In this piece, Caitlin Ingham explores the literary concept of the double, rewriting passages from Dostoevsky’s The Double in the style of Nabokov’s The Eye and Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman. It represents an effort to emulate the writers’ different stylistic choices and explore their different framings of self-opposition. Whereas The Eye was written with The Double very much in mind – Nabokov referred to it as ‘a perfect piece of art’ – The Third Policeman was not, meaning slightly more creativity was required in this second rewriting.
‘Mr Golyadkin now looked like a man wanting to hide, wanting to run away from himself. Yes!- that really was the case. Let us say more: now Mr Golyadkin not only wanted to escape from himself, but even hide from himself, to be utterly annihilated, to exist no more and turn to dust.’
The Double, The Eye and The Third Policeman are all united in a focus of characters ‘engaged in the impossible task of trying to escape from himself, or to separate himself from someone whom he can’t help resembling.’ Nabokov once referred to The Double as ‘a perfect work of art’ and The Eye in many ways acts as a response to this, but with a total, original upheaval of form and perspective. Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman is a novel that ‘combines elements of fantasy, grotesque, absurd, metafiction and humor’ and does not present a classic vision of the double, but embodies the notion of the bi-part soul in its wandering expedition guided by contradictory narratives.
I have rewritten two subsequent passages of Dostoevsky’s novel in the style of The Eye and The Third Policeman; particular parts of The Double were selected for their opposing moods and structural and dramatic significance, but I have drawn on wider sections of the other two novels as inspiration for the rewritings. I purposefully stayed faithful to Golyadkin’s journey; it seemed clearer to illuminate the differences between the texts if the constraints of plot were fairly rigid. The pieces are an attempt to reimagine the texts, not just by emulating the differing author’s stylistic choices, but also the physical positioning of the narrator, the distance from their subject, the narrator’s attitude to its duality and how the sentences themselves are forced to shift to make room for the flux of self-opposition. So for example, my rewrite in the style of The Eye has the narrative voice peeping at Golyadkin from across the room, reviewing his performance with semi-obstructed relish and willfully favorable bias. Re-imagining the second passage in the style of The Third Policeman required more invention, as the writing would not come close to O’Brien’s without partaking in diversions. In this vein, Doctor Rustenspitz has been upgraded in his significance somewhat to a version of de Selby, although I would argue since Dostoevsky ‘conceives of his hero’s illness as in integral part of social disorder’, it is fitting for the Doctor to play the role of provider of an imperfect, abstract set of rules for the protagonist to be guided by.
First Rewrite – PassageTaken From Chapter IV of Dostoevsky’s The Double in the Style of Nabokov’s The Eye
There is a thrill found in a social dance such as this, perhaps all the more so when watched from the sidelines, where one can squat in solitude and indulge in observation with uninterrupted melancholy relish. What further pleasure could be desired than the tantalizing swish and swing of the ladies’ dresses, the clinks of champagne tinkling above the deep, continuous hum of chatter. Yakov has long been involved in the best of St Petersburg high society, indeed, his modest yet vital professional role (I fancy him a vigorous success at work, his very mouth twitches with diligence) means he is clearly a respected member of this party. His stance now, softened and luxurious in his dancing slippers, reminds me of a photo which had once been taken of him- facing straight in to the camera, luminous skin, a proudly angled nose.
He is clearly doing well, none could accuse him of any sort of outsiderness that can be known to afflict some people who arrive at balls without having been received with their justified welcome, an occurrence flung at even the best of us but one which might make some feel as if their feet are suddenly leaden and the expected rituals of waltz, previously engraved in their minds, become quite indecipherable, forcing the person to consider whether his or her feet have actually turned into some heavy metallic substance and to debate if not only they are not incapable of performing a dance, but also of engaging of the required ritual of polite and captivating conversation.
Golyadkin is nodding generously to an old woman wearing an enormous black mink and pointing up at the chandelier, as if to warn her of its potential for danger. The woman’s gratitude is not expressed outwardly, but she is clearly touched by his affable concern ‘Personally,’ he taps her shoulder, ‘I would stay clear of the hanging candles. They look quite precocious.’
Did he mean precarious? What a charming error! And who could blame a slight stumble over words with all the magic movement and majestic lights and mirrors, a dizzying and iridescent effect.
Partly due to my own concern of a potential fall and eruption of flames, but also for my amusement, I hoist myself into the attic, to check the chandelier from a position in a hidden crevice underneath roof above- these grand old buildings always have rather charming view points that a person can climb into, should he wish. I examine the candles thoroughly from my position in the nook. How curious- they are all completely straight and sturdy! But why would Yakov speak with such assuredness of their crookedness?
