„Impure spirits undoubtedly exist, but their apprehension can be very different.“
Igor M. Djuric
DOSTOEVSKY: the impure force (Demon) IN ME!
Translated into English by Djuradj I. Djuric.
Forty years ago, right about the time of my transition from primary to secondary school, I have read my first Dostoevsky: one of his books. The book was called The Karamazov Brothers and after reading it, I did not know where there was more confusion: in the book or in my head. Out of the whole book, one character was particularly impressionable to me, Ivan Karamazov, and he left a deep trace in me at that time. Besides the devil which tortured him and frightened me, the stories about The Grand Inquisitor, which I did not understand at that time, the innocent child tears to which I did not pay any attention since I was a child myself, the word that remained in my memory as the keyword is: a poem. Ivan Karamazov wrote a poem.
My modest notions up until then were telling me that the poem was some sort of poetry. Something similar to Pushkin. However, Ivan was retelling his poem, there were no verses or rhymes, but there was some confusion – which was, in a way, easier and suited me. I instantly desired to have my own poem and to recite it to someone in lunacy and hallucination. I started creating it, writing some of it down in a black notebook I always carried around with me, in a leather officer’s satchel.
We were young, we amused ourselves the only ways we knew and were capable of, so we also went to dances characteristic for those times. It was an adjacent village, a great village, where us town folks used to go, and it was nearby, we could walk to it for a couple of kilometers through picturesque tree-lined alleys and tame nature. We walked in smaller groups while joking, laughing, singing, falling in love and courting. We returned to our homes in the same manner after the dance.
Right about that time, the time I have met Ivan and were creating my own poem, on a summer evening, by accident, a girl in whom everyone was in love with, including myself, and was the elusive dream of all boys and lads, came to the dance with me. How we found each other, myself and her, to go by ourselves to the dance, to this day I do not know. I only remember thinking that the fact I have read Dostoevsky and came up with my poem, would help me in winning her heart over.
I mentioned the great writer to her. She looked at me inquisitively but confused. I was also narrating her my poem while walking next to her. What I was saying: today I do not know. It was sure: I did have my own poem. It was probably about unfortunate love, the absurdity of life, world peace and the inevitable suicide. I was narrating it enthusiastically, with passion, almost like Ivan. I was speaking constantly and she kept silent. I thought that this was a good sign: she must be fascinated.
When we arrived at the hall where the dance was taking place, she looked at me pityingly, stroked my hair and said:
- You’re fine.
In our circles, when someone is considered a fool, they say that he is fine. And: vice versa!
And she walked away from me. She did not even dignify me with a glance. It appeared that she did not even consider me obnoxious, she just did not take me seriously and considered that I was a loser. I returned home alone, to be precise, with my poem. The written pieces of that illusion were burned down with my home in 1999 when the impure forces came down on my country and my home.
The moral of the story: if you want to conquer women’s hearts and be amusing in your social circle – never mention Dostoevsky. Actually, do not mention any major writers but this one by no means. If you can: do not mention him ever – if you are not mentioning him to yourself. I followed that rule later through life: and I have had women and friends. Today, therefore, by my own recommendation, I mention him to myself.
That described experience, I surely did not count as a loss in my heart. No! That, and some other thing as well, opened my eyes and relieved my soul. I comprehended that I do not have to renounce myself but instead separate some matter inside of me. While my life paths have not been going side by side at all times, they sometimes had to cross paths, which are presented by the different life choices, but those intersections were only cases which have never become rules. Admittedly, I have never separated my dreams from reality but I have never again shared my dreams with those who do not dream.
My former unfulfilled love later married some good-looking but dullish scoundrel who has never heard of Dostoevsky or read a single line of any book in his lifetime but has ruined her life and removed the smile from her lips. They say that she later remained alone and empty, with her beauty only visible in fading traces. She lived her life as many fatal women from the narratives of Fyodor Mikhailovich. I, however, did better both in love and in life, and consider that Dostoevsky (and some other) contributed to this: he ennobled me spiritually, strengthened me and beautified me on the inside, taught me that kindness is the basis of everything and that it is reflected in the forgiveness of other people’s happiness and that beauty is invincible (it will conquer the world) if it is on both sides – inside and outside, so I did not even have to mention him, it was implied that I am desirable.
