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April 2015, vol 11 no 1

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Jonathan McKeown

Mise en Scène

Last weekend I started re-reading The Idiot by Dostoyevsky. His stories possess a rare force and fervour, a dramatic intensity that can pull you in like swift moving vortices. The older I get the more I need forceful diversions like this to translate me out of my usual prosaic state into that of another's making (and perhaps that is the very meaning of poetry). But now this had been very effectively achieved for the second time in my life; and before long, before I fully realised what had happened, I was over a hundred pages in. In fact it wasn't until the scene in the Ivolgin house that I found my mind wandering from that mesmerising voice into a reverie of its own. What set me off, I realised, was the uncanny feeling I'd been in that house before. There was something obtrusively intimate and familiar about it all. At first I thought, perhaps it's just a residual memory of the scene from the time I first read it twenty-something years ago, and was about to dismiss it. But then something twigged: my imagination had placed the scene in a very particular house (not one of Dostoyevsky's creations, but one that was known to me) – a big old Queenslander I once rented with friends, back in my university days. Strange, I thought, that I should unconsciously select this of all houses to host a scene from an old Dostoyevsky novel. But then something else came home to me: this was the place where I was living the first time I read it.

easter break
making a face to fit
the author's description