What extra elaboration is required for you to envision the scene? Are there some patches of the canvas of the scene I have left bare and itching for a flick of paint or a clarifying stroke of a brush?… Ah, but see here, Golyadkin is speaking to someone. It’s Gerasimych, the talc-faced, glib butler who earlier insulted him. They have long since been acquainted but that does not prevent this servant from his rudeness, even his moustache is course and brutish, the wiry, silvers hairs slapped above his lips like a pair of walrus tusks. I must pause here to make the observation that if Yakov is still suffering from his concerns surrounding the chandelier, you can hardly see it in him. His dark, velvet jacket and the slippers of the same hue, his slim foot twitching to the beating of the bubens (an interesting and novel choice for the polka). What a considerate and elegant man. I admit I feel most generously towards him at this moment. If Klara Olsufyevna has any sense whatsoever, she will have taken note at this strength of sensitivity and will have been pricked with intrigue at his delectable and dutiful quality. Oh dear, he is bickering with this grizzly servant, who says, ‘Someone is asking after you sir.’
‘May I quote something for you Gerasimych?’ asks Yakov.
‘No, please sir, I must ask…’
‘All things will come in due course to him who has the gumption to be patient. Do you know who said that? I highly doubt you do. It’s Viélle.’
Yakov shakes his finger at the air at this point, as if adjusting a tassel, to add further emphasis to his point it seems. He is twisting his neck, making an agonizing effort to lock eyes with Klara Olsufyevna, I think to check if she had registered the quotation he delivered in such a display of sagacious success.
He continues, ‘I can tell you that no one is asking for me. I had only arrived late due to an incident that happened earlier this afternoon, in which I refused to defer during a dangerous exchange with a ruffian in the steps above the house here. What could I do?’
Unfortunately at this point the polka grew to such a hysterical pitch I could no longer catch their conversation from my position above. But it is clear that Golyadkin is speaking nobly and persuasively to this wretched servant, who shakes his head like a thick-minded cob, probably awe struck with regret and sympathy. Passion is clearly courting Golyadkin- tiny veins spread and blossom on his face, reddening it to a hue normally contained to men much stouter and fonder of vodka. He glances at members of the party around him. They all shuffle and crinkle their lips solemnly. He has been speaking for some time now. Even without the accuracies of the particular words of his tale, I find myself gutturally moved by his muscular speech.
Second Rewrite – Passage Taken From Chapter V of Dostoevsky’s The Double in style of O’Brien’s The Third Policeman
It was hard to say the distance I walked but by the time I reached the river snowflakes1 fell down fastidiously and obstructed my sight.
You better watch that water carefully, it’s very high.
I won’t go near it.
It’s amusing. If you hadn’t made such a wretched mess of it, you could still be at the party, not wandering alone on Fontanka Embankment. Very humorous.
That observation is of little use to me now.
I mean it. That Gerasimych was right, even though he is a crumpet. You should have just spoken to that man, even a child would have done it. Now we’re in danger again.
Stop. I’m not sure what I can say to you except I won’t stray near to the river.
His reprimand made me feel queazy. It was exceptionally cold, and I had to clench on my overcoat just to be able to move. My heart2 began to bang quickly in my chest when I noticed another figure walking behind me. Astonishing. The passer-by made me feel all bent and savage. Who was he?
Surely just someone on their journey home like yourself, no reason to believe it’s a sordid type. No justification for any queer feelings towards the fellow who is just minding his own business.
He is giving me a sadness in the gullet.
Well for Pity’s sake keep that look on your face. That’s right! There’s a nice smile to show that you’re not one to bother anyone, nor be tampered with yourself.
I felt very cold and had a nasty sensation swilling around me from the man near by. His steps were light and quick, perhaps identical to my own, but listening to the crunch of snow under his soles was quite disgusting. The light was gone now. All that was left was the hollow wind that blew about like a great big nasty tide over a beach.
The snowflakes had ornamental pattern, each one a delicate and cunning shape to reveal its origin and intent. My eyelids twitched laboriously as I calculated their meaning. I greeted a few of them and told them I had their game, but when they all courted and flew about together it made such a blankness and a whiteness it became impossible for me to make out anything at all. However, despite my new loss of sight, I could still sense this fellow walking near me. He was giving off such a stink of unhappiness. Robbing me of any desire to use my nose, perhaps in cahoots with the snowflakes.
I considered that there was an inner quality3 of the whole scenario, the fact I could barely make out this fellow but still felt him so strongly as if he had a handcuff around my ankle. I had a right to be there, I carefully reminded myself of this, that I had the same justification to travel a yard or two on that wet path without encountering any roughness. And I might as well as have been on my own, all the same, for the road was so vast, the man would have to be a real tinker to even come close to me.
