Raskolnikov’s Dream/Last Exit to Hell

Recently I re-read Crime and Punishment for the umpteenth time. I was struck by how fresh it seemed and how many things about it felt new and surprising. Not least was the nightmare Raskolnikov has after his imprisonment, as recounted in the last few pages of the novel:

He dreamt that the whole world was ravaged by an unknown and terrible plague that had spread across Europe from the depths of Asia. All except a few chosen ones were doomed to perish. Some sort of new microbe was attacking people’s bodies, but these microbes were endowed with intelligence and will. Men attacked by them became instantly furious and mad. But never had men considered themselves so intellectual and so completely in possession of the truth as these sufferers, never had they considered their decisions, their scientific conclusions, their moral convictions so infallible.

Whole villages, whole towns and peoples were driven mad by the infection. Everyone was excited and did not understand one another. Each thought that he alone had the truth and was wretched looking at the others, beat himself on the breast, wept, and wrung his hands. They did not know how to judge and could not agree what to consider evil and what good; they did not know who to blame, who to justify.

Men killed each other in a sort of senseless spite. They gathered together in armies against one another, but even on the march the armies would begin attacking each other, the ranks would be broken and the soldiers would fall on each other, stabbing and cutting, biting and devouring each other. The alarm bells kept ringing all day long in the towns; men rushed together, but why they were summoned and who was summoning them no-one knew. The most ordinary trades were abandoned, because everyone proposed their own ideas and their own improvements, and they could not agree. The land too was abandoned. Men met in groups, agreed on something, swore to keep together, but at once began on something quite different from what they had proposed. They accused one another, fought and killed each other. There were conflagrations and famine. All men and all things were involved in destruction.

The plague spread and moved further and further. Only a few men could be saved in the whole world. They were a pure chosen people, destined to found a new race and a new life, to renew and purify the earth, but no-one had seen these men, no-one had heard their words and voices.

There are currently just over three days to go before the end of the 16 Maps of Hell campaign. The amount raised so far is £9717.62, thanks to 201 contributors. I said that only the first 200 contributors would be listed in the book, but since that number so closely ties with the end of the campaign, I am extending the opportunity for these final 3 days. After that, pre-orders/pledges will still go towards funding the book’s publication, but no more names will be listed in the book. If all goes well, I will be submitting the MS to the printers sometime in early to mid-September.

In the weeks leading up to its publication, I will be posting some (though not all) of the segments that didn’t make the final cut of the book. Here is one:

I wondered if perhaps the problem was that, at the end of this book’s attempt to reproduce, and thereby expose, the fatal allure of Hollywood (the world), after all the titillation, the tease, the build-up of tension, whatever it might offer in its place would appear, from a culturally-entrained perspective inside Hell, little more than a barren wasteland? Maybe we don’t leave Hell on a trail of glory, but like a thief in the night—by shifting our perspective just enough to see that it’s our own internal make-up, our affinity and complicity, that keeps us stuck here. Perhaps leaving Hell isn’t about going anywhere different, but about becoming rooted where one is? Maybe it’s not up and out, like Superman, but down, in, and through.    

Probably the only real rough draft of an exit I can offer, at this stage of the journey, beyond what I already have, is to be found in the circumstances of my life and the ways they have changed, to whatever degree, via the writing and now publication of this present work. Of this, fortunately, there is some evidence, now rushed in at the last moment, like a good courtroom drama. Some of it’s very small, perhaps vanishingly so; some of it’s quite striking, not least because it directly involves you the reader, potentially at least.

To start with the small and possibly trivial: during the period in which the 16 Maps of Hell fundraiser achieved its primary goals and made it possible for me to publish this book, I quite unexpectedly changed my nightly viewing habits. Currently, and for the past several weeks, my wife and I only watch period dramas set (generally) in England during the mid- to late 19th century. Is this a nod towards my ancestry, or is it an instinctive movement away from overtly toxic modern Hollywood propaganda, most of which centers around drugs and guns? I don’t know, but it began with the BBC version of Howard’s End, which I chose because of the actor Matthew MacFadyen, who stars (in my current favorite TV show) the very-modern Succession. Howard’s End led me to an as-yet unexhausted list of British movies and TV shows based on classics: The Way We Live Now, North and South, Our Mutual Friend, Pride and Prejudice , Little Dorritt, Parade’s End, and so on.

The author of The Blood Poets believed that all art pretty much had to be violent, and so I had mostly avoided this sort of product until now. My wife, a self-described Anglophile, had watched this stuff for years without me, and it would be hard to say what sparked this unexpected new interest in me. It’s also hard to see it as entirely unrelated to my attempt, with this present work, to take steps away from Hollywood violence in its many forms, and give my poor, beleaguered nervous system a break. Whatever the case, we are now spending most of our leisure time watching “chick flicks” like Pride and Prejudice, and BBC masterpiece series about impossibly fraught love affairs within the British class system.

