Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Things I don't understand: Why Aren't We Allowed To Be Crazy Freaks All the Time?

Now I have this constant and never-ending jones for 19th Century Russian lit. It's like a need. I'm a junkie.I realize that some could think that this is mighty intellectual of me. But I finally figured out what it is about these books I love. They reassure me. Because the people in them are just as crazy as me. Yet, they are crazy in a way I fully understand.

(Unlike French dramatic movies where the heroines suddenly go crazy for some inexplicable reason and start ripping their clothes off or painting their faces with lipstick and having sex with icky people they don't like).

If we were to believe these writers it's simply normal to go nuts. When you are in love, you follow someone around, you gnash your teeth, you stay up all night outside their window, you throw yourself under a train. If they decide they love you back you reject them and attempt suicide with a borrowed pistol. When you pass a bad check you steal money out of your father's pocketbook and go to the gaming tables laughing like a fiend, waste it on prostitutes and then when the night is over stare up at the stars wondering what is to become of you.

Even old ladies in wheelchairs blow the family fortune at roulette.

You lose something you care about, it drives you so crazy you die and so you become a ghost and haunt people under bridges.

Can you dig it? No? Well, OK that's the part I just don't get. Why is it suddenly so unacceptable to engage in unacceptable behavior? The world is madness. Why the disapproval towards the mad? What is the source of the reluctance on the part of so many to become truly crazed?

Oh c'mon. Everyone can relate to this can't they:

Sometimes in the evenings he wraps himself in his dressing gown, and trembling all over, with his teeth chattering, begins walking rapidly from corner to corner and between the bedsteads. It seems as though he is in a violent fever. From the way he suddenly stops and glances at his companions, it can be seen that he is longing to say something very important, but, apparently reflecting that they would not listen, or would not understand him, he shakes his head impatiently and goes on pacing up and down. But soon the desire to speak gets the upper hand of every consideration, and he will let himself go and speak fervently and passionately. His talk is disordered and feverish like delierium, disconnected, and not always intelligible, but, on the other hand, something extremely fine may be felt in it, both in the words and the voice. When he talks you recognize in him both the lunatic and the man. It is difficult to reproduce on paper his mad talk. He speaks of the baseness of mankind, of violence trampling on justice, of the glorious life which will one day be upon earth, of the window-gratings, which remind him every minute of the stupidity and cruelty of oppressors. It makes a disorderly, incoherent potpourri of themes old but not yet out of date.

Anton Chekov, "Ward Number 6"

Link to "Lady With Lapdog"

More stories by Chekhov (aka Chekov)

Russian Lit links

Twitch's introspective Russian poetry badly translated into English


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