Twenty years ago I wrote the next lines in my journal:
I am reading Dostoevsky’s books once again. All of them, for the third, fourth time. This reminded me of my young days and those windy and cloudy times in Istok when I was reading Dostoevsky and had no one to share what I have read and not understood.
I was walking down the streets, with long and disheveled hair, drinking in the evenings and sometimes rollicking. All of that to show the contempt to human stupidity and the incompetence to love each other unconditionally – I was thinking at the time.
I went back to read Dostoevsky a lot of times. His nihilism, the understanding of the worthless and yet opulent human soul, the dilemmas he starts – all of this is sometimes too much for a young soul but stimulative and intriguing at the same time.
In each human, there is something strange and undefined. Surely, the good and the evil as well. A human is maybe sometimes not evil just because he fears the punishment, both human or divine. Otherwise, the human is an embodiment of evil. Just witness what he turns himself into during wartime when there is a good possibility that he will not answer for his actions and misdeeds?!
Centuries-old and universal dilemmas are set and opened by F. Mikhailovich.
That is how I used to write at the age of thirty. I just got out of war and into a refuge. The war was bloody: the evil inside of humans has woken up. Peace was filthy: the human residue has come to light. I sought consolation and questions to my answers in Dostoevsky’s works. I did not know any better (and it was probably not possible) in such a grey and meaningless time.
That year, on my birthday, my father gave me a book he has kept for years: Poor Folk. On its last page it was written: Read on August 23, 1963, while resting in the woods above Istok, by Milisav Djuric.
No wonder that, a few years later, I wrote my first published novel Kolona based on the grounds and motives of the book Crime and Punishment. I was approaching my forties. In the Notes from the Underground, He wrote: forty years – that is the deepest old age, to live as long is improper, insipid and immoral... He wanted to become an insect at that age, when he realized how people can be like, and how Kafka, following his trail, was becoming a bug later.
Right now I am over fifty years old, and at that age, Dostoevsky is calling his heroes old men – without an allegory. But He is still there: inside of me. He is beating me from the inside, not to come out but to announce the existence of an impure force, the necessity of a punishment for the crime itself and the disagreement to any compromise. He is reporting to be alive – checking if the same applies to me.
Who is Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky?
He is the greatest writer in the history of world literature!
A master in front of all the great masters of Russia and the rest of the world. A genius of god’s providence. The others were maybe smarter or more educated – he did his best because he knew something that could not be learned. He gained – and then gave. He pulled out from the depths, he looked from the above. Every width is narrow to him! André Gide wrote that several of the greatest rivers sprung out of him, however, it is more accurate to say: he is the spring for all of the rivers that streamed after him. Gogol tailored his Overcoat just so Dostoevsky could come out of it.
This was a man who was possessed by the unholy one. Those demons were making him possessed. In order to survive, he had to pour it into books through his quill. Dostoevsky did not write – he fought with the demons, both inner and personal, and universal and of all Russia. In that struggle he sought the good, therefore he sought God and angels. It is up to us to determine, each for himself, whether we have found what we have been looking for! And also what we have found – from that – inside of us!
Dostoevsky devised all of his books in a few minutes, standing in front of a firing squad (and he believed in God at that moment lustfully kissing the cross), shaped them, in his epileptic agonies (and saw God at that moment) – after that the easy part remained: to write those books. His personality was shaped by gambling debts and the coldness of Siberia, his faith came from ungodliness and his soul was ground by the catharsis of the one who went from the bottom, to the incomprehensible and unattainable heights.
He is, like his mother Russia, a play of nature, and not of reason – as he states himself in The Demons. What he was given – he was given by the Creator. What he took – he returned to the people! For some a mystic, for others an apostle of Orthodoxy and the rest a heretic. Actually, he was a Russian, therefore: all of that and much more. In any case: a son of Russia which is one big misunderstanding. Tolstoy wrote, in a letter to N.N. Strakhov, that they elevated Dostoevsky into the rank of a prophet and saint exactly the man who died in the fieriest process of the inner fight of good and evil.
Dostoevsky is less of an Orthodox apostle and more a sacred warrior of Orthodoxy (it is necessary for a Russian Christ to shine as opposed to the Occident (The Idiot)). Dostoevsky is less of a Russophile and more of a Slavophil (the Slavophil ideal is a union in the spirit of true and broad love, without lies or materialism, and based on a personal generous example (Political inscriptions)). He is a Slav first and then a Russian and he is more of a pagan than a Christian (Russia will, alongside Slavdom, and while leading it, say a grand word to the entire world (Political inscriptions)). He is an Orthodox pagan and an old believer on the path of Christ. For him, Christ is the proof that God exists and Orthodoxy is proof that the Russian nation exists and that it is the nation – the one who bear God. And: vice versa!
