classics, love story, Short Stories

Review: White Nights: A Short Story by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Nastenka“I don’t know how to be silent when my heart is speaking.”

– Fyodor Dostoevsky

Synopsis: White white nightsNights is a short story by Fyodor Dostoevsky  and was originally published in 1848 as one of the writer’s early works. It tells the story of the anonymous narrator, told in first person POV, as he meets a woman named Nastenka in the streets of St. Petersburg. The story is told  over the four nights after there fateful meeting. It paints the pain and bittersweet emotions of unrequited love, friendship and loss between two strangers who found solace with each other.

What I think about it:

I’ve finished only one work of Fyodor Dostoevsky a few year’s back and that was plowing through the dark existentialist pages of Crime and Punishment. Man, that was tough to read through, not just because it’s a dark tale of a Raskolnikov’s twisted ideologies and justifications of sacrificing one life for the greater good, but also because my tiny immature 19 year old brain couldn’t grasp most of what he is trying to say. But I did love Crime and Punishment even with its vague ending. However, the love I felt of Raskolnikov and his rebel crew doesn’t surpass the tumultuous emotions I felt after reading White Nights. I remember finishing the story after I just interviewed a couple of bipolar patients during my Psych rotation when I was a medical intern. As I read the final lines, when the narrator felt all shitty about his predicament and in #sawi mode, he still refused to wallow in despair and hoped that someday he may fall in love again. I half cried, half laughed at the optimism of his ending < which by the way just made my face all scrunchy and ugly, which worried my fellow intern beside me and jokingly suggested to get myself checked too for any mental illness. Ha :)> Anyway my point is, this is one of Dostoevsky’s more optimistic works. I’ve started reading his The Brothers Karamazov and as expected went pretty dark quickly < haven’t finished it by the way>. Dostoevsky being optimistic in this story,  I think, is quite  refreshing considering the turmoil of his time period when this story was first published. In this story Dostoevsky paints his main character as a quirky but hopeful human who underwent the pain of unrequited love. Even Nastenka’s character can’t be easily despised because you know where she is coming from and why she had to turn down the main characters feelings. And I think Dostoevsky made the right choice to write it as a short story rather than a novella. The length gives a hopeful resolution to each characters goals and somehow also makes you curious what may happen if the story continued.

Basically, if you want a love story with an ending tied in a nice neat bow, this story isn’t for you. But if you want a love story that makes you hopeful even if it leaves you scarred, then this story maybe just the thing for you.

PS: Project Gutenberg is a collective effort to digitize cultural and archival works of legendary artists and writers for all the around the world. Sounds awesome? YAAS! Because they offer it for FREE! So support the project by downloading their ebooks. This is where I got my copy of the White Nights and Other Stories by Fyodor Dostoevsky for free: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/36034/36034-h/36034-h.htm

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