Fyodor Dostoevsky

Ah, my friend! I have a completely different notion of actuality and realism than our realist critics. My idealism is more real than theirs. --A letter

Notes from Underground

You see: reason, gentlemen, is a fine thing, that is unquestionable, but reason is only reason and satisfies man's reasoning capacity, while wanting is a manifestation of the whole of life--that is, the whole of human life, including reason and various little itches.

And who knows (one cannot vouch for it), perhaps the whole goal mankind strives for on earth consists just in this ceaselessness of the process of achievement alone, that is to say, in life itself, and not essentially in the goal, which, of course, is bound to be nothing other than two times two is four--that is, a formula; and two times two is four is no longer life, gentlemen, but the beginning of death. At least man has always somehow feared this two times two is four, and I fear it even now. Suppose all man ever does is search for this two times two is four; he crosses oceans, he sacrifices his life in the search; but to search it out, too actually find it--by God, he's somehow afraid. For he senses that once he finds it, there will be nothing to search for.

For man sometimes loves suffering terribly much, to the point of passion, and that is a fact.

This is my wanting, my desire. You will scrape it out of me only when you change my desires. So, change them, seduce me with something else, give me a different ideal. But meanwhile I will not take a chickencoop for a palace.

Destroy my desires, wipe out my ideals, show me something better, and I will follow you.

I wished to stifle with external sensations all that was ceaselessly boiling up inside me.

The Brothers Karamazov

As a general rule, people, even the wicked, are much more naive and simple-hearted than we suppose. 4

Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love, and in order to occupy and distract himself without love he gives way to passions and coarse pleasures, and sinks to bestiality in his vices, all from continual lying to other men and to himself. 36

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. 40

You will see great sorrow, and in that sorrow you will be happy. This is my last message to you: in sorrow seek happiness. Work, work unceasingly. 67

But being in love doesn't mean loving. You may be in love with a woman and yet hate her. 93

For I'm a Karamazov. For when I do leap into the abyss, I go headlong with my heels up, and am pleased to be falling in that degrading attitude, and consider it something beautiful. And in the very depths of that degradation I begin a hymn of praise. Let me be accused. Let me be vile and base, only let me kiss the hem of the veil in which my God is shrouded. Though I may be following the devil, I am Thy son, O Lord, and I love Thee, and I feel the joy without which the world cannot stand. 96

The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man. 97

But I always liked side paths, little dark back alleys behind the main road--there one finds adventures and surprises, and previous metal in the dirt. 97

But, on my oath, I looked at that one for three seconds, or five perhaps, with fearful hatred--that hate which is only a hairsbreadth from love, from the maddest love. 103

It's always best to get to know people just before leaving them. 210

There is a strength to endure everything. 243

Do you know I've been sitting here thinking to myself: that if I didn't believe in life, if I lost faith in the woman I love, lost faith in the order of things, were convinced in fact that everything is disorderly, damnable, and perhaps devil-ridden chaos, if I were struck by every horror of man's disillusionment--still I should want to live and, having once tasted the cup, I would not turn away from it till I had drained it! 211

People talk sometimes of bestial cruelty, but that's a great injustice and insult to a beast; a beast could never be so cruel as a man, so artistically, artfully cruel. 219

Fathers and teachers, I ponder "What is hell?" I maintain that it is the suffering of no longer being able to love. 301

But in some cases it is really more creditable to be carried away by an emotion, however unreasonable, which springs from a great love, than to be unmoved. 317

Tragic phrases comfort the heart...Without them, sorrow would be too heavy for men to bear. 338

There's no living without joy. 338

In every man, of course, a beast lies hidden--the beast of rage, the beast of lustful heat at the screams of the tortured victim, the beast of lawlessness let off the chain, the beast of diseases that follow on vice, gout, kidney disease, and so on. 222