He’s not a tinker.
I didn’t say he was!
Good, because he’s not. You’ll be lucky to get away with it if you refer to him as a tinker again.
I looked down and when I returned my gaze to the evil space where the man had stood, I saw nothing there! I gave a quick and high shout. I could make little sense of this. My eyes danced like fairies and I considered as to whether I had gone mad.
You haven’t gone mad. Listen. You can hear the quick patter of his feet behind you, he’s solid although I bet he won’t speak.
This perplexed me in the darkest way, and made my own legs feel as if they were made of scraps of cloth. The man was going as fast as if he had wheels on him. All at once we were getting closer to each other.
1 It might be mentioned that Doctor Rustenspitz was notorious for his opposing admiration of the biological structure of snowflakes, and his steadfast aversion to the mere theory of the trappings of a cold climate. Indeed, his ‘caution’ of the weather was seconded only to Princess Chevchekhanova, who, to use the static words of Shteyngart, ‘is as frigid as a freshly skinned vole left in the snow’, this taste of hers was most likely due to the French heritage on her mother’s side (a union violently admired and followed by Kristyan’s Ivanovich’s younger sister, and can be read in Collected Letters of Anastasia Rustenspitz- Volume Seven).
2 Doctor Kristyan Ivanovich Rustenspitz took a keen interest in hearts, especially those of poor health. In fact, at one point a sufferer of high-density lipoprotein: a cholesterol which hacks right back to the liver and expels an enormous amount of statins. A frequent paradox in these cases of ill health, was the possibility of looking in the mirror and see oneself in a young and vigorous light. Doctor Rustenspitz had written a Journal Review on this topic as a student in Moscow in 1794, entitled, Dysmorphia of the Pulmonary Iuvenis. He permitted himself some rather juvenile and fanciful observations but there was still ideas of medical merit, especially the sections which provided analysis on a case study in Vienna of a man who built a room with such a vast number of mirrors, his reflection became so tiny and fragmented he ultimately saw himself as an infant.
3 See earlier notes on ‘quality’, p. xii
Edgar Allan Poe’s story ‘William Wilson’ introduces the character of the double with restraint and clarity, ‘This exception was found in the person of a scholar, who, although no relation, bore the same Christian and surname as myself’. In Nabokov’s take on the theme in his Despair, on the first sighting of Hermann’s supposed double there is the self-consciously theatrical ‘Trumpets, please! Or still better, that tattoo which goes with a breathless acrobatic stunt. Incredible!’ The Double, The Eye and The Third Policeman are all novels with a specific period in which the shift of ‘self-bifurcation’ can be identified; be it a jolting shock or a creeping realisation, opposition enters into the character’s world to antagonize, motivate, and essentially to embody the version of the self that has previously eluded the other. Interestingly, in these three texts, this is often either brought into focus, or created completely, by some form of death. This presence of death is frequently entwined with notions of the split self or the double, as Karl Miller puts it, in his book Doubles, ‘the only complete escape from common life, death has been desired, disliked and equivocated.’ From a psychoanalytical perspective, the double can present a desirable figure of immortality that in turn becomes ‘the ghastly harbinger of death.’
In his own translation, Nabokov critic Julian Connolly identifies the following passage after the ball as the immediate precursor of Golyadkin seeing his double: “Golyadkin had been killed- actually killed in the full sense of the word, and if he at this moment preserved the ability to run, it was only through some kind of miracle” (‘killed’ is Connolly’s translation, in Ronald Wilks’ it is ‘crushed’). And just as it is Golyadkin’s social suicide that brings about this split, in both The Eye and The Third Policeman, this bifurcation is only enabled by the presence of death, albeit presented in completely opposing ways. The Eye is set into motion from Smurov’s unsuccessful suicide, The Third Policeman retrospective realisation that its narrator has been dead since the second chapter.
A tumultuous mental state prevails in a great deal of Dostoevsky’s work, heavily influenced by Gogol and his own personal experiences. As Malcolm Jones describes, his ‘major characters display the same basic tensions between centripetal and centrifugal forces, between the impulse towards form and unity and the impulse towards variety and complexity’. Self-opposition inflicts The Double from its first page, and Dostoevsky foreshadows Golyadkin’s physical double’s appearance in innumerable different ways, not least by the novel’s title. This constant opposition works to reveal the mindset of a character utterly consumed by narcissistic terror and stifling anxiety, ‘alternating between postures of self-affirmation and self-effacement’. The bifurcation is present too in the ‘humble chronicler of Mr Golyadkin’s adventures’ who cruelly juxtaposes ‘our hero’s’ misreading’s of those around by mimicking his hyperbole and mania, squeezing out every drop of humiliation from his social failures.