He was not a nationalist even though they accused him of being one, and today they still sporadically blame him concerning that matter, and not because of the fact that one nationalist can hardly conquer the world without a single grain of gunpowder, therefore with his spirit, and he did just that. If he is a nationalist, then he is some sort of a universal, ecumenical nationalist. He proved that literature can change the world. It can change: not necessarily transform it. Therefore, he was not narrowly limited but unlimitedly susceptive.
He materializes idealism and idealises matter. He only peaks into the human soul, with one eye, through an ajar door, but never opens the door all the way and never opens his other eye, even when he can, even when we would like that. With him, eventually, victims become villains and tormentors become God’s angels. With him, witticism and wordplay turn to clear and mobile images where we can see how rusalkas with flower wreaths on their heads, with their dancing, warn the Russian folk about the trouble that will befall on them. With him, calmness is an enormous force, love will conquer the world and love is a pity. He is the son of nature and one of the world’s wonders.
The Prince of Darkness with Dostoevsky?
The greatest connoisseur of the human soul (although, only peaking with one eye), most of all, of the Russian soul which deserves to be described the most, the same soul that is, at the same time ready for the greatest evil and good in itself (because reason is never capable of separating good from evil), for the greatest crime and even greater sacrifice, for a total collapse and an unrivaled exploit, the soul that finds itself in its best light through catharsis, through purification in performing and regret because of the performed. Thus, he equally had to ogle with God and the devil (the two lords). Because it is unlikely to believe in the devil and not to believe in God. It is, in our century, reactionary to believe in God, and I am the devil, and because of that, I can (The Karamazov Brothers). There are laws about self-destruction and self-defence: except for God, the devil equally rules over mankind (The Idiot).
As we have stated, he sought the devil in the human by proving the existence of God. The devil appears in Dostoevsky’s works in the form of an incident, vaguely and sickly, with a question mark present at all times, whether it is reality or hallucination. Yegor Efimov’s devil has artistic aspirations: he offers superior mastery of playing music for the soul. The unholy of Nikolai Stavrogin occurs in different faces and various characters, but is one and the same, while Ivan’s devil has a human character and the look of a worn-out nobleman. Myshkin’s is an unknown: is it a demon or the pre-epileptic state?! The impure spirit is great and dreadful, and he does not have hooves or horns which you have invented for him (The Idiot). This is why it is no wonder that, in my novel Klinicki zivot, ten years ago, I have dealt with Fyodor’s devil:
THE DEVIL: … and … but I have talked with Fyodor Mikhailovich in Siberia in 1852, when from coldness, hunger and exhaustion… but that is not something to talk about… later he described me as a charming and witty worn-out nobleman, even though, to my liking, he exaggerated with my philosophizing because I talk and intellectualize only what is enough for me to achieve my goal and persuade “the party”… what… you also deem that I philosophize too much… I have no idea what has gotten into you all… you talk and philosophize about me and afterwards, I am the guilty one. Or, as in 1692, the governor of the Massachusetts state mister William Phips, when he came to calm the incident in Salem, which truth to be told got out of control, stated: “enough is said about the devil…”. With all of you who want to become writers, there is always a problem: how to be original?! In 1923, I even told Thomas Mann at the Berghof mountain resort and spa to try and be more original and does not mention me, let alone to quote me. He did not listen to me and did both tendentiously conveying my words that my popularity is essentially a German occurrence. And, truth to be told, I am not like that. I am a Russian soul. I always also did my best with the Russians. The Germans are too rigid. The English are nonimaginative. The French are uncultured. You Serbians are insidious and the Italians are frivolous. The Spaniards, on the other hand, are unreliable. But the Russians, oh, the Russians have a soul. The Russian soul is worth the struggle. And they always give it for almost nothing and for the pure desire to collapse. After all, they are all revolutionaries, they all want to tear down the old and build the new. Continuously… Well, ok, I am a man, it is true. If we are going, to be honest, a man, ohoho, I would say with certainty: a man! But this surely is not a reason for your unimaginativeness. Admittedly, it is true that I equally love to bestride both men and women, depending on how I feel at the moment. (Did you ever hear about the devil purchasing a soul from a woman?) Furthermore, I exist more as an idea and less as a creature, but for God sakes, what are we talking about, this all likes a forced drama text… I expected more from you as an intellectual since you are already indulging in various observations. Damn it, Ivan is a literary character, fiction… how could I… I am real, after all… and eventually, if we are already mentioning Dostoevsky, I prefer Nikolai Stavrogin, he is my character, my deed. The impure force!! Huh?! I would disagree but it has an artistic heaviness to it. How nicely does he say: I believe in the impure spirit, I believe in a canonical sense, I believe in the personality of the impure spirit, not the allegory, and I do not feel any needs to extort confirmations from anyone… Fascinating and enchanting, although someone can notice something pathetic in it as well. It does not matter, it is art after all and you cannot have art without the pathetic factor. No, I had not been speaking with Ivan, he is already a bit of a corny character…
God with Dostoevsky?
