ATONEMENT

Atonement is a 2001 British metafiction novel written by Ian McEwan concerning the understanding and responding to the need for personal atonement. Set in three time periods, 1935 England, Second World War England and France, and present-day England, it covers an upper-class girl’s half-innocent mistake that ruins lives; her adulthood in the shadow of that mistake; and a reflection on the nature of writing.

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THE CASTLE

The Castle (German: Das Schloss German pronunciation: [das ʃlɔs]; also spelled Das Schloß) is a 1926 novel by Franz Kafka. In it a protagonist known only as K. arrives in a village and struggles to gain access to the mysterious authorities who govern it from a castle. Kafka died before finishing the work, but suggested it would end with K. dying in the village, the castle notifying him on his death bed that his “legal claim to live in the village was not valid, yet, taking certain auxiliary circumstances into account, he was permitted to live and work there”. Dark and at times surreal, The Castle is often understood to be about alienation, unresponsive bureaucracy, the frustration of trying to conduct business with non-transparent, seemingly arbitrary controlling systems, and the futile pursuit of an unobtainable goal. Continue reading “THE CASTLE”

LEVIATHAN

Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil—commonly referred to as Leviathan—is a book written by Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) and published in 1651 (revised Latin edition 1668). Its name derives from the biblical Leviathan. The work concerns the structure of society and legitimate government, and is regarded as one of the earliest and most influential examples of social contract theory. Leviathan ranks as a classic western work on statecraft comparable to Machiavelli’s The Prince. Written during the English Civil War (1642–1651), Leviathan argues for a social contract and rule by an absolute sovereign. Hobbes wrote that civil war and the brute situation of a state of nature (“the war of all against all”) could only be avoided by strong, undivided government.

Summary

Leviathan rigorously argues that civil peace and social unity are best achieved by the establishment of a commonwealth through social contract. Hobbes’s ideal commonwealth is ruled by a sovereign power responsible for protecting the security of the commonwealth and granted absolute authority to ensure the common defense. In his introduction, Hobbes describes this commonwealth as an “artificial person” and as a body politic that mimics the human body. The frontispiece to the first edition of Leviathan, which Hobbes helped design, portrays the commonwealth as a gigantic human form built out of the bodies of its citizens, the sovereign as its head. Hobbes calls this figure the “Leviathan,” a word derived from the Hebrew for “sea monster” and the name of a monstrous sea creature appearing in the Bible; the image constitutes the definitive metaphor for Hobbes’s perfect government. His text attempts to prove the necessity of the Leviathan for preserving peace and preventing civil war.

Leviathan is divided into four books: “Of Man,” “Of Common-wealth,” “Of a Christian Common-wealth,” and “Of the Kingdome of Darknesse.” Book I contains the philosophical framework for the entire text, while the remaining books simply extend and elaborate the arguments presented in the initial chapters.
Consequently, Book I is given the most attention in the detailed summaries that follow. Hobbes begins his text by considering the elementary motions of matter, arguing that every aspect of human nature can be deduced from materialist principles. Hobbes depicts the natural condition of mankind–known as the state of nature–as inherently violent and awash with fear. The state of nature is the “war of every man against every man,” in which people constantly seek to destroy one another. This state is so horrible that human beings naturally seek peace, and the best way to achieve peace is to construct the Leviathan through social contract.
Book II details the process of erecting the Leviathan, outlines the rights of sovereigns and subjects, and imagines the legislative and civil mechanics of the commonwealth. Book III concerns the compatibility of Christian doctrine with Hobbesian philosophy and the religious system of the Leviathan. Book IV engages in debunking false religious beliefs and arguing that the political implementation of the Leviathanic state is necessary to achieve a secure Christian commonwealth.

Hobbes’s philosophical method in Leviathan is modeled after a geometric proof, founded upon first principles and established definitions, and in which each step of argument makes conclusions based upon the previous step. Hobbes decided to create a philosophical method similar to the geometric proof after meeting Galileo on his extended travels in Europe during the 1630s. Observing that the conclusions derived by geometry are indisputable because each of constituent steps is indisputable in itself, Hobbes attempted to work out a similarly irrefutable philosophy in his writing of Leviathan.