Didst Thou forget that man prefers peace, and even death, to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil? Nothing is more seductive for a man than his freedom of conscience, but nothing is a greater cause of suffering. And behold, instead of giving a firm foundation for setting the conscience of a man at rest forever, Thou didst choose all that is exceptional, vague, and enigmatic; Thou didst choose what was utterly beyond the strength of men...235

And how are the weak ones to blame, because they could not endure what the strong have endured? How is the weak soul to blame that it is unable to receive such terrible gifts? 237

Othello was incapable of reconciling himself to faithlessness--not incapable of forgiving it, but of reconciling himself to it--though his soul was as innocent and free from malice as a babe's. It is not so with the really jealous man. It is hard to imagine what a jealous man can reconcile himself to and overlook, and what he can forgive! The jealous are the readiest of all to forgive...358

Oh, we are spontaneous, we are a marvelous mingling of good and evil, we are lovers of culture and Schiller, yet we brawl in taverns and pluck out the beard of our boon companions 663

Because he was of the broad Karamazov character--that's just what I am leading up to--capable of combining the most incongruous contradictions, and simultaneously contemplating both abysses, the abyss above us, the abyss of the highest ideals, and the abyss below us, the abyss of the lowest and foulest degradation. 664

My forgiveness is no good to you, nor yours to me; whether you forgive me or not, you will always be a sore place in my heart, and I in yours--so it must be. 726

Crime and Punishment

I seemed to love them so much when they weren't here. 278

Pain and suffering are inevitable for persons of broad awareness and depth of heart. The truly great are, in my view, always bound to feel a great sense of sadness during their time upon earth. 317

Why? Because you can't go on like this--that's why! You must finally confront things seriously and directly, and not weep and wail like a child about God not letting it happen. 389

What's to be done? To break what has to be broken, once and for always, that's all: and to take suffering upon oneself! What? You don't understand? You will, later on...Liberty and power, but above all power! Over all trembling mortals and over the whole ant heap! 389

'And then it was, Sonya, that I understood,' he went on ecstatically, 'that power is given only to those who dare lower themselves and pick it up. Only one thing matters, one thing: to be able to dare!' 486

The Idiot

The law of self-destruction and self-preservation are equally powerful in humankind! The devil rules over mankind until a time that is not revealed to us. 394

"Anyone who slights an individual act of charity," I began, "is attacking the nature of man and despises his personal dignity. The organization of public charity, however, and the question of personal freedom, are two different questions and are not mutually exclusive. Individual good deed will always exist because the personality needs it to be so, the vital need of one personality to act upon another. 425

"Religion! I admit the existence of eternal life, perhaps I always have. Suppose that consciousness, kindled by the will of a higher power, supposed it looked round the world and said: "I am!"--and suppose that it has been commanded by that higher force to annihilate itself, for some sufficient reason, even without any explanation--it had to be; all that granted, I admit all that, but again comes the eternal question: what point is there in my humility in all this? Why couldn't I just be devoured without demanding that I praise what is devouring me? 436

If I had had the power not to be born, I would certainly not have accepted existence on these absurd terms! 437

You have no tenderness in you; only truth--and that's not justice. 450

What do I want with your nature, your Pavlovsk park, your dawns and sunsets, your blue skies and your smug faces, when all this feast that has no end has begun by excluding me alone? What is there for me in all this beauty, when I am forced to be aware every minute, every second, even this tiny fly buzzing in the sunbeam near me, even that it is a participant in all this festival and chorus, knows its place, loves it, and is happy, when I am the sole outcast, and only my cowardice has prevented me from wanting to face it before now! 435