Fyodor’s Highest Force?!
It all exists, only we do not understand anything (The Idiot)!
I write these lines in the period of the coronavirus, in times when people start to understand that, even though they cannot see something with the naked eye, or understand with their intellect, that something can either give them life or take it away and by doing so, the purpose as well.
Therefore, we will not see God or understand Him, but His purpose we must seek by believing. There is God, even if we do not see him. God exists even though we do not comprehend the essence of the Creator or the Created. It is up to us, whether we want Him or not, what kind of God we want and what to expect from him?!
God-man – man-God – the crucified philanthropist?!
Christ or Antichrist?!
The foundations of religion and philosophy in Dostoevsky’s literature lie in the question: whether we should love Christ and believe in him as the second among Gods or as the first among humans?!
Dostoevsky questions whether God created humans or if humans created God?! And, if the latter is true (in: the answer) whether humans created God based on themselves?!
The answers to these dilemmas he sought in suspicious places: he did not seek the human in God – but the God in the human!
Also, he sought the non-existence of the existent God in the same place!
In humans and people, he sought deicide! And he found it! He sought it with them because they all sought and found God in themselves and their misdeed. With nothing but the act of murder, they ended up with Him and with the faith in Themselves.
He sought it in Karamazovness and Rogózhiness!
In the Old Believers crossing oneself with two fingers: he found it!
However you put it, God is a human and a human is God. There is God even if there isn’t one. This only speaks about the perfection and complexity of the state. Everything we do is the God's will and if there is no God, then that is also his will and at that moment we are gods ourselves because we decide: each human for himself!
Can God be believed in and the Freewill kept?
Even if Christ returned to Earth, among people, the church and the system through which oligarchy rules would not allow for the established order of things to change or be disrupted and would crucify him again or burn him as a blasphemer. This is what Dostoevsky says through the lips of Ivan Karamazov. The impure forces add: Christ without the Earthly empire cannot stay on Earth. In the text Germany and Rome he writes about the same topic and in the same way and even adds that Rome elevated its holy power above justice and God.
We are slaves of the imposed system of our "freedoms" and "rights". We cannot doubt our "freedom" and can never seek a balance between the bread, the games and freedom, because we are hungry in order to be free and fed up if we do not question our non-freedom, but instead play by the rules.
The Great Inquisitor states that there are three forces in the world that keep mankind in obedience, and they are: miracle, secret and authority. The secret lies in the fact that Rome was received by Him, the emperor's sword – authority! The authority lies in the possibility of the Church to forgive sins and crimes in the name of God! The miracle will reflect in the fact that a miracle cannot exist even if it does! We should not, however, forget the fact about which church Dostoevsky specifically talks about, when he speaks in this manner because Roman Catholicism is no longer Christianity and atheism is healthier than Roman Catholicism (Demons).
Why does Dostoevsky seek God in human evil and the filth of the human soul?
Firstly, he does not seek it in the truth or evidence because as he says: if it is true that Christ does not exist, then it is better with Christ than with the truth (Demons)! Besides that, Dostoevsky sought God because, in order to believe in God, God is necessary (Demons). However, the basis of God seeking is the knowing of your people (by doing this, also knowing the human of those people). For him: God is pain, in the fear of death. Whoever conquers pain and fear, he will become a god. (Demons). A human will be free when it is all the same to him whether he lives or not-lives, and if he is bold enough to kill himself, he will become a god but only the one who kills himself for the sake of killing fear (Demons).