Download the book: Leviathan.pdf

DEMONS (OR POSSESSED)

Demons (Russian: Бесы, Bésy) is a novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, first published in the journal The Russian Messenger in 1871–2. It is considered one of the four masterworks written by Dostoyevsky after his return from Siberian exile, along with Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1869) and The Brothers Karamazov (1880). Demons is a social and political satire, a psychological drama, and large scale tragedy.

PLOT SUMMARY

The Possessed is a novel that dramatizes the cultural and political troubles of Russia in the mid-19th century. It tells the story of a small cell of nihilist terrorists that cause chaos and commit several murders in a provincial Russian town.

The novel follows the story of two families, the Stavrogins and the Verkhovenskys and the circle of people that revolve around these two families. Stepan Verkhovensky, an intellectual, liberal, and ex-professor tutors Mrs. Stavrogin’s son, Nicholas and keeps a small circle of political radicals. Nicholas Stavrogin, a charismatic but morally questionable and rootless young man, returns to his provincial town and brings the various sundry affairs with local women and hangers on of political radicals with him. One of these men is Peter Verkhovensky, the estranged son of Stepan who has become involved in radical politics. Other young men associated with Nicholas who have become involved in radical politics are Shatov and Kirilov. Shatov, once a socialist member of Peter’s group and now a reactionary, wishes to leave the group, though Peter will not let him leave. Kirilov is a friend of Shatov’s who accompanied Shatov on a trip to America before he also rejected socialism in favor of a strange philosophy that glorifies suicide.

Peter, while ingratiating himself with the local governor’s wife, plots political revolution in the town. He supposedly works with the socialist Internationale and has been developing radical terrorist cells of five in many cities in Russia and throughout Europe. Peter has recruited members of his father’s discussion circle and other radicals as well as local criminals to participate in his cell. They plan to foment dissent and incite violence from the local factory workers and to undermine the authority of local opinion leaders.
To this end, Peter convinces Mrs. Lembke, the provincial governor’s wife, to throw a fete where he and his friends can mock the cultural elite and incite the population. Their plan works well and during the fete some of their members set fire to the poorer side of town, causing a tremendous inferno. Peter also uses one of his agents to murder Nicholas’ secret wife and to arrange an illicit liaison between Nicholas and Lisa. Lisa, after the affair, discovers that Stavrogin’s wife has been murdered and suspects Nicholas. While attempting to see the dead body of Nicholas’s wife, Lisa is murdered by an angry mob of townsfolk.

Meanwhile, Peter has been manipulating his cell to plot the murder of Shatov who insulted Peter in the past. Peter claims that Shatov is an informant and convinces his cell that if they do not kill Shatov he will turn them all into the police. This is a lie, of course, though the group believes that Shatov is an informant and agrees to go forward with the murder. Kirilov believing that suicide is the most supremely perfect act a human can perform is convinced by Peter to kill himself and take the blame for the Shatov murder. Peter’s group is successful in murdering Shatov and in convincing Kirilov to commit suicide. After the murder, Peter leaves the town and the rest of the conspirators are arrested and confess. The novel closes with Stepan converting to Christianity before dying of illness and Nicholas Stavrogin returning home only to hang himself.

Download the book: Demons.pdf

THE IDIOT

The Idiot (Russian: Идио́т, Idiot) is a novel by the 19th-century Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It was first published serially in the journal The Russian Messenger in 1868–9.
The title is an ironic reference to the central character of the novel, Prince (Knyaz) Lyov Nikolaevich Myshkin, a young man whose goodness and open-hearted simplicity lead many of the more worldly characters he encounters to mistakenly assume that he lacks intelligence and insight. In the character of Prince Myshkin, Dostoevsky set himself the task of depicting “the positively good and beautiful man”. The novel examines the consequences of placing such a unique individual at the centre of the conflicts, desires, passions and egoism of worldly society, both for the man himself and for those with whom he becomes involved.