But this conflict is not just contained between narrator and protagonist: Golyadkin supplies opposition within his own thoughts and desires, and the narrator too frequently contradict and contrasts in his own mood and descriptions. At points, this makes for almost a parallel dual-narrative. For example, the narrator claims, ‘Everything appeared to be in order and as it should have been’ and yet, within a few sentences come the descriptions of the ‘snow falling even harder and thicker’ and the ‘lanterns squeaked even more shrilly’. With these contrasts the narrator is emulating Golyadkin’s wildly inaccurate and disproportionate sense of when things are fine and when they are not, but further to this, the fluctuating of the calm, assertive sentences is alarming, and the desperate claim ‘everything appeared to be in order’ is hauntingly evocative of the final tragic defeat, when Golyadkin cries ‘I’ve disappeared, gone from this world completely and all this in the natural order of things and just couldn’t be otherwise.’
‘Yet there was no time for thinking or even feeling; the passer-by was already within a couple of strides.’ The relatively clean and assertive line suggests action, perhaps even aggression is near, again I refer to Miller; ‘where the double is, the orphan is never far away, with secrecy and terror over all. To bring together the orphan and the double is to unite submission and aggression.’ This comparatively hastened sentence is combined with relentless references to defiant physical movement- ’twenty paces’ ‘short rapid steps’ ‘diminishing’ –alerts us to the chase. Yet what immediately follows is a classic example of Golyadkin paralysis; with the three repetitions of the name, the indulgences of superfluous phrasing and adjectives, ’As was his habit’ ‘wasted no time’, ‘very special’ and ‘clearly expressed’. This instant switch in the narrative tone demonstrates Dostoevsky’s narrator at play; dangling the figure of the double in front of us, leaving us torn between traditional apprehension of this dark man on a stormy night and our desperation for action and a possible brief detachment from Golyadkin’s tortuous inner monologue.
Amidst all these thoughts, the narrator passingly remarks, ‘But perhaps Mr Golyadkin did not think precisely that and had only a fleeting impression of something resembling it’. This provides another layer of insecurity for the reader. Not only are we viewing the world through insane eyes, our narrator might not even being representing his thoughts accurately; Dostoevsky puts in place the distrust and creeping ongoing questioning as to whether, ‘Golyadkin is imagining the entire episode, or whether there actually is another person in Golyadkin’s office upon whom Golyadkin projects his sense of physical identity.’
As I previously described, The Eye begins with a suicide, which we half-accept has brought about a sort of omniscient state of our narrator. The narrator has drab and disappointing experiences have led him into danger, much like the narrator in The Third Policeman, whose ‘first life’ is described with sparse and brutal details. After The Eye’s narrator’s ‘floating mechanical motion’ takes him to his new way of life, and the reader welcomes the observations of life on 5 Peacock Street and the narrator’s newfound ‘titillating pleasure’ as he describes the ‘mysterious thing, this branching structure of life’ and ‘innumerable dazzling zigzags bifurcating and trifurcating against the dark background of the past.’ Everything sounds infinite and suggests movement in all directions and dimensions, indeed Nabokov even places this difference within the names- Smurov is ‘the Russian word for ant, muravei. The I or eye which breaks free of that self is, implicitly, unantlike, able to move in three dimensions, a butterfly of play’.
This outburst and the significant change in tone, works to illuminate the irony that in fact the narrator’s gaze is fixed firmly and grimly in one direction- onto himself. ‘By detaching himself from the externalized figure of Smurov, he can cloak himself in an air of non-involvement or non-responsibility’
Even before the reader has completed the ‘excellent sport’ of ‘tracking down Smurov’, darkened and contorted by particularly jagged ideas or phrases, for example, he states ‘I noticed Vanya immediately, and immediately my heart gave a flutter; as when, in a dream, you enter a dream-safe room and find therein, at your dream’s disposal, your dream-cornered prey.’ There is the frantic repetition of ‘dream’, exposing the narrator’s desperation for this to really exist solely in his unconscious, where perhaps he could actually control his own actions and more importantly, the response they evoked in others. The combination of ‘dream’ with ‘disposal’ and ‘prey’- a nasty threatening fantasy made all the more disturbing by the use of second person here, here him apparently interpreting his desire as so universal it’s safe to presume the reader will share it with him. Slips such as these are present in almost every line and show Nabokov demonstrating the central impossibility of The Eye’s concept of detachment from one’s own mind; even when someone can stand outside of all he dislikes about his character, he cannot help but encounter himself on the way to describing his own actions. As Nabokov described in a lecture on style, ‘as soon as you touch no matter how slightly the simplest word-thought, it wriggles; it is already alive, it is yours’.
