Becoming what you read
Published 7:43 pm Friday, February 18, 2022
To the editor:
The poet Sylvia Plath strongly believed that one has a tendency to become a part of his or her reading.
This I wondered about … up until I came upon an introduction to the life of the Russian novelist Dostoevsky. As the introduction puts it (among many other things), Dostoevsky was the tenderest possible father to his baby daughter Sonya, from the moment she was born to the very moment she died at 3 months old.
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As Dostoevsky’s wife Anna worded it, he would sit by Sonya’s crib “for hours on end, now singing songs to her, now talking to her.” And Dostoevsky gives an even more touching picture: “This tiny, three months old being, so pitiful, so minuscule, would smile at me when I approached, when I, with my ridiculous voice, sang to her, she liked to listen.” And then, after catching a chill, she was taken away within a week.
And, it was at this point in my reading that I felt a rush of tears upon my cheeks. Indeed, I had now become a part of what I had read, feeling Dostoevsky’s grief somewhat as much as he had.