The book portrayed in the photo was my summer slash camping choice and I suppose you can already tell by the towel and the sand in the background. This means that it’s been almost five months since I first started writing this draft which I’m now about to finish.
It’s a collection of two short stories by Dostoevsky: The Crocodile (1865) and An Honest Thief (1848), translated by Giorgos Tsaknias and published by Patakis. Last year, during my summer vacation, I read and quite enjoyed another collection with some of his short stories such as White Nights, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man and A Gentle Creature (translated by Aris Alexandrou). So whilst I was searching through my bookshelves what I’d bring with me this year, I said “Why not?”.
The Crocodile is “A true story of how a gentleman of a certain age and of respectable appearance was swallowed alive by the crocodile in the Arcade, and of the consequences that followed.“, as we’re informed before the actual story begins. A Gogolian idea since, indeed, a crocodile does devour Ivan Matveich and he manages to survive inside its belly (although it is kind of dark and uncomfortable in there, as he informs us), an event that doesn’t seem to surprise anyone, neither his wife, nor his friend! By satirising the Russian bureaucracy, Dostoevsky artfully and humorously comments on the social structures of his time. A pleasant story that shows the writer’s wittiest side, which we tend to ignore.
Dostoevsky wrote his short story “An honest thief” almost 20 years before and it is quite a different one. Astafy Ivanovich narrates how, many years ago, he had met an honest thief, rather “an honest man, sure enough, [who] yet he stole“. A touching story about an alcoholic, Emelyan Ilyitch, and the things he’d do to drink. Dostoevsky, a gambler himself, had always been interested in addictions in general. The honest thief may be considered as an early study in the portrayal of addicts, an indication of the works that would follow, such as “The Gambler”.
As one may guess, these short stories are not as thorough in terms of character development and analysis as his longer stories and his novels. Despite that, they remain extremely well written and easily read since the subjects that Dostoevsky touches upon are considered modern, even 160 years later.