Nabokov allows his narrator’s observations to truly unhinge though when it comes to describing Smurov’s unsuccessful endeavors. Instead of Dostoevsky’s narrator, who stews in Golyadkin’s humiliations, exploiting every detail in a thinly veiled pretense of being as the same mind as his subject, the narrator of The Eye strains with discomfort whenever he stumbles into Smurov’s failures. After the terrible disgrace of Mukhin exposing his fantastical anecdote as untrue, the narrator is in awe of Smurov’s tale, and seems to genuinely read the character’s reactions as favorable (‘How charmingly her lashes punctuated his speech’). We have our suspicions that Smurov’s audience might be exchanging glances and excusing themselves due to embarrassment and impatience, rather than impressed emotion, but unlike in The Double, Smurov’s narrator is joyfully duped. When Mukhin straightforwardly exposes his lie, the narrator reacts with ‘This was unexpected and awful’ and then defensively demonstrates his artistic vigor, an attempt to poeticize the event into something bearable, ‘The marvelous soap bubble, bluish, iridescent, with the curved reflection of the window on is glossy side, grows, expands, and suddenly is no longer there’. Again I turn to Connolly, who describes how ‘psychological distance between the narrator and Smurov varies according to the quality of the reflected image of Smurov: when the image is positive (in the narrator’s eyes), the psychological distance is large; when the reflected image is negative, the distance shrinks’
Another example of wildly incorrect reading of events can be seen in O’Brien’s text, when after murdering Old Mathers, the narrator muses, ‘That I did not die of fright was due, I think, to two things, the fact my senses were already disarranged and able to interpret to me only gradually what the had perceived and also the fact that the utterance of the cough seemed to bring with it some more awful alteration’. He ruminates philosophically, emulating de Selby, as to the reasoning he escaped death, when in fact he has actually died moments before. His descriptions immediately turn lyrical, even astrological, with dark indicators of the new world we have entered. Twisted descriptions of the room, like the wick of the lamp ‘curling in convolutions like an intestine’ and ‘dusty floor like nothingness’ causes the reader to pause, and perhaps wonder if they are actually witnessing the something much more violent than it appears.
Just as observing Smurov from the outside appears to absolve The Eye’s narrator, albeit perhaps artificially and temporarily, of the reality of his own faults, O’Brien’s protagonist encounters a split within himself that absolves him of responsibility of his murder. His conscious- Joe- is, in turn, instructive, comforting, taunting, playful, cruel and wise. O’Brien fully exploits the imaginative play to be had in placing his italicized voice directly in the text; sometimes the novel will progress without Joe’s intrusion for pages and we might forget his presence before he breaks through the narrative.
‘I felt, for no reason, that his diminutive body would be horrible to the human touch- scaly or slimly like an eel…
That about my body. Why scaly? …
I don’t know. How can I know why I think my thoughts?
By God, I won’t be called scaly.’
In a way, this split within the soul is the total opposite of what The Double’s physical identical embodiment. O’Brien’s narrator is actually encountering himself within the ‘interminable passages and inscrutable recesses of one’s emotional labyrinth’ by hypothesizing on the physicality of his soul, and having to defend and soften his thoughts to the petulant personified formation of the very idea he is thinking of. This seems to illuminate both an inevitability in self-bifurcation, but also its impossibility. He goes on, ‘Here I had a strange idea not unworthy of de Selby…. What if he had a body? A body with another body inside it in turn, thousands of such bodies within each other like the skin of an onion, receding to some unimaginable ultimum?’
O’Brien’s contortion of his own device, forcing the selves to encounter one another in this funny and philosophical way, shows the playfulness and imagination in his construction. As Keith Hopper describes,
‘it becomes an uncomfortable schizoid consciousness, as the encoded material staggers under the burden of it anxiousness and destroys cohesion of the surface plot. A mythic dualism emerges between Apollonian needs (rational, linear) and Dionysian urges (irrational, tangential). At such times the author and the reader are seduced by the forbidden and trapped by the familiar, like wasps crawling into a watery jam jar.’