"First of all, it is an unchristian religion!" the prince began again, very much agitated and speaking with undue harshness. "That's the first thing, and the second thing is that Roman Catholicism is even worse than out-and-out atheism, that's how I see it! Yes, that's how I see it! Atheism just preaches negation, but Catholicism goes further than that: it preaches a distorted Christ, traduced and abused by itself, the opposite of Christ! It preaches the Antichrist, I swear it, I can assure you of that. It is my own long-held conviction and it has indeed tormented me...Roman Catholicism believes that without universal temporal dominion, the Church Cannot survive on earth: 'Non possumus,' they cry. In my opinion, Roman Catholicism is not even a faith, it's a continuation of the Western Roman Empire, and everything in it is subordinate to that idea, beginning with their faith. The pope seized the earth, an earthly throne, and took up the sword; since that time everything has gone the same way, except that to the sword they've added lies, intrigue, deceit, fanaticism, superstition, and evil-doing. They have trifled with the most sacred, truthful, innocent, and ardent emotions of the people and bartered them all, all of them, for money and paltry temporal power. Is this not the teaching of Antichrist? Atheism was bound to come from them! Atheism did come from them, fro0m Roman Catholicism itself. Atheism first came into being through them: could they believe in themselves? It gained the strength from the abhorrence in which they were held; it is the spawn of their lies and spiritual impotence! 574

After all, socialism too is the spawn of Catholicism and its essence! Like its brother, atheism, it too was born out of despair, in moral opposition to Catholicism, to try to replace the lost moral power of religion, to assuage the spiritual thirst of parched humanity and save it, not through Christ, but again through violence! 575

And this passionate Russian intensity astonishes all Europe, not us alone! If a Russian goes over to Catholicism, he's sure to become a Jesuit, and a most assiduous one at that; if he becomes an atheist, he's bound to start demanding the violent extirpation of religious belief, meaning, of course, by the sword! Why is this, why such fury all of a sudden? Don't you know? It's because he has found the motherland he missed here, and he is overjoyed; he has found the shore, dry land, and flings himself down to kiss it! It is not just out of exhibitionism; Russian atheists and Jesuits are not merely born out of sordid feelings of vanity, they sprang from spiritual anguish, spiritual thirst, a yearning for higher things, a firm shore underfoot, a homeland they had ceased to believe in, because they had never known it! It's so easy for a Russian to become an atheist, easier than for anyone else in the world! And Russians don't just become atheists, they positively believe in it. As if it were some new faith, oblivious of the fact that they are believing in a negation. Such is the thirst we have! 577

White Nights

"Look here, do you want to know who I am?"

"Yes, of course!"

"In the strict meaning of the word?"

"Yes, in the strictest meaning of the word!"

"Very well, I'm a character."

p. 17 And I can't help remembering that at the time, too, my dreams were sad and dreary, and though I did not feel better then I somehow can't help feeling that it was better, that life was more peaceful, that at least I was not then obsessed by the black thoughts that haunt me now. p. 32

But how beautiful people are when they are gay and happy! How brimful of love their hearts are! It is as though they wanted to pour their hearts into the heart of another human being, as though they wanted the whole world to be gay and laugh with them. And how infectious that gaiety is! p. 47

Such love, Nastenka, at certain moments makes one's heart ache and plunges one's spirit into gloom. p. 49

How unbearable a happy person sometimes is! p. 49

Do you know what has just occurred to me? I was comparing the two of you in my mind. Why isn't he you? Why isn't he like you? He's not as good as you, though I love him more than you. p. 52

Why does even the best of us seem to hide something from other people and keep something back from them? Why don't we say straight out what's in our hearts, if we know that our words will not be spoken in vain? p. 53 ibid

May your sky be always clear, may your dear smile be always bright and happy, and may you be for ever blessed for that moment of bliss and happiness which you gave to another lonely and grateful heart! p. 69

Good lord, only a moment of bliss? Isn't such a moment sufficient for the whole of a man's life? p. 69

The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

On our earth we can truly love only with suffering and through suffering. We know not how to love otherwise. We know no other love. I want suffering in order to love. I want and thirst this very minute to kiss, with tears streaming down my cheeks, the one and only earth I have left behind. I don't want, I won't accept life on any other! p.335