Great moments in literature: "Eternity [is]...spiders in every corner"

What a great line from an exceptional book.

Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment is perhaps my favorite book of all time (with Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, Dreiser's An American Tragedy and Twain's Huckleberry Finn pressuring from behind). As with nearly all of my favorite books, it doesn't pull punches. There are happy endings in Dostoevsky's books, but not outwardly happy. Raskolnikov, the "superman" protagonist of Crime and Punishment ends up in a Siberian prison but is redeemed inwardly. That is Dostoevsky's genius.

As I was re-reading Crime and Punishment this week, I came across this fantastic passage:

"I don't believe in a future life," said Raskolnikov.

Svidrigaïlov sat lost in thought.

"And what if there are only spiders there, or something of that sort," he said suddenly.

"He is a madman," thought Raskolnikov.

"We always imagine eternity as something beyond our conception, something vast, vast! But why must it be vast? Instead of all that, what if it's one little room, like a bath house in the country, black and grimy and spiders in every corner, and that's all eternity is? I sometimes fancy it like that."

"Can it be you can imagine nothing juster and more comforting than that?" Raskolnikov cried, with a feeling of anguish.

"Juster? And how can we tell, perhaps that is just, and do you know it's what I would certainly have made it," answered Svidrigaïlov, with a vague smile. (Part IV, Chapter 1)

"Black and grimy and spiders in every corner." It is astoundingly brilliant. I just wish I could read it in the native Russian. Powerful, powerful stuff. This conversation festers in Raskolnikov's fevered mind, prodding him to eventually capitulate to Sonia's faith. Brilliant.

No, this doesn't have anything to do with open source. Just thought I'd share it.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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