By the end of the chapter of his act of murder (and own death), the narrator admits ‘I was not thinking about the baffling fact that I was enjoying the hospitality of the man I had murdered… I was reflecting about my name and how tantalizing it was to have forgotten it’ The calm, almost cheery tone of this statement illuminates how the narrator has seemingly exonerated himself of guilt by philosophizing his perverse situation and indulging his mild jealousy of his soul, who knows his name. Guilt crops up frequently in the fiction of duality, as Ruth Sullivan explores in her psychoanalytical reading of Poe’s story, this ‘conscience has a stake in appearing benign and righteous, an affectionate giver of wholesome advice, the potential savior’ and how ‘one purpose of the tale is to record the fruits of William Wilson’s inability to assimilate a conscience (a person without conscience does not, of course, feel guilt)’
The Third Policeman’s narrator does not displace his crimes on to Joe, in the pointed and desperate way William Wilson does on his double, because guilt cannot exist in a landscape and state of mind so vast, illogical and lawless. It is actually, this namelessness, this lack of identity that serves as a form of the punishment.
As Joe’s and indeed de Selby’s guidance continues through the novel, the narrator becomes aware of ‘a metafictional awareness of his own fictionality; that he is not, as he imagines, the author of a story/ destiny but a character; not the puppet-master but a puppet.’ In his other most revered novel, At Swim Two Birds, O’Brien explores the notion of fictional characters bifurcating from the narrative path laid out for them. In a sense the narrator of The Third Policeman is the very antithesis of this; dazed and wondering through hell, directed only by his ‘own soul’ and incomplete footnotes inspired by an illogical philosopher. Hell is, as Anne Clissmann writes, to ‘have a mind which clings to a faith in the natural universe and the experimental laws it seems to embody, but which also believes in the truth of concepts which are totally opposed to that belief’ In this illogical world, we turn to de Selby, for example his idea ‘if he were to place an arrangement of parallel mirrors, each reflecting diminishing images of an interposed object indefinitely, in the last mirror he would not see what was there, but what used to be there some time ago.’ In fact, these bizarre, compressed philosophical ideas become reality. The narrator can never see himself clearly, he never finds out his name, and is stuck in his past, (O’Brien’s description) doomed to ‘walk back along the road to the hell place and start thro’ all the same terrible adventures again’
Smurov (and his narrator) and Golyadkin are also left in hopeless states; Dostoevsky’s echo is clear in the desperate speech at the end of The Eye– ‘Yes, happy. I swear, I swear I am happy… What does it matter that I am a bit cheap, a bit foul, and the no one appreciates all the remarkable things abut me- my fantasy, my erudition, my literary gift’ Inner antinomy has never been stronger. ‘Double and flight are fates, fates that befall the outcast, and they are the states, states of mind and motion: they belong both to an inner and outer space- an outer space which reaches as far as outer space itself, and the stars.’ It seems that what often sparks the desire to chase, elude, and try to catch oneself is a condition of profound self-dissatisfaction. This subsequently means that if the searching part of the soul actually encounters the other, it will inevitably be disappointed with what is there and turn to run in the other direction. Like orbiting planets, fragmented selves are doomed to circle in unison around the fiery center of their own sense of dissatisfaction.
- Clissmann, Anne. Flann O’Brien. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1975.
- Connolly, Julian W. Nabokov and his Fiction: New Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
- Connolly, Julian W. Nabokov’s Early Fiction- Patterns of self and other. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
- Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Double. London: Penguin Classics, 1846/ 2009.
- Hopper, Keith. Flann O’Brien, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Post-modernist. Cork: Cork University Press, 1995.
- Karshan, Thomas. Vladmir Nabokov and the Art of Play. (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 2010.
- Jones, Malcolm V. “Dostoevsky and an Aspect of Schiller’s Psychology”. The Slavonic and East European Review, (Jul., 1974), Vol. 52, No. 128 pp. 337-354.
- Miller, Karl. Doubles. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.
- Nabokov, Vladimir. Despair. London: Penguin Classics, 1965/2010.
- Nabokov, Vladimir. Lecture ‘On Style’. Transcribed by Thomas Karshan, Library of Congress.
- Nabokov, Vladimir. The Eye. London: Penguin Classics, 1965/2010.
- Nilsen, Don L. F. Humour in Irish Literature – A Reference Guide. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1996.
- O’Brien, Flann. The Third Policeman. London: Harper Perennial, 1967/2007.
- O’Brien, Flann. At Swim-Two-Birds. London: Penguin Classics, 1939/ 2001.
- Poe, Edgar Allen. ‘William Wilson’ in Essays and Stories by Edgar Allan Poe. London, G. Bell and Sons, LTD. 1914.
- Sullivan, Ruth. “William Wilson’s Double”. Studies in Romanticism Psychoanalysis and Romanticism (Spring, 1976): Vol. 15, No. 2, pp. 253-263.
