Quotation from「The Idiot」

The Idiot (Vintage Classics) 2003/7/8

Fyodor Dostoevsky (著), Richard Pevear (翻訳), Larissa Volokhonsky (翻訳)
 About translator: Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

[ Kindle版 ]



But I'd better tell you about another encounter I had last year with a certain man.
Here there was one very strange circumstance--strange because, in fact, such chances very rarely occur.
This man had once been led to a scaffold, along with others, and a sentence of death by firing squad read out to him, for a political crime.
After about twenty mimutes apardon was read out to him, and he was given a lesser degree of punishment; nevertheless, for the space between the two sentences, for twenty minutes, or a quarter of a hour at least, he lived under the certain conviction that in a few minutes he would certainly die.

I wanted terribly much to listen when he sometimes recalled his impressions of it, and several times I began questioning him further.
He rememberd everything with extraordinary clarity and used to say he would never forget anything from those minutes.

About twenty paces from the scaffold, around which people and soldiers were standing, three posts had been dug into the ground, since there were several criminals.
The first three were led to the posts, tied to them, dressed in death robes (long white smocks), and had long white caps pulled down over their eyes so that they would not see the guns; then a squad of several soldiers lined up facing each post.
My acquaintance was eight in line, which meant he would go to the posts in the third round.
A priest went up to each of them with a cross.

Consequently, he had about five minutes left to live, not more.
He said those five minutes seemd like an endless time to him, enormous wealth.
It seemed to him that in those five minutes he would live so many lives that there was no point yet in thinking about his last moment, so that he even made various arrangements; he reckoned up the time for bidding his comrades farewell and allotted two minutes to that, then allotted two more minutes to thinking about himself for the last time, and then to looking around for the last time.
He remembered very well that he made precisely those three arrangement, and recokoned them up in precisely that way.

He was dying at the age of twenty-seven, healty and strong;bidding farewell to his comrades, he remembered asking one of them a rather irrelevant question and even being very interested in the answer.

Then, after he had bidden his comrades farewell, the two minutes came that he had allotted to thinking about himself.
He knew beforehand what he was going to think about:he kept wanting to picture to himself as quickly and vividly as possible how it could be like this:now he exists and lives, and in three minutes there would be something, some person or thing--but who? and where?
He wanted to resolve it all in those two minutes!

There was a church nearby, and the top of the cathedral with its gilded dome shone in the bright sun.
He remembered gazing with terrible fixity at that dome and the rays shining from it;it seemed to him that those rays were his new nature and in three minutes he would somehow merge with them...
The ignorance of and loathing for this new thing that would be and would come presently were terrible; yet he said that nothing was more oppressive for him at that moment that the constant thought;
'What if I were not to die! What if life were given back to me-- what infinity! And it would all be mine! Then I'd turn each minute into a whole age, I'd lose nothing, I'd reckon up every minute separately, I'd let nothing wasted!'
He said that in the end this thought turned into such anger in him that he wished they would hurry up and shoot him."
The prince suddenly fell silent; everyone waited for him to go on and arrive at a conclusion.
"Have you finished?" asked Aglaya.
"What? Yes," said the prince, coming out of a momentary pensiveness.
"Why did you tell us about that?"
"Just ... I remembered ... to make conversasion ..."
"You're very fragmentary." observed Alexandra. "You probably wanted to conclude, Prince, that there's not a single moment that can be valued in kopecks, and that five minutes are sometimes dearer than a treasure."