Deep down in the underground

Text and Photo by Nora Vasconcelos

Two faces of Dostoyevsky.
Two years before Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote his famous novel Crime and Punishment, he developed a quite dense novel called Notes from the Underground.
At the beginning, the story takes the form of an essay in which the main character, just known as the Underground man, takes a harsh reflection about his current condition and life around himself.
As the story advances, it creates a weird relationship between the main character and the reader. This conexion becomes something really hard to break, even though the reading gets more and more intense and some times, even painful.
The second part of the book takes more the form of a novel and much more of the elements that make recognizable Dostoyevsky’s style, appear in the story.
This is when the Underground man becomes more cynical, but still quite reflexive about the world around him and how his own life impacts the rest of the world close to him.
When the end of the story arrives, it’s not so hard to feel some relief, but at the same time, some sort of satisfaction for having being able to walk through the whole rough path along with the Underground man, that for several instants gives the impression of being Dostoyevsky himself.
Surprisingly, after finishing this somehow tortuous book, the desire to read Crime and Punishment increases, as well as a refreshing feeling of knowing that at the end of this story, not only the main character, Raskolnikov, achieves some tranquility and peace of mind, but also gets the impression that the very same author reached some kind of sense of completeness while writing this novel.

The man who defeated the sea

Text and Photo by Nora Vasconcelos

Against the waves.
Not so long ago, I had the chance to see the movie In Love and War, based upon the book by Henry Serrano Villard and James Nagel.

The story shows the crucial moment in which Heminghway turns from and optimistic young man into a tough writer that shows the ways of war and life in a crude way.

Althoug the movie was filmed a long time ago (1996), watching it gave me a new perspective of the American author. his work and the circumstances which marked his writing.

That also made me appreciate even more one of my favorite short stories: The Old man and the sea.

I got this book many years ago, and I didn’t stop reding it until I finished it. Back then I got completely fascinated by the extraordinary way the words were presented by Hemingway and how all these words suddenly were transformed into very clear images in my mind, that allowed me not only to see the old fisherman fighting with the huge fish first, and the sharks later on, but also even to smell the salt of the sea and to hear the waves crashing into the little boat.

Now, every time I happen to be nearby a beach where the boats arrive with their fresh cargo, the amazing story of Santiago, the brave fisherman, comes to my mind.

Shared anguish and desperation

A dear character from a book.
After giving it a lot of thought about what character from a book I haven’t been able to stop thinking about, and going over a list of my favorite characters, I’d say that the one that totally “came to live” in front my eyes and became part of my everyday thoughts was Ricardo Jordan, the main character of a play called La barca sin pescador (The boat without fisherman), written by the Spanish author Alejandro Casona.
The story is about a stockbroker who is having some trouble with his business and makes a deal with the devil for him to make his successful career go back on track. In return, Ricardo has to kill a man.
The tricks of the devil make Jordan believe that the scream he has just heard from the coast nearby is from a woman crying out for her husband, a fisherman who has just died at the very moment Ricardo signed the deal.
Ricardo can’t stand what has just happened and spends the rest of the story trying to make it up for what he has done to the woman.
As the time passes, he becomes a new man and somehow he realizes that he wasn’t to blame for the fisherman’s death, but the contract’s still due, and the time to give up his soul in return for his renewed wealth is getting closer.
Anguish and desperation appear, but he keeps on thinking about a solution for his dilemma until the very last second, when the devil is right there, wearing his black fancy clothes, the same as he did the first time he met Ricardo. It’s time to go… or at least it seams.
As the devil thinks Ricardo can’t deliver his part of the contract anymore, he burns the document, but things don’t go the way he has expected, as Ricardo, just in time, and while the contract is going to ashes, tells the devil that he’s not going anywhere, because the deal said that he had to kill someone, and someone has died. “Me”, Ricardo says. “I’m not longer the same man you met and dealt with. So, as far as everybody’s concerned, I’ve killed a man”.
Of course, by the time I reached this point, I’d held my breath so many times, and felt sorry and sad for Ricardo’s faith so many times, that I just kept thinking about how he could get out of the deal and remain alive. That’s why I felt so relief when at the end of the story everything worked just fine for him.