, frightened. ‘Sit beside me? An honour? Why, I’m a dishonourable creature! I’m a great, great sinner! Oh, what did you say that for?’
(ibid. p.337)

A book was lying on the chest of drawers. He had noticed it every time he walked up and down the room. It was the New Testament in a Russian translation. The book was an old one, well thumbed, bound in leather.
‘Where did you get that?’ he shouted to her across the room.
She was still standing in the same place, three steps from the table.
‘Someone brought it to me,’ she replied, as though reluctantly and without looking at him.
‘Who brought it?’
‘Lisaveta did. I asked her to.’
‘Lisaveta! That’s strange!’ he thought.
Everything about Sonia seemed stranger and more wonderful to him every minute.
‘Where’s that place about Lazarus?’ he asked suddenly.
Sonia’s eyes were fixed stubbornly on the ground, and she did not reply. She stood a little sideways to the table.
‘Where is the place about the raising of Lazarus? Find it for me, Sonia.’
She gave him a sidelong glance.
‘It isn’t there,’ she whispered sternly, without coming closer to him. ‘It’s in the fourth gospel.’
‘Find it and read it to me,’ he said, sitting down, with his elbow on the table and his head on his hand, and, fixing his eyes on the opposite wall, he looked away sullenly, prepared to listen.
(ibid. p.339)

Again it was a bright and warm day. Early in the morning, about six o’clock, he went off to work on the bank of the river in a shed where there was a kiln for baking alabaster and where they used to crush it. Only three prisoners went there. One of the prisoners, accompanied by a guard, went back to the fortress for some tools; the other one was chopping wood and putting it into the furnace. Raskolnikov came out of the shed to the bank of the river. He sat down on a pile of timber by the shed and began looking at the wide, deserted expanse of the river. From the steep bank a wide stretch of the countryside opened up before him. Snatches of a song floated faintly across from the distant bank of the river. There in the vast steppe, flooded with sunlight, he could see the black tents of the nomads which appeared just like dots in the distance. There there was freedom, there other people were living, people who were not a bit like the people he knew; there time itself seemed to stand still as though the age of Abraham and his flocks had not passed. Raskolnikov sat there, looking without moving and without taking his eyes off the vast landscape before him; his thoughts passed into daydreams, into contemplation; he thought of nothing, but a feeling of great desolation came over him and troubled him.
Suddenly Sonia was beside him. She had come up noiselessly and sat down close to him. It was still very early; the morning chill had not yet abated. She wore her old shabby coat and the green shawl. Her face still showed traces of illness: it was very thin and pale. She smiled at him joyfully and tenderly, but as usual, held out her hand to him timidly.
(ibid. p.556)