Wednesday, June 27, 2007

S for Spite

The following is an excerpt from Dostoyevsky's novel, Notes from the Underground:

I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my teeth are rotting. I refuse to consult a dentist from spite. I am perfectly well aware that I cannot "pay out" the dentist by not consulting him; I know better than anyone that by all this I am only injuring myself and no one else. But still, if I don't consult a dentist it is from spite. My teeth are bad, well--let them get worse! I sometimes think I am not a man at all, but a mouse. There in its nasty, stinking underground home our insulted, crushed and ridiculed mouse promptly becomes absorbed in cold, malignant and, above all, everlasting spite.

When people approach me I grind my teeth at them, and feel intense enjoyment when I succeed in making anybody unhappy. I was lying when I said just now that I was a spiteful man. I was lying from spite. I am simply amusing myself with people and in reality I never would become spiteful. I am conscious every moment in myself of many, very many elements absolutely opposite to that. I feel them positively swarming in myself, these opposite elements. Even in my underground dreams I do not imagine love except as a struggle. I begin it always with hatred and end it with moral subjugation, and afterwards I never know what to do with the subjugated object.

Even in toothache there is enjoyment. The enjoyment of the sufferer finds expression in moans. They express the consciousness that you have no enemy to punish, but that you have pain; the consciousness that you are in complete slavery to your teeth; that if someone wishes it, your teeth will leave off aching, and if he does not, they will go on aching another three months; and that finally, if you are still contumacious and still protest, all that is left you for your gratification is to thrash yourself or beat your wall with your fist as hard as you can, and absolutely nothing more. Well, these mortal insults, these jeers on the part of someone unknown, end at least in an enjoyment which sometimes reaches the highest degree of voluptuousness.

Yes, I am a spiteful man, and I write these words out of spite, in order that I might be spiteful. My aim is to make you uneasy, my readers, out of spite.

1 comment:

Gary Freedman said...

According to the psychoanalyst Leonard Shengold Notes From the Underground reflects the fantasy life of someone struggling with the effects of child abuse.

The Dostoyevsky excerpt in this post is drawn from Dr. Shengold's book Soul Murder: The Effects of Childhood Deprivation and Abuse.