I am the raskolnik — my extra curricular activity
In Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky, is said to have embedded various examples of wordplay or double meanings. Take the case of the name of the main character in the book: Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov. We are told that in Russian, the original language of this great work of literature, raskol means a “schism” or a “split” and a raskolnik is “one who splits.” The character in the book was one tormented creature. He committed a crime and, in effect, punished himself for it. His split, inner being was tortured by guilt, and thus he was led to confess his crime. Confession eventually resolved the raskol in him.
Now, If Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov had much free time especially in his eventual incarceration, I too have my free time — but such careless respite generally means reading for this curious creature of literature. Free time to me means reading, and reading, especially Russian and french literature, means creating my own kind of raskol. But this split in my being does not lead to a torturing of my soul (if soul I have), but to its enlightenment, as it were. It is, in effect, a process of learning, of personal growth. How so? By reading I can escape the drudgery of daily existence and take in a totally new world where I can identify with various characters. I “split” from myself to immerse my inner being in worlds created by such creative geniuses whose powers of storytelling are truly awesome for, after having read their work, often I feel as though I am a different person seeing the world with different eyes. Reading keeps my dreams alive and sustains the embers of my desires. Even if only for some precious moment, I fully share the wishes and hopes of the fantastic characters, and their introspections I appropriate to eventually help change and sharpen my views of human nature and emotions.
These are among my favourite novels: Crime and Punishment, Anna Karenina, the Brothers Karamazov. These are among those tomes whose stark images of another world and profound lessons of humanity have split my being to the core. I am the Raskolnik of reading.