The other, more striking development is the one that concerns you, the reader: the fundraiser that midwifed this book into existence. As many who will read this already know, this project came about by apparent chance. I had completed the book early in 2020, and submitted a proposal to a longish list of publishers, hoping to get a response. I sent (what I thought was) the completed MS to a handful of interested parties, including the agent who gave the surprising response which I ended up reproducing in the fundraiser.

As the agent predicted (and helped ensure), the book got no takers at all, and finally I gave up seeking a mainstream publisher, or even a marginal one, and submitted it to Aeon, who had published Prisoner of Infinity and Vice of Kings. After they rejected it too, I shelved the project until further notice. Then, on March 20, 2020, I received an email from a reader. He had passed through my hometown of Hope, BC, a few months earlier, and wandered into our little thrift store to kill some time. He’d seen my books behind the counter and apparently interacted with me, without connecting the two. Curious about the books, he had done an online search and found out that I was also Aeolus Kephas, the author of a book he had read some years before, The Lucid View. He had read my last three books since then, and in the email he mentioned he would be coming through Hope in early April, in case I wanted to meet. “Please, please,” he wrote, “make efforts to ensure that should you get sick [a reference presumably to the corona virus], that Maps of Hell will nevertheless come out.”

Long story short, we met up and he volunteered to build an index for the book and suggested a fundraiser to publish it. The fundraiser was launched on May 1st and fully completed by May 23 (live, via a YouTube event). The second goal (for the audio book) was achieved a couple of days later; at the time of writing I am almost £1000 over the final goal, to cover the costs of small (50) hardback run.

*

Last up, kind of related to my attempt to forge a rough draft of an exit in 16 Maps by pointing out how the soul’s transmission can be carried through cultural products (using Talking Heads as example): my wife recently binged on “reaction videos” to a song that has always had a special place in my own heart (due to the Elvis version on Moody Blue), “Unchained Melody.” Specifically, as evidence of a form of empathetic magic occurring between black younger generations and old white folk, with an artifact of soul-imbued culture acting as a kind of crystal matrix that sparks those mirror neurons into a shared sense of soul-longing that potentially transcends race and all other barriers.

The medium is (in) the massage? Watch and see if you see what I see:

 

11 thoughts on “Raskolnikov’s Dream/Last Exit to Hell”

  1. Ya…Unchained Melody brought tears to my eyes, recalling a friend and entertainer I met way back in the 70’s. We’ve been friends since then until this C…………garbage reared its ugly head. Some people, most people, nearly all people don’t necessarily grow with age. They have stagnated so I grieve the loss of a warm knowing we once had. This realization has been somewhat heart breaking and has left me feeling so disappointed with life, in general. There still remains little nuggets of goodness here and there but they tend to be illusive.
    You mentioned some of the movies you have been drawn to lately. I know them all quite well as my husband and I use to binge on them for weeks at a time.
    Lately my life has moved from Great Expectations to Bleak House. The pull to want to relive the pleasures of the past is somewhat irresistible, especially in the early mornings when we woke still holding hands.
    All tears aside, the sun still rises and the rains still fall. The moon waxes and wanes and the roosters in the farm behind me still crows, and I crow back, every morning “shut the crap up.” I’m praying for bird flue.

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  2. That C&P quote is uncanny! What a find! It’s “prophetic” in the sense that JF Martel proposes art is “prophetic”, not as a forte king of the future, but in the sundering of a rift in the fabric of reality so as to shine forth something transcendent and evermore true.