 Plot Overview

Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin, a fair-haired young man in his late twenties and a descendant of one of the oldest Russian lines of nobility, arrives in St. Petersburg on a November morning. He has spent the last four years in a Swiss clinic for treatment of his “idiocy” and epilepsy.
Myshkin’s only relation in St. Petersburg is the very distant Lizaveta Prokofyevna Yepanchin. Madame Yepanchin is the wife of General Yepanchin, a wealthy and respected man in his late fifties. The prince makes the acquaintance of the Yepanchins, who have three daughters, Alexandra, Adelaida, and Aglaya, the latter being the youngest and the most beautiful.
General Yepanchin has an ambitious and rather vain assistant by the name of Gavril Ardalyonovich Ivolgin (nicknamed Ganya) whom Myshkin also meets during his visit to the household. Ganya, though he is actually in love with Aglaya, is in the midst of trying to marry Anastassya Filippovna Barashkov, an extraordinarily beautiful “fatal woman” who was once the mistress of the aristocrat Totsky. Totsky has promised Ganya 75,000 rubles if he marries the “fallen” Nastassya Filippovna. As Myshkin is so innocent and naïve, Ganya openly discusses the subject of the proposed marriage in front of the prince.
The prince rents a room in the Ivolgin apartment, also occupied by Ganya, his sister, Varvara Ardalyonovna (Varya); his mother, Nina Alexandrovna; teenage brother, Nikolai (Kolya); his father, General Ivolgin; and another lodger by the name of Ferdyshchenko.
Nastassya Filippovna arrives and attempts to insult Ganya’s family, which has refused to accept her as a possible wife for Ganya. Myshkin, however, stops her, putting her behavior to shame. Suddenly a rowdy crowd of drunks and rogues arrives, headed by Parfyon Semyonovich Rogozhin, a dark-haired twenty-seven-year-old who is passionately in love with Nastassya Filippovna. Rogozhin promises to bring 100,000 rubles to Nastassya Filippovna’s birthday party scheduled for that evening at which she is to announce whether she will marry Ganya or not.
Among the guests at the party are Totsky, General Yepanchin, Ganya, Ferdyshchenko, Ptitsyn—a usurer friend of Ganya’s who is a suitor to Varya Ivolgin—and a few others. With the help of Kolya, Prince Myshkin arrives as well, though uninvited. Following the prince’s advice, Nastassya Filippovna refuses Ganya’s proposal. Rogozhin arrives with the promised 100,000 rubles, but suddenly Myshkin himself offers to marry Nastassya Filippovna, announcing that he has recently learned he has a large inheritance. Though shocked at such a generous offer by an honest and generous heart, Nastassya Filippovna only deems herself worthy of being with Rogozhin, so she leaves the party with Rogozhin and his gang.
Prince Myshkin spends the next six months following Nastassya Filippovna as she runs from Rogozhin to the prince and back. Myshkin’s inheritance turns out to be smaller than expected, and it shrinks further as he satisfies the claims of creditors and alleged relatives, many of which are fraudulent. Finally, the Prince returns to St. Petersburg and visits Rogozhin’s house, which is a dark and dreary place. They discuss religion and exchange crosses.
However, later that day, Rogozhin attempts to stab Myshkin in the hall of the prince’s hotel, but the prince is saved when he has a sudden epileptic fit. Several days later, Myshkin leaves for Pavlovsk, a nearby town popular for summer residence among St. Petersburg nobility. The prince rents several rooms from Lebedev, a rogue functionary. Most of the novel’s characters—the Yepanchins, the Ivolgins, Varya and her husband Ptitsyn, and Nastassya Filippovna—spend the summer in Pavlovsk as well.
Burdovsky, a young man who claims himself to be the son of Myshkin’s late benefactor, Pavlishchev, comes to the prince and demands money from him as a “just” reimbursement for Pavlishchev’s support of the Prince. Burdovsky is supported by a group of insolent young men who include the consumptive seventeen-year old Hippolite Terentyev, a friend of Kolya Ivolgin. Although Burdovsky’s claim is obviously fraudulent—he is not Pavlishchev’s son at all—Myshkin is ready and willing to help Burdovsky financially.
The prince spends much of his time at the Yepanchins’. Soon, those around him realize that he is in love with Aglaya and that she most likely returns his feelings. However, a haughty, willful, and capricious girl, she refuses to admit her love for Prince Myshkin, and often even openly mocks him. Aglaya’s family begins to treat him as her fiancé, and they even hold a dinner party with many renowned guests who are members of Russian high society.
Myshkin, during the course of an agitated and ardent speech on religion and the future of aristocracy, accidentally breaks a beautiful Chinese vase. Later in the evening he has a mild epileptic fit. The guests and the family are convinced that the seemingly sickly prince is not a good match for Aglaya.
Aglaya, however, does not renounce Myshkin, and even arranges a meeting between herself and Nastassya Filippovna, who has been writing letters to Aglaya to convince her to marry Myshkin. During this meeting, the two women force the Prince to choose between his romantic love for Aglaya and his compassionate pity-love for Nastassya Filippovna. Myshkin hesitates briefly, which prompts Aglaya to run off, breaking all hope of an engagement between them. Nastassya Filippovna wishes to marry the Prince again, but in the end she proves unable to bring herself to do so, instead running off with Rogozhin at the last minute.
The Prince follows the two to St. Petersburg the next day and finds that Rogozhin has stabbed Nastassya Filippovna during the night. The two men keep vigil over her body, which Rogozhin has laid out in his study. The epilogue relates that Rogozhin is sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor in Siberia, that Prince Myshkin loses his mind and returns to the Swiss sanitarium, and that Aglaya leaves Russia with a Polish count who lies to her and soon abandons her.

