Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Bleak and Black and White

Sorry to (as usual) beat an idea to death, but I'm a) a little bored, and b) trying to think about something other than going to the dentist tomorrow. I haven't been to the dentist since I was fourteen years old...

"Ha, ha, ha! You will be finding enjoyment in toothache next," you cry, with a laugh.

"Well, even in toothache there is enjoyment," I answer. I had toothache for a whole month and I know there is. In that case, of course, people are not spiteful in silence, but moan; but they are not candid moans, they are malignant moans, and the malignancy is the whole point. The enjoyment of the sufferer finds expression in those moans; if he did not feel enjoyment in them he would not moan [...]

Those moans express in the first place all the aimlessness of your pain, which is so humiliating to your consciousness; the whole legal system of nature on which you spit disdainfully, of course, but from which you suffer all the same while she does not. They express the consciousness that you have no enemy to punish, but that you have pain; the consciousness that in spite of all possible Wagenheims you are in complete slavery to your teeth; that if someone wishes it, your teeth will leave off aching, and if he does not, they will go on aching another three months; and that finally if you are still contumacious and still protest, all that is left you for your own gratification is to thrash yourself or beat your wall with your fist as hard as you can, and absolutely nothing more [...]

I ask you, gentlemen, listen sometimes to the moans of an educated man of the nineteenth century suffering from toothache, on the second or third day of the attack, when he is beginning to moan, not as he moaned on the first day, that is, not simply because he has toothache, not just as any coarse peasant, but as a man affected by progress and European civilisation, a man who is "divorced from the soil and the national elements," as they express it now-a-days. His moans become nasty, disgustingly malignant, and go on for whole days and nights.

And of course he knows himself that he is doing himself no sort of good with his moans; he knows better than anyone that he is only lacerating and harassing himself and others for nothing; he knows that even the audience before whom he is making his efforts, and his whole family, listen to him with loathing, do not put a ha'porth of faith in him, and inwardly understand that he might moan differently, more simply, without trills and flourishes, and that he is only amusing himself like that from ill-humour, from malignancy. Well, in all these recognitions and disgraces it is that there lies a voluptuous pleasure...

--Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from the Underground (Part I, Chapter IV)

I was somewhat surprised earlier today to discover that "abscess" is not spelled "abcess". Time for "rescess"...


  1. Whoever has suffered a toothache can be assured there is no worse pain, so excruciating you are willing to cut your head off to stop it. Moaning as a result of it is not only a performance to obtain pity and comfort through emotional blackmail. It is also a proclamation of our own negligence, since we allowed our sacred mouths to decay and rot so much.

    What are you waiting for to go to the dentist!?

  2. Ah Dostoevsky - I thrived on Dostoevsky as a fourteen year old - that age when you last went to a dentist... I don't hold with 6 monthly visits but not since you were 14... Hmm. Nevertheless I offer you and your teeth my condolences and wince in sympathetic pain.

  3. Usual Stuff,
    I waited until I had a toothache...

    I still like Dostoevsky a lot. Did you really, "get" him at 14? Impressive...