The saintly woman remains true to God (or Socialism) and retains her native Russian purity even though she has been raped as a child, frequently beaten, forced to work as a prostitute, and tended children dying of heartrending illnesses. The last characteristic, reflects the influence of Dickens on Russian literature. No wise parent would ever allow a saintly woman to baby-sit unless the child is insured. According to the Society for the Study of the Russian Novel, the most common name for a saintly woman is Sonia (or Wisdom — 42 percent), with Vera (Faith — 19 percent) and Nadezhda (Hope — 9 percent) a distant second and third. [*]
Saintly women like to clasp their hands in horror or sympathy and stalk men as their personified conscience; the man turns, and there are the clasped hands and the look of infinite sympathy and suffering. If he stops to talk with the saintly woman, she will read the Gospel to him. in one Dostoevsky novel there is a whole chapter of quotations from the Bible, beginning with "And I saw the children of Bebob numbering six thousand four hundred and twenty-seven" and ending with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The last is a must, if one is going to invoke the horse theme in Russian literature. At last the stalked hero, out of sheer desperation, turns himself into the police with the hope of being sent to Siberia, but when he arrives there, whom does he see with her hands clasped? From saints there is no escape.
* Consider the frequently cited passage from the notebooks to Crime and Punishment: "N.B. N.B. N.B! Name the heroine something meaningful. If nothing better comes up, make it Sonia." The passage continues: "N.B. N.B. N.B. N.B. Give her family a last name suggesting either excessive sweetness — Sladkov? Medov? — or else their capacity to suffer — Muchennikov? Slezov? N.B. N.B. N.B. Better make it amusing, that will convey poignancy. Derive it from jam or sugar or marmalade or something. N.B. N.B. N.B. N.B. N.B.!!!!!!! [...]"
The only way things happen in Dostoevsky is suddenly. In The Brothers Karamazov, for instance, a woman dies suddenly from starvation. In The Idiot everyone is surprised when Alexandra suddenly turns twenty-five. Some other Dostoevsky sentences include "For four hours the water was dripping regularly and suddenly"; "He watched the clock for ten minutes as the pendulum went suddenly and repeatedly back and forth, back and forth"; and "For two hours the corpse lay there, rigid and deathlike, all its muscles frozen, without a breath of life, all the time suddenly not moving an inch."
[Young Leo Tolstoy] spent his time drinking, gambling, whoring, and keeping diaries. In those diaries, he castigates himself for wasting his time on keeping diaries. He yielded to temptation constantly. In fact, Tolstoy's diaries are the longest in the world, running to one hundred twenty-four volumes, not including the copy of Boswell's journals that he had his wife do by hand. In the early diaries, we find records of his meetings at Graphomaniacs Anonymous, all carefully recorded.
At last, Tolstoy decided to distract himself from diary keeping by writing the longest book in world literature, The Universe and All That Surrounds It. This book established the Russian tradition of evaluating novels by sheer bulk, and a new unit of measurement was developed. One tolstoika is defined as the length of one volume of this masterpiece. Since the book contains four volumes, and two epilogues of two hundred pages each, it is officially listed at 4.7 tolstoikas. By way of comparison, The Brothers Karamazov is 3.5 tolstoikas and Turgenev's Fathers and Sons a mere 0.3; hence its usual designation as a Russian anecdote. In the 1932 literary season, Mikhail Sholokhov challenged the record with The Quiet Don but fell short at 4.4 tolstoikas. The record was at last broken by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose Red Wheel is presently 4.9 tolstoikas and growing. However, it was discovered that Solzhenitsyn had written volume 2 on steroids, and so an asterisk has been placed next to his name. For purists, the record is still Tolstoy's.
He could not give up writing novels, so he wrote a bad one. [*] He was unable to renounce all his property, so he let his wife manage it for him and, to ease his conscience, blamed her for doing so.
* Resurrection, or, in the Pevear and Volokhonsky version, Sunday. But see Edward Queenan, "Proof That Resurrection Was a Forgery Composed in the Seventeenth Century," Slavonic Philology 22, no. 7: 399-33 [sic].
Only six months ago, a Russian scholar who had been claiming for twenty years that Bakhtin wrote many works signed with other people's names suddenly remembered that the late Bakhtin had told him so. This evidence seemed conclusive, until the article was revealed as a forgery. [*] [...]
Among the works of literary criticism attributed to Bakhtin are books by his friends Voloshinov and Medvedev, who were up for tenure. As for the works bearing the signature "Bakhtin," scholars have recently concurred that those works were actually written by Bakhtin in his role of Voloshinov, who was pretending to be Bakhtin. "Bakhtin" was, in fact, Bakhtin's pseudo-pseudonym. This concept has far-ranging implications for the study of world literature.
Bakhtin (or "Bakhtin") was particularly interested in inheritance law, and so he wrote Notes toward a Philosophy of the Deed. Under the influence of Schopenhauer, he then wrote [Notes toward] The World as Will and Probate. Although English translations often obscure the fact, Russians usually do not write books, but notes toward books. Americans are usually unaware, for instance, that the full title of Dostoevsky's novel is Notes toward a Novel to Be Called "The Brothers Karamazov" or that an early novella was really entitled Notes toward a Set of Notes Called "Notes from Underground." It is a Russian custom that no project should ever actually be completed. Several conclude with the words "I'm not finished yet!" which were eventually abbreviated to three dots....
The main point of the pseudo-pseudonymous Deed is that people should take responsibility for what they say and do. But the work failed in its purpose because Bakhtin neglected to publish it. [...] Meanwhile, he published his famous theory of the polyphonic novel, which argued that Dostoevsky invented a new kind of writing according to which the author has no idea what his characters are doing.
* By Edward Queenan.