In the beginning of July, during an extremely hot spell, toward evening, a young man left his tiny room, which he sublet from some tenants who lived in Stolyarnyi Lane, stepped out onto the street, and slowly, as if indecisively, set off towards the Kokushkin Bridge.
He had successfully managed to avoid meeting his landlady on the staircase. His small room, more like a closet than an apartment, was tucked under the roof of a tall five-story building. The landlady of the apartment, who rented him this room and provided both dinner and a servant, lived below in a separate apartment on the same staircase; every time he left to go out, he had to pass the landlady’s kitchen door, which was almost always left open onto the landing. Every time the young man passed, he felt a painful and fearful sensation, one that he was ashamed of and that made him wince. He was deeply in debt to the landlady and was afraid to face her.
It wasn’t that he was so fearful and cowed; in fact, it was just the opposite; but for some time he had been in an irritable and anxious state, similar to hypochondria. He had become so absorbed in himself and so isolated from others that he was afraid of meeting anyone, not only his landlady. He was crushed by poverty, but even his constrained circumstances had ceased to burden him of late. He had completely stopped handling his own everyday affairs and didn’t wish to deal with them. He was not actually afraid of his landlady, no matter what she intended to do to him. But to stop on the staircase, put up with all sorts of nonsense about ordinary rubbish that didn’t concern him at all, her constant pestering about payment, her threats and complaints, and, in the face of it all, to have to dodge her, make excuses, tell lies—no thank you; it was better to slip past somehow, like a cat on a staircase, and steal away unnoticed.
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Dostoyevsky the Gambler
Optina Pustyn: The Forest Retreat
24: Dostoyevsky Bilingual
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