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I am alone, I thought, and they are everybody. And I worried about it. That goes to show how young I was.”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky is a Russian novelist who is largely considered to have brought the Western novel to the very pinnacle of its possibilities. Freud actually considered the treatment of patricide in The Brothers Karamazov equal to that of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and SophoclesOedipus Rex. Dostoyevsky has had a sincere effect not only on Western novels but on Western consciousness, and it is often tricky to think of a 20th-century American novelist whose work does not show remnants of his influence. This is most clearly seen in the motif of the "underground hero", namely, the hero who is isolated from technology and the professed ‘advances of civilization’.

Although Dostoevsky's characters were often existentialists, Dostoevsky himself was not. Many of Dostoevsky's personal beliefs conflicted with the beliefs of his characters. In fact, Dostoevsky was Christian with strong religious beliefs that go against existentialism. Walter Kaufman once said, "I can see no reason for calling Dostoevsky an existentialist, but I do think Part One of Notes from Underground is the best overture for existentialism ever written."

My favouriteavourite Dostoevsky opus is The Dream of a Ridiculous Man which is for all intents and purposes, his final analysis of the human condition. It states, through a screamingly awe stirring, charming dream sequence (the dreams of a man on the proverbial precipice, between life and death) that man is essentially good but can be corrupted by reason and science.

Some indiscriminate extracts:

  • ”When the Inquisitor stops speaking, he waits a little while for the prisoner to answer him. He finds His silence disconcerting. He has seen the captive listening all the while quietly and attentively looking him straight in the eye, and apparently not wishing to respond. The old man wants Him to say something, no matter how unpleasant and terrible. But He suddenly approaches the old man in silence and calmly kisses him on his bloodless ninety-year old lips. That is his only response.” (The Grand Inquisitor, The Brothers Karamazov)

  • ”It is not the brains that matter most, but that which guides them---the character, the heart, generous qualities, progressive ideas.”

  • ”Nothing is more seductive for man than his freedom of conscience. But nothing is a greater cause of suffering.”

  • ”Until you have become really, in actual fact, as brother of everyone, brotherhood will not come to pass.

  • ”All the Utopias will come to pass only when we grow wings and all people are converted into angels.”

  • ”Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.”

  • ”Neither man or nation can exist without a sublime idea.”

  • ”It seems, in fact, as though the second half of a man's life is made up of nothing but the habits he has accumulated during the first half.

  • Sarcasm: the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.

Dostoyevsky’s Timeline:
1821 October 18, born in Moscow
1831-37 Goes to school in Moscow
1837 His Mother dies. He is sent to St. Petersburg.
1838 Goes to St. Petersburg's Academy of Military Engineers.
1839 His father is killed
1843 Graduates
1846 Anna Grigorievna Snitkina, his future wife, is born in Petersburg on October 18.
Publishes the Poor Folk
1846-47 Nervous Problems
1848 Publishes A Jealous Husband.
1849 Sentenced to death, but then sentenced to prison in Siberia
1853 Epileptic crises
1857 Marries Marya Dmitrievna Isaeva
1860 Publishes first part of House of the Dead.
1862 Second part of House of the Dead, and A Nasty Tale Travels. Begins relationship with Apollinaria Suslova.
1864 Publishes Notes from Underground. Marya Dmitrievna and his brother die
1866 Publishes Crime and Punishment and The Gambler
1867 Marries Anna Grigorievna Snitkina. They live in Italy and Austria
1868 Publishes The Idiot.
1870 The Eternal Husband.
1871-72 Goes back to Russia. Publishes The Devils
1874 Arrested and imprisoned
1877 Publishes The Dream of a Ridiculous Man
1879-80 Publishes The Brothers Karamazov
1881 Dostoevsky dies from a lung hemorrhage on January 15. Buried at Alexander Nevsky Monastery.

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