First Extract From The Double (Chapter Iv, Pages 156-159)
Mr Golyadkin was, to a certain extent, clearly in command of the situation. ‘If that chandelier,’ he thought, ‘were to come loose now and fall down on the people below, I’d rush immediately to save Klara Olsufyevna. As I was saving her I’d tell her: “Don’t be alarmed, miss, it’s nothing. I am he who is your saviour.”’ And then Mr Golyadkin looked to one side, searching for Klara Olsufyevna, and he spotted Gerasimych, Olsufy Ivanovich’s old butler, heading straight to for him with the most solicitous, solemnly official expression. An unaccountable and at the same time highly disagreeable sensation made Mr Golyadkin shudder and frown. Mechanically, he looked around; the idea almost occurred to him to sneak off somehow, to get out of harm’s way and quietly slip and fade into the background- that is, to act as if nothing were wrong, as if the matter didn’t concern him at all. However, before our hero had time to come to a decision, Gerasimych was already standing in front of him. Turning to Gerasimych, our hero said, faintly smiling: ‘Do you see that candle up there in the chandelier, Gerasimych? It’s going to fall any moment. Now, you must go and give orders at once for someone to straighten it. It’s definitely going to fall any minute, Gerasimych.’
‘The candle, sir? No, sir, it’s absolutely straight… But someone’s been asking for you, sir.’
‘Who could there be asking for me, Gerasimych?’
‘Can’t say for sure who is it, sir. A certain gentleman from somewhere or other. “Is Yakov Petrovich here?” he said. “Well, call him out, he’s wanted on some very urgent and vital matter.”
That’s what he said, sir.’
‘No, you’re mistaken, Gerasimych, you’re quite mistaken.’
‘That’s doubtful, sir.’
‘No, Gerasimych, that’s not doubtful at all. No one’s asking for me, there’s no need for anyone to ask for me… I’m at home here- I mean this is where I belong, Gerasimych.’
Mr Golyadkin drew breath and looked around. It was just as he thought! Every single person in the ballroom was straining eyes and ears at him in solemn expectation. The men had crowded closer and were listening hard. A little further off the ladies were anxiously whispering to each other. The host himself appeared not very far away at all from Mr Golyadkin and although it was impossible to tell from his look whether he in turn was taking an immediate and direct interest in Mr Golyadkin’s position, as the whole thing was done on a most tactful footing, all this nonetheless gave our hero clearly to understand that the decisive moment had arrived. Mr Golyadkin clearly saw that the time had come for a bold move, the time to bring disgrace on his enemies. Mr Golyadkin was very agitated. Suddenly Mr Golyadkin felt somehow inspired and in a tremulous, solemn voice he turned to the waiting Gerasimych and began afresh:
‘No, my friend, no one’s asking for me… you’re mistaken. I’ll go further and say you were mistaken this morning when you assured me, when you dared to assure me (here Mr Golyadkin raised his voice) that Olsufy Ivanovich, my benefactor form time immemorial, who has, in a certain sense, taken the place of a father to me, would close his doors to me at a time of the most solemn domestic rejoicing for his paternal heart. (Smugly, but deeply moved, Mr Golyadkin looked around. Tears glittered on his eyelashes.) I repeat, my friend,’ concluded our hero, ‘you were mistaken, you were cruelly and unforgivably mistaken…’
It was a moment of triumph. Mr Golyadkin felt that he had achieved exactly the right effect. He stood there with eyes modestly lowered, awaiting Olsufy Ivanovich’s embrace. Among the guests there were distinct signs of agitation and bewilderment. Even the unshakeable and imperturbable Gerasimych stumbled over his words: ‘It’s doubtful, sir!’ And then suddenly, for no apparent reason, the merciless orchestra struck up a polka. All was lost, all was scattered in the wind. Mr Golyadkin shuddered. Gerasimych staggered back and all who were in the ballroom surged like the sea- and there was Vladimir Semyonovich, already whisking Klara Olsufyevna along in the leading pair, followed by the handsome lieutenant and Princess Chevchekhanova. The spectators, curious and enraptured, crowded to watch those who were dancing the polka- an interesting, novel and fashionable dance that had turned everyone’s head. For a time Mr Golyadkin was forgotten. But suddenly all was commotion, confusion and bustle. The music stopped… something strange had happened. Wearied by the dance, almost breathless from her exertions, cheeks burning and bosom deeply heaving, Klara Olsufyevna finally sank into an armchair, utterly exhausted. All hearts went out to that fascinating enchantress, everyone was vying with one another to compliment her and thank her for the pleasure she had given them- when suddenly right before her stood Mr Golyadkin. Mr Golyadkin was pale and extremely distraught; he too seemed to be in a state of exhaustion and he could barley move. He was smiling for some reason and offering his hand imploringly. In her astonishment Klara Olsufyevna had no time to withdraw her hand and rose mechanically to Mr Golyadkin’s invitation. Mr Golyadkin lurched forward once, and then again, then he somehow raised one foot, then he clicked his heels, stamped his foot and the he stumbled… he too wanted to dance with Klara Olsufyevna. Klara Osufyevna screamed.
