Fyodor Dostoyevsky

White Nights

White Nights is essentially a story about a lonely man who ends up getting friendzoned. To give a more detailed synopsis, the story follows a man living in St. Petersburg who’s suffering from loneliness and general lack of purpose. The story is told in first-person from the perspective of a young man as he traverses through the city in the night drawing his emotions from those he comes across. One night he comes across a woman called Nastenka who he saves from another man harassing her. He’s rather overbearing but passionate and they bond over their shared loneliness and agree to meet again. As they begin to meet over a few consecutive nights, the man develops feelings and it seems like these feelings are mutual. However, Nastenka eventually tells her own story and she has an infatuation for a young man who was once a lodger in her home. He is meant to return and marry her and the narrator gradually realises that their relationship would end up becoming platonic. Despite this, the mystery lover has still not contacted her so the man professes his love for her, but when he does this lover arrives and Nastenka goes to him.

She says she’s grateful for his companionship and that she wants him to attend the wedding, however he is distraught and heartbroken over the events. The story then ends with him in a rather depressed state but finds some hope in wishing her good will, stating ‘May your sky be always clear, may your dear smile be always bright and happy, and may you be forever blessed for that moment of bliss and happiness which you gave to another lonely and grateful heart’.

I quite enjoyed this story, despite it being quite depressing. However, I did find the narrator annoying with his long monologues of desperation and overbearing nature. I didn’t connect with it as much as other short stories but maybe you will, so it can’t hurt to give it a read.

In my copy there is also another short story at the end called Bobok which I didn’t enjoy as much as the first story. It’s written as an excerpt from the diary of a writer who attends a funeral and then starts to hear voices in the ground. These are the voices of the recently deceased who are discussing a variety of things from games to current affairs. They talk about their consciousnesses being active for two to three months or even longer whilst they slowly decay away. He leaves the graveyard with hopes that he will visit more cemeteries giving him something to write about.

This story feels like it’s cut short, but I guess that’s how it’s meant to be given that it’s presented as a diary entry. It sort of leaves you wanting more with a more expansive story seemingly being developed, but on its own it’s somewhat enjoyable and quite comedic.