    “Unchained Melody” is a longtime favorite that my ears have neglected for too long. Thanks for resurrecting it’s “ghost”. Hilarious to see these brothers’ spirits bubbling up through their nigh incomprehensible brogue and shine forth in wonder from their newborn eyes.
    It also touches into a few personal, self-referential points (like the gentle violence inflicted by the five-point exploding heart technique from Kill Bill). Firstly that the brothers (not the Righteous ones, but the reactionaries) are, presumably, scotchmen casts me back to the beginnings of Void Denizen, when it was primarily a matter of a “Netherlander posing as a Highlander”. In our tweetfest yesterday you brought up the “wilt” part mentioned in the song “Carry My Casket (like a boombox in your shoulder)”. This is timely and fitting in the context of this blog post. The song Casket is preceded by Necromancy 101, which sets the scene by introducing EVP as a means to transmit the voices of the dead/soul/unconscious through the radio. The premise of Casket itself, as the full title implies, commemorates the notion you put forth at the blog’s conclusion—that media can be encoded with soul, so as to transmit across time and space, from beyond the grave, transcending race, etc. The song, one day, will be an example of this—the voices of the dead serenading the living. In fact this is the “spirit machine” proposed at the finale of Séance Fiction’s exploration, the philosopher’s stone whirled into a soulful skullpture—the ability to embed ourselves into creation (or excavate ourselves from creation) with the soul perceived as a collective asset. I also put this notion forth in the short essay “Becoming an Entheogen”, which I assume you shied away from because of adverse reactions to the central “druggy” metaphor it employs. But all it implies is what you implied here—that we can leave behind not just tombs, but tomes that birth worlds like wombs, revived in the minds of readers, viewers and listeners alike. The soul is a cosmic coDe-pendant in that sense, pendulously swinging between the poles of receiver and transmitter, hypnotizing us into The Deep State between self and other, “the deep state between”, where we may mirror our inner worth like lonely rivers flowing to the open arms of sea, and “unfold the divine within”.

    Merrily, merrily, merrily, of course.
    And verily, verily, verily, perhaps.

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  3. Probably a decade or more ago, I had a dream that everyone in the world had gone crazy. As I walked around in sweltering heat in an unknown land, people were walking, crawling, running with clothes torn, besides themselves. I walked passed a military field hospital where the nurses who were trying to help were also out of their minds wildly injecting patients and feeding medicine to anyone who would take them. As terrifying as it was, I had a feeling that all was well if one just adjusted one’s perspective and saw things for what they are. People were driving each other crazy. Nothing new was actually happening. I walked on unscathed as madmen tried to convince me of a great danger from which none would survive.

    And you, our dear author, certainly possess a style which closely corresponds to the best of Russian classics.

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    • the more things change, the more insane, the more we stay the same (and vice a versa, the more we stay the same, the more insane we became)

      the last comment caused slight chills… I once dreamt I located a past life soul-resonance in Dos – something keeps drawing me back to that well… that book in particular still makes me weep

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      • I wasn’t a keen reader as a kid even though I could read the Serbian Cyrillic and Latin alphabets before starting primary school. I couldn’t even be bothered to read the speech bubbles in comic books. And then I read The Idiot at the age of 14/15. It opened up a whole world that I had no clue literature offered. My previous relationship with books was mandatory reading in school which never awoke any desire to read in my spare time. Retrospectively, it was down to me not the actual material. After reading the Idiot everything changed but the bar was set extremely high. I recall reading the following opening paragraph from the “Notes from the underground” for the first time. It still gives me chills.

        “I am a sick man…. I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased. However, I know nothing at all about my disease, and do not know for certain what ails me. I don’t consult a doctor for it, and never have, though I have a respect for medicine and doctors. Besides, I am extremely superstitious, sufficiently so to respect medicine, anyway (I am well-educated enough not to be superstitious, but I am superstitious). No, I refuse to consult a doctor from spite. That you probably will not understand. Well, I understand it, though. Of course, I can’t explain who it is precisely that I am mortifying in this case by my spite: I am perfectly well aware that I cannot “pay out” the doctors by not consulting them; I know better than anyone that by all this I am only injuring myself and no one else. But still, if I don’t consult a doctor it is from spite. My liver is bad, well–let it get worse!”

        If anyone ever presented the struggle between the life energy and the inadequate self in its minutiae it was old Fyodor.

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        • I should add that Prince Myshkin probably fucked me up quite a bit. The protagonist seemed like an example worth emulating. I was already caught up in the idea of being good and committed to self-sacrifice as a general rule and practice to uphold. So, read the Russian classics at your potential peril!

          Also, might be worth adding, after I read Master and Margarita, I dreamt that the Devil introduced himself to me. In the dream, I was chatting with a friend. A man in his late fifties or early sixties, dressed immaculately in a three-piece suit, walked up to me. I knew who it was but decided to ignore him. After a while, he politely interrupted the conversation and shook my hand. He just smiled and said I believe you know who I am. It chilled me to the bone and woke me up immediately. In a sense, I still feel like I met the Devil.

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    • Your dream sounds like something from the Twilight Zone, scary because it seems more real than what we perceive reality to be. A change in perspective sounds simple enough but me thinks it’s impossible for most. Thanks for sharing your dream.

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  4. “Enlargement of the heart” :a great book concerning the teachings of St silouan Is all about inverting the pyramid of power and going down rather than up. “Keep thy mind in hell and despair not” being the message directly from God on how to escape. You’d like it.

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