The murder I committed—it wasn’t simply the strike of a dagger, at night, on the fifth of October, in a brightly lit living room. The murder I committed is a phenomenon of duration, akin more to slow poisoning than a flashing blade. I dare to hope that the vast, gloomy remorse into which my life has since vanished will in no way sway the decision of the court.
I assume that you’re sufficiently familiar with the superficial details of my past. Birth year, school, university, career—none of this is very important.
It would be much wiser, I think, to ask a person not merely the commonplace question, When were you born? but the question, When and how did you first fall into sin? And to this question, I, Vasilii Pozdnyshev, would respond in the following way: I was just shy of sixteen. I still had not known any woman but was already debauched by the nasty whispered jokes and boasts of my peers. Then a student I knew, my brother’s friend, took me to that place—the place that’s so splendidly called the “house of tolerance.” I recall neither the name nor the face of the woman who taught me to make love. But I recall that in this fall there was something special and touching—I felt sad, so sad—and this sense of something irreparable, irreversible, is one I have experienced only twice in my life: when I looked upon that prostitute getting dressed, and many years later, when I looked upon my wife’s lifeless face. After this first fall I lived a bachelor’s life, enlivened by that lawful, healthy depravity recommended to us by doctors. I became a lecher. In my pursuit of women I always avoided the possibility of serious feelings, on both their part and mine, and I was most satisfied with purchased love. I was extremely proud and secretive. Sentimental entanglements terrified me. Over the course of these years I became callous; I felt a mild contempt toward women.
At the same time it happened that I would ponder, not without pleasure, acquiring a wife, a family, and little by little I actually began to look more carefully, to search for a bride. I, a smug rake, demanded from her perfect purity. Back then I did not regard this sexual egoism as a crime. On the contrary, I imagined that everyone behaved as I did. And soon I found a bride. I remember the night when she and I rode out in a boat and I feasted my eyes on her shapely figure in a tight-fitting dress. On that night it seemed to me that I experienced the loftiest feelings, when really it was just that the dress fit her so well—it was just that her curls swayed so beautifully.