V.F. ODOEVSKYS RIDICULOUS
DREAM ABOUT THAT?
Although the case for an awakening of interest in the works of V.F. Odoevsky has been made from time to time in recent years, a full study of his work is still awaited. 1 In an article published in 1966, Simon Karlinsky drew attention to Odoevsky's importance as a thinker and outlined a number of areas in which Odoevsky scholarship might usefully be pursued, suggesting influences or resemblances between Odoevsky and later Russian writers, such as Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov. 2 The purpose of this chapter is to examine just one of Odoevsky's extremely varied stories, 'Zhivoi mertvets' ('The Live Corpse'), to consider it from the point of view of genre, and to relate it in terms of themes and underlying philosophical ideas to works by Dostoevsky and Maiakovsky: in particular 'Son smeshnogo cheloveka' ('The Dream of a Ridiculous Man') and Pro eto(About That).
Dated 1838, but not published until 1844, 'Zhivoi mertvets' was written towards the end of Odoevsky's main period of creative literary activity, which extended from about 1830 until the early 1840s. His output of fiction ceased altogether after 1844, following the publication of his most important work, Russkie nochi as part of his 'Collected Works' (which managed nevertheless to leave many of his works uncollected). 3
The plot, such as it is, is unusual, but simple. A middle-aged, successful civil servant, Vasilii Kuz'mich Aristidov, awakes one morning to find that he has died: 'What's this? -- it seems I've died? . . . really' (p. 306). 4 This is the very beginning of the story, which continues in a colloquial, humorous style of first-person narrative,