Feodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky is my favorite author. I like it because, to my mind, no 19th-century author had greater psychological insight or philosophical depth or so systematically probed the mysteries of the human soul in the realm of human psychic and spiritualist ideology than real-life phenomena.
Brief account of the author
Russian novelist Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky, b. November 11 (NS), 1821, f. Feb. 9 (NS), 1881, he stands at the pinnacle of Russian literature and is considered by many to have brought the Western novel to the pinnacle of its potential. Sigmund Freud, for his part, considered that the treatment of parricide in The Brothers Karamazov was the same as that of Shakespeare in Hamlet. The son of a Moscow military doctor who was assassinated by his servants, Dostoyevsky grew up in materially comfortable but psychologically damaging circumstances. After completing a military engineering education in 1843, he soon turned to literature.
The Brothers Karamazov (1879-80; English translation, 1927) is DOSTOYEVSKY’s last work and most important novel. In it, Dostoevsky introduces four Karamazov brothers: the passionate Dimitri, the intellectual Ivan, the mystic Alyson, and the misanthropic Smerdayakov. E dramatizes their fate, their relationship with his father, and their guilt over his murder. The novel is about everything that Dostoevsky fought for during his lifetime: faith and doubt, love of authority and hatred of it, abstinence from sensuality, hatred of the human race and love of it.
Crime and Punishment
Crime and Punishment (1866), a psychological masterpiece by the Russian novelist Fyodor DOSTOYEVSKY, mixes contemporary 19th-century themes such as the anonymous and alienating power of society with the universal problems of crime, guilt, and redemption. Raskolnikov, an impoverished student from St. Petersburg, kills and robs a greedy old moneylender, but his apparent motives serve merely to introduce the author’s exploration of the nature of justice and truth. Raskolnikov finally decides to accept the punishment through his love for the young prostitute Sonya, whose life is one of suffering and remorse.
The Underground (1864), a powerful work that is considered the philosophical testament of existentialism as well as the prologue to DOSTOYEVSKY’s great tragic novels. The Underground Man is a cynical citizen of St. Petersburg, alienated from his and his fellow man’s entourage, yet posing a powerful challenge to the impersonal forces of rationalism, progress and social engineering. He is an uncompromising champion of free will.
The Idiot (1869; English translation, 1913) portrays a morally blameless man, Prince, whose Mishkin, whose innocent and simple nature and epileptic seizures cause him to be led astray. His Christ-like qualities, far from influencing those around him, is to be completely incongruous in a sinful world. Nastasya Filipovna, who has been cruelly treated by a former lover, is attracted to both Mishkin and the evil Rogozin, and she cannot commit to either of them. When Rogozhjn kills her, Miskin allows him to be an unwitting achievement in her murder.
DOSTOEVSKY’s next novel, Bessy (1872; The Possessed), earned him the permanent hatred of radicals. Often considered the most brilliant political novel ever written, it intertwines two plots. One refers to Nikolay Stavrogin, a man with a void at the center of his being. In his youth, Stavrogin, in a futile search for meaning, had embraced and discarded a series of ideologies, each of which has been adopted by different intellectuals mesmerized by Stavrogin’s personality. Shatov has become a Slavophile who, like Dostoevsky himself, believes in the “God-bearing” Russian people. Existentialist critics (especially Albert Camus) were fascinated by Kirillov, who espouses a number of contradictory philosophical justifications for suicide. Most famously, Kirillov argues that only a completely gratuitous act of self-destruction can prove that a person is free because such an act cannot be explained by any kind of self-interest and therefore violates all psychological laws. By committing suicide for no reason, Kirillov hopes to become the “god-man” and thus set an example of human freedom in a world that has denied Christ (the God-man).
I like your books
Since his death, Dostoevsky’s fame has continued to grow. Neither speaks more immediately to the mood and tone of the present century. In fact, it could be said that Western civilization in the second half of the 20th century has become “Dostoevskian”.