Health

ghosts

“You should see a doctor.”

“I don’t need you to tell me I’m not well, though I don’t really know what’s wrong with me; I think I’m five times healthier than you are. I didn’t ask whether you believe that people see ghosts. I asked if you believe that there are ghosts.”

“No, I wouldn’t believe it for anything!” Raskolnikov cried out, even somewhat spitefully.

“What is it they usually say? Svidrigailov muttered to himself, turning aside and inclining his head slightly. “They say, ‘You’re sick, and therefore what you imagine is all just nonexistent raving.’ But there’s no strict logic here. I agree that ghosts come only to sick people; but that only proves that ghosts cannot appear to anyone but sick people, not that they themselves do not exist.”

“Of course they don’t!” Raskolnikov insisted irritably.

“No? You think not?” Svidrigailov went on, slowing raising his eyes to him. “And what if one reasons like this (come, help me now): ‘Ghosts are, so to speak, bits and pieces of other worlds, their beginnings. The healthy man, naturally, has no call to see them, because the healthy man is the most earthly of men, and therefore he ought to live according to life here, for the sake of completeness and order. Well, but as soon as a man get sick, as soon as the normal earthly order of his organism is disrupted, the possibility of another world at once begins to make itself known, and the sicker one is, the greater the contact with this other world, so that when a man dies altogether, he goes to the other world directly.’ I’ve been reasoning it out for a long time. If one believes in a future life, one can believe in this reasoning.”

“I do not believe in a future life,” said Raskolnikov.

Svidrigailov sat thinking. “And what if there are only spiders there, or something of the sort,” he said suddenly.

“He’s a madman,” thought Raskolnikov.

“We keep imagining eternity as an idea that cannot be grasped, something vast, vast! But why must it be vast? Instead of all that, imagine suddenly that there will be one little room there, something like a village bathhouse, covered with soot, with spiders in all the corners, and that’s the whole of eternity. I sometimes fancy something of the sort.”

“But surely, surely you can imagine something more just and comforting than that!” Raskolnikov cried out with painful feeling.

“More just? Who knows, perhaps that is just — and, you know, if I had it my way, it’s certainly how I would do it!” Svidrigailov answered, smiling vaguely.

A sort of chill came over Raskolnikov at this hideous answer. Svidrigailov raised his head, looked at him intently, and suddenly burst out laughing.

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor (Author). McDuff, David. (Editor, Translator). Crime and Punishment. New York: Penguin Classics, 2002.

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