Second Extract From The Double (Chapter V, Pages 162-164)
‘What weather!’ thought our hero. ‘Just listen to that! Could it be a flood warning? Clearly the water’s dangerously high.’ No sooner had Mr Golyadkin said or thought this than he saw a passer-by walking towards him, most likely someone delayed for some reason himself. It was all of little consequence, it would seem, a chance encounter. But for some mysterious reason Mr Golyadkin became alarmed, afraid even, and he felt somewhat at a loss. It wasn’t that he feared that it might be some nasty character… well, perhaps.. ‘Who knows who this belated person could be? flashed through his mind. Perhaps he’s part of the same thing, perhaps he’s the most important person in this business and he’s not here for nothing but has a purpose in coming, in crossing my path and bumping into me.’ But perhaps Mr Golyadkin did not think precisely that and had only a fleeting impression of something resembling it and extremely unpleasant. Yet there was no time for thinking or even feeling; the passer-by was already within a couple of strides. As was his habit, Mr Golyadkin wasted no time in assuming a very special look, a look that clearly expressed that he, Mr Golyadkin, was minding his own business, that he was all right, that the street was wide enough for everyone and that indeed he, Mr Golyadkin, was bothering no one. Suddenly he stood rooted to the spot, as if struck by lightening and then swiftly turned around after the stranger who had just passed him- turned around as if someone had tugged him from behind and turned him as the wind swings a weathercock. The passer-by was fast disappearing in the snowstorm. He too was in a hurry, he too was wrapped up from head to foot, he too was pattering along the Fontana pavement with the same rapid short steps and at a slight trot. ‘What, what’s this?’ whispered Mr Golyadkin with an incredulous smile and yet trembling in every limb. Cold shivers ran down his spine. Meanwhile the passer-by had dissapeared completely and his footsteps could no longer be heard, but Mr Golyadkin still stood there, gazing after him. Gradually, though, he finally came too his senses. ‘What on earth’s going on?’ he thought irritably. ‘Have I gone mad, really gone mad? He turned and went on his way, quickening his stride the whole time and trying his level best to avoid thinking of anything at all. To this end he even closed his eyes. Suddenly, through the howling of the wind and noise of the storm, he again heard the sound of someone’s footsteps very close by. He started and opened his eyes. Ahead of him, about twenty paces away, the small dark figure of a man was rapidly approaching. This little man was in a hurry, rushing along with short rapid steps; the distance between them was rapidly diminishing. Now Mr Golyadkin could clearly make out his new, belated companion- made him out completely and he shrieked with horror and bewilderment; his legs gave way. It was that very same passer-by, already familiar to him, for whom now appeared before him, again quite unexpectedly. But it was not only this marvel that startled Mr Golyadkin- and Mr Golyadkin was so startled that he stopped, cried out, tried to say something – and then he raced off in pursuit of the stranger, even shouting out to him to stop as quickly as possible. The stranger did indeed stop- about ten paces from Mr Golyadkin, so that the light of a nearby street lamp fell fully on his whole figure- he stopped and turned to Mr Golyadkin with an anxious and impertinent look waited to hear what Mr Golyadkin had to say. ‘Forgive me, I seem to have been mistaken,’ our hero said in a quavering voice. Without a word, the stranger turned away in a huff and swiftly went on his way, as if hurrying to make up the few seconds wasted over Mr Golyadkin. As for Mr Golyadkin, he was trembling in every fibre; his knees weakened and buckled beneath him and he squatted on a bollard, groaning. And in fact he had a very good reason to feel so distressed. The fact was, this stranger now seemed somehow familiar. That in itself wouldn’t have mattered. But he recognised him- he almost completely recognized that man now. He’d often seen that man at some time, quite recently even. Where could it have been? Could it have been yesterday? However, the most important thing wasn’t that that Mr Golyadkin had often seen him; and there was hardly anything special about that man- certainly no one would have given him a second look. So, he was like anyone else, like all respectable people of course and probably even possessed some quite special qualities- in short he was an individual in his own right. Mr Golyadkin didn’t feel either hatred or even open hostility, not the slightest enmity towards him: quite the opposite it would seem. And yet (and this circumstance was the essential thing), and yet, not for all the tea in China would he have wanted to meet him and particularly not to meet him as just now, for example.’
This piece experiments with Dostoevsky’s style in the opening of Notes from Underground, using it to interrogate the chaos and contradictions of the post-truth era and the contemporary states of anxiety and existential distress that have become a...