I’m on a train from Poland to Russia.
By Fiacre Banks
April 14, 2019 2:35pm CST
I began tonight to re-read a book I’ve read often, the last occasion being about two years ago. I read the first sentence and put the book down to ponder upon it, such was the devastation it visited upon my fertile imagination, and I sank into speculative reverie for a good while thereafter. That superlative sentence, simple in construction and delicious in its charm read thusly: “At nine o’clock in the morning, towards the end of November, the Warsaw train was approaching Petersburg at full speed.” Did ever the debut sentence to a brave novel blast open a world of possibilities so effectively? Would the train crash? Who was I going to meet on the train? Why was I travelling from Warsaw to Petersburg? Yes, I immediately became a passenger on board, and since I’d travelled that journey before I already knew that I would be meeting the excellent, the superior, the innocent Prince Myshkin. Dostoyevsky’s novels always open with sentences that are simple, factual, scene-setting and seductive. I hope he writes some more.
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When I studied Russian lit at uni, I participated in a seminar on Dostoevskij's The Idiot. An unforeseen byproduct of this was that some years later when I had a room in a different city in the flat of an old woman whose son came to visit her and fell on the floor writhing and with froth coming out of his mouth, I called the ambulance and told the doctor that I assumed the young man suffered from epilepsy. Which indeed he did. It was his first attack.
@xander6464 Especially when plied with champagne by Princess Agaia all the way. Most entertaining toilet I ever used on a train was on a 36 ride from Calcutta to Delhi, where a tiny little hole had to be aimed at while the train swayed and rocked. Everybody missed.