Lately I’ve become fascinated with Fyodor Dostoyevski’s name. I don’t know much about him as an individual, aside from the fact that he was descended from Lithuanian nobility, ran away from home (permanently) at 15yrs old, hated his studies but nevertheless became an engineer cadet, wrote Russia’s first social novel (Poor Folk), was exiled to Siberia, and after being released from a prison of sorts he went on to write more intellectual novels.
The first time I’d actually heard of Dostoyevski was from the movie Tron. I loved how his name rolled off the actor’s tongue, so I decided to research him a bit. Upon skimming through a somewhat lengthy summary of who Fyodor was, my mind turned to my social studies courses from high school. In fact, I should be referring to my Christian studies course, in which we discussed a great deal of Russian thought and philosophy as well as social structure.
I noted, through my skimming of Fyodor’s history, that he seemed particularly fascinated (although I do think “fascinated” is too strong a term in this case) by the grotesque suicides performed in Russia. This brought to mind the writing of Franz Kafka, particularly The Trial. I am also reminded of The Lottery, although it is an American story (by Shirley Jackson)…nevertheless it came to mind.
Pardon my detour from the topic, but I would like to take a moment to reminisce on The Lottery. Several Christmases ago, I was sitting downstairs in my Uncle F.’s house in Eastern Canada. We had been merrily discussing literature and intellectual individuals as well as our own personal thoughts on theology and philosophy. It was a very refreshing conversation, seeing as there are few people who challenge me on that level (no offense to those I know…I suppose everyone is challenged in different ways). Anyhow, he brought up the topic of strange novels and novellas and asked me if I had ever read The Lottery by so-and-so. I told him I hadn’t and he strongly suggested that I read it, claiming my interest in dystopia and such would be pacified to a degree.
As soon as I returned home, I searched up this short story online and read it through, utterly fascinated and slightly perturbed by the dire situation of the text (which I shall leave the reader to determine by taking up the tale, if they so choose).
That aside, I have drifted off topic terribly. I now return to my musings of Fyodor Dostoyevski.
I searched up several quotes by him and find myself rather fascinated by his statements. Let me state a few:
“It is not the brains that matter most, but that which guides them – the character, the heart, generous qualities, progressive ideas.”
“What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.”
“Sarcasm: the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.”
“We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.”
“Man has such a predilection for systems and abstract deductions that he is ready to distort the truth intentionally, he is ready to deny the evidence of his senses only to justify his logic.”
“There is silent and long-suffering sorrow to be met with among the peasantry. It withdraws into itself and is still. But there is a grief that breaks out, and from that minute it bursts into tears and finds vent in wailing. This is particularly common with women. But it is no lighter a grief than the silent. Lamentations comfort only by lacerating the heart still more. Such grief does not desire consolation. It feeds on the sense of its hopelessness. Lamentations spring only from the constant craving to reopen the wound.”
Virginia Woolf stated, of Fyodor, in her essay The Russian Point of View, “…the novels of Dostoevsky are seething whirlpools, gyrating sandstorms, waterspouts which hiss and boil and suck us in. They are composed purely and wholly of the stuff of the soul. Against our wills we are drawn in, whirled round, blinded, suffocated, and at the same time filled with a giddy rapture. Out of Shakespeare there is no more exciting reading.”
While I cannot agree that Shakespeare is terribly exciting (I’ve read a large portion of his works so I think I have right to state that), I must admit that what I have seen so far of Dostoyevski is fascinating and very quotable. Perhaps I should acquire one of his novels…although, social literature never really intrigued me. I’d probably find it boring in the end, unless he proves himself rather exceptional.
Indeed! I’ve had the strangest thought. Perhaps reading such authors like Dostoyevski pushed Woolf’s mind over the edge, thus resulting in that dastardly decision :/ ah well, as I always say, salt your reading with more joyful, pleasant things than difficult, dystopic items. That way it at least feels like they balance out evenly.