Download the book: The Idiot.pdf

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

Crime and Punishment  is a novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Crime and Punishment focuses on the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of Rodion Raskolnikov, an impoverished ex-student in Saint Petersburg who formulates and executes a plan to kill an unscrupulous pawnbroker for her cash. Raskolnikov, in an attempt to defend his actions, argues that with the pawnbroker’s money he can perform good deeds to counterbalance the crime, while ridding the world of a vermin. He also commits the murder to test a theory of his that dictates some people are naturally capable of such actions, and even have the right to perform them. Several times throughout the novel, Raskolnikov compares himself with Napoleon Bonaparte and shares his belief that murder is permissible in pursuit of a higher purpose.

Plot

Raskolnikov, a conflicted former student, lives in a tiny, rented room in Saint Petersburg. He refuses all help, even from his friend Razumikhin, and devises a plan to murder and rob an elderly pawn-broker and money-lender, Alyona Ivanovna. His motivation comes from the overwhelming sense that he is predetermined to kill the old woman by some power outside of himself. While still considering the plan, Raskolnikov makes the acquaintance of Semyon Zakharovich Marmeladov, a drunkard who recently squandered his family’s little wealth. Raskolnikov also receives a letter from his sister and mother, speaking of their coming visit to Saint Petersburg, and his sister’s sudden marriage plans which they plan to discuss upon their arrival.
After much deliberation, Raskolnikov sneaks into Alyona Ivanovna’s apartment, where he murders her with an axe. He also kills her half-sister, Lizaveta, who happens to stumble upon the scene of the crime. Shaken by his actions, Raskolnikov manages to steal only a handful of items and a small purse, leaving much of the pawn-broker’s wealth untouched. Raskolnikov then flees and, due to a series of coincidences, manages to leave unseen and undetected.
After the bungled murder, Raskolnikov falls into a feverish state and begins to worry obsessively over the murder. He hides the stolen items and purse under a rock, and tries desperately to clean his clothing of any blood or evidence. He falls into a fever later that day, though not before calling briefly on his old friend Razumikhin. As the fever comes and goes in the following days, Raskolnikov behaves as though he wishes to betray himself. He shows strange reactions to whoever mentions the murder of the pawn-broker, which is now known about and talked of in the city. In his delirium, Raskolnikov wanders Saint Petersburg, drawing more and more attention to himself and his relation to the crime. In one of his walks through the city, he sees Marmeladov, who has been struck mortally by a carriage in the streets. Rushing to help him, Raskolnikov gives the remainder of his money to the man’s family, which includes his teenage daughter, Sonya, who has been forced to become a prostitute to support her family.
In the meantime, Raskolnikov’s mother, Pulkheria Alexandrovna, and his sister, Avdotya Romanovna (or Dunya), have arrived in the city. Dunya had been working as a governess for the Svidrigaïlov family until this point, but was forced out of the position by the head of the family, Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigaïlov. Svidrigaïlov, a married man, was attracted to Dunya’s physical beauty and her feminine qualities, and offered her riches and elopement. Mortified, Dunya fled the Svidrigaïlov family and lost her source of income, only to meet Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin, a man of modest