Saturday, May 5, 2012

Dostojewski on the side of Greeks

To the Greek readers of this blog, battered by foreigners for some time now, I would like to offer on the eve of the most important election this amateur translation of a section of Dostojewski's "The Player".

The young Russian (the player) said: “It is not a given which of the two is worse, the wild Russian way of life or the German style to accumulate money through honest work. I, for one, would rather travel around as a nomad with a tent all my life instead of praying to the German idol”.

“What German idol?”, the General asked.

“The German way to accumulate wealth. I don’t like such virtues. I walked around here yesterday and whatever I saw and observed is just like in German picture books. Every house has a house elder who is perfectly righteous and virtuous, so virtuous that one has to almost fear in his presence. Every such house elder, or house father, has a family and in the evenings they read instruction books to one another. Outside the house the trees blossom, the wind blows and the sun is about to set. Everything is just so cosy.

So here the family lives in total serfdom under the house father. Suppose the house father has accumulated financial wealth and intends to pass on his business to his elder son, then there is nothing left for the daughter who will become an old virgin. And the younger son they sell as soldier. And all of this happens in the name of righteousness, undue righteousness where even the younger son who was sold believes that he was sold out of righteousness. Isn’t that an ideal situation where the sheep is joyful on his way to the slaughter? But further. It is not easy for the elder son, either. He has this Amalia whom he loves but whom he can’t marry because they haven’t accumulated enough money yet. Now they wait in a chaste and faithful manner and they also walk to the slaugther with a smile. Amalia’s face gets old and her skin dries out. Finally, after about 20 years, they have accumulated the necessary wealth in a righteous and virtuous way. The house father blesses his 40-year old son and the 35-year old Amalia with her dried-out breasts and red nose. The house father holds a moralizing speech, cries a bit and then he dies. Now the elder son becomes the virtuous house father and the story begins from scratch. This goes on and on and after 5 or 6 generations, the result may be some Baron Rothschild or Hoppe & Co., or something like that. Now, isn’t this a moving spectacle? Centuries of inherited work, patience, cleverness, virtuousness, righteousness, perseverence, thriftiness and the stork on the roof! What else do you want? There is nothing more desirable than that! And with this conviction the Germans hold court over the rest of the world and whoever is found guilty, that is whoever is not like them, will be damned. Now I prefer to live the Russian way, to live an exuberant life and to increase my wealth in the casino, if necessary. I don’t want to be Hoppe & Co. in 5 generations. I don’t need money for myself. I am the purpose of everything and not just a factor to create wealth”. 

In the 1960s, American comedians were joking "vote for the Kennedy of your choice but vote for a Kennedy!" To Greeks I can only recommend in all seriousness "vote for the party of your choice but don't vote for those who remind me of the thugs which started crowding the Munich beer halls in the 1920s".

1 comment:

  1. Brings to mind something I read recently - "The Dogs and the Wolves" by Irène Némirovsky.

    I think you'd enjoy it Herr Kastner - here's the DT review.