income and rank. Luzhin proposes to marry Dunya, thereby securing her and her mother’s financial safety, provided she accept him quickly and without question. It is for these very reasons that the two of them come to Saint Petersburg, both to meet Luzhin there and to obtain Raskolnikov’s approval. Luzhin, however, calls on Raskolnikov while he is in a delirious state and presents himself as a foolish, self-righteous and presumptuous man. Raskolnikov dismisses him immediately as a potential husband for his sister, and realizes that she only accepted him to help her family.
As the novel progresses, Raskolnikov is introduced to the detective Porfiry, who begins to suspect him of the murder purely on psychological grounds. At the same time, a chaste relationship develops between Raskolnikov and Sonya. Sonya, though a prostitute, is full of Christian virtue and is only driven into the profession by her family’s poverty. Meanwhile, Razumikhin and Raskolnikov manage to keep Dunya from continuing her relationship with Luzhin, whose true character is exposed to be conniving and base. At this point, Svidrigaïlov appears on the scene, having come from the province to Petersburg, almost solely to seek out Dunya. He reveals that his wife, Marfa Petrovna, is dead, and that he is willing to pay Dunya a vast sum of money in exchange for nothing. She, upon hearing the news, refuses flat out, suspecting him of treachery.
As Raskolnikov and Porfiry continue to meet, Raskolnikov’s motives for the crime become exposed. Porfiry becomes increasingly certain of the man’s guilt, but has no concrete evidence or witnesses with which to back up this suspicion. Furthermore, another man admits to committing the crime under questioning and arrest. However, Raskolnikov’s nerves continue to wear thinner, and he is constantly struggling with the idea of confessing, though he knows that he can never be truly convicted. He turns to Sonya for support and confesses his crime to her. By coincidence, Svidrigaïlov has taken up residence in a room next to Sonya’s and overhears the entire confession. When the two men meet face to face, Svidrigaïlov acknowledges this fact, and suggests that he may use it against him, should he need to. Svidrigaïlov also speaks of his own past, and Raskolnikov grows to suspect that the rumors about his having committed several murders are true. In a later conversation with Dunya, Svidrigaïlov denies that he had a hand in the death of his wife.
Raskolnikov is at this point completely torn; he is urged by Sonya to confess, and Svidrigaïlov’s testimony could potentially convict him. Furthermore, Porfiry confronts Raskolnikov with his suspicions and assures him that confession would substantially lighten his sentence. Meanwhile, Svidrigaïlov attempts to seduce Dunya, but when he realizes that she will never love him, he lets her go. He then spends a night in confusion and in the morning shoots himself. This same morning, Raskolnikov goes again to Sonya, who again urges him to confess and to clear his conscience. He makes his way to the police station, where he is met by the news of Svidrigaïlov’s suicide. He hesitates a moment, thinking again that he might get away with a perfect crime, but is persuaded by Sonya to confess.
The epilogue tells of how Raskolnikov is sentenced to eight years of penal servitude in Siberia, where Sonya follows him. Dunya and Razumikhin marry and are left in a happy position by the end of the novel, while Pulkheria, Raskolnikov’s mother, falls ill and dies, unable to cope with her son’s situation. Raskolnikov himself struggles in Siberia. It is only after some time in prison that his redemption and moral regeneration begin under Sonya’s loving influence.

Download the book: Crime and Punishment.pdf