If God is our father then we are children who resemble their father in everything and in the evil as well! Prince Myshkin considers that the essence of Christianity and the apprehension of God are found in the God as our born father and the Christmas joy for the sake of our children belief – for the sake of man: The essence of religious sense does not belong to any wisdom, any violation or crime, or any atheisms; there is something out of the ordinary there and will forever be out of the ordinary; but the major thing is that you will notice that, before all and in the clearest way, on the Russian heart…
Secondly, the problem is the embodiment of God – that necessity to see him in order to believe. A human is constantly trying to impose and give God a shape, to limit him with a form and by doing so is heading in the wrong direction. God is, either: everything – or: nothing! God cannot be “something”. Especially cannot be: “someone”! Therefore, the divine and non-divine cannot be separated on this world – if there is a God. Everything must be his deed or there isn’t one! Actually, he is the beginning and the end of the world but does not necessarily have to be the case of events in-between the beginning and the end. He is in the root of everything, in the foundation, but does not have to be in the final form. If there is one: his will is everything around us and inside of us. If there isn’t one (which is also his deed), then people are right for devising him. In-between the question if there is or isn’t one – it is hard to survive.
God and nature – yes – it is one and the same (isn’t this what, with a bit of missing in the head and phallic in the leg, Marya Timofeevna Lebyadkina, is saying), but, perhaps it isn’t (we state, none the less flawed). God created himself through everything that exists. A human is also nature. However, are human actions a part of nature (and: God)?! Yes! They are! If God is everything (having created everything) that he created the devil inside of a human. God speaks through a human and his actions! God speaks through the yurodivy (Holy Fool) divine man! God speaks through Dostoevsky as well!
In the search for God, no limitations (forms) can be set because if something is of shape, then it is limited, and yet again, something else exists as well at the other side of that border (form). The form is limited in space (but space is also involved in the shaping because without space a form cannot be imagined in the human imagination) and the idea of God and his work must be unlimited as nature (Universe), and God must be sought in that unlimited state (immensity and infinity are necessary to us (Demons)). Because of this Dostoevsky seeks and finds God in the stench of the old man Zosima’s body, the same amount as in the unfair and unjustified little tear of Ivan’s child, in the epileptic foam which comes out of Prince Myshkin’s mouth, in the unfortunate fate of Marya which the same Myshkin kissed, in the suffering of the little girl Matryosha who killed God, in the cut throat of Timofeevna, in the bloody eyes of Rogózhin or the shattered head of Lizaveta Ivanovna!
Dostoevsky wrote that if there isn’t a God, everything is allowed and I deem this differently (I do not claim that my notion is correct, only that it is mine): if there is a God, everything is allowed. The calculation is clear: if there is a God, then people are immortal. If there isn’t one, then everything that remains for us is an animal instinct which is susceptible to evolution and survival of the stronger and more resistant one, which is to a certain extent, fair. However, if there is a God, he created us as we are, good and evil, capable of doing evil without any restrictions and being equally good.
Only the “divine man” does evil without a visible reason, the “non-divine”, animal man, does evil for the sake of survival. With that human evil, about which Dostoevsky speaks, it is obvious (typical Russian) that people often do the greatest misdeeds to themselves and that they are their own greatest executioners. This, either, is not characteristic for an animal man who animalistically survives but is the characteristic of the servant of God who seeks a purpose of his existence. With the divine-human, everything is allowed: from me, the same as on me! We are all obliged to, in our lifetime, kill at least one grandmother-usurer, like Raskolnikov, and for the well-being of mankind and great deeds, and to carry a cross on our shoulders for that. But are, in the same manner, obliged to, as the grandmother-usurer, take a hit from an axe in the back of the head, when the time for that comes. Symbolically, of course, both! If necessary: for real as well!
The anarchistic, nihilistic and before all ungodly idea that everything is allowed, for our higher goals, Dostoevsky delivers through Ivan Karamazov, Raskolnikov and Stavrogin. This idea was, therefore, once deeply rooted in Dostoevsky himself. And, insofar as where his post-socialistic and post-revolutionary heresy, in the phase of his return to Christianity, should be sought – then it is in the foundation of the idea that there are no boundaries once everything is permitted.
If there are no people, there is no God – the impure forces speak in a humanistic manner, on the other hand. The people have endured but have not betrayed God. God was betrayed by educated people. What do we need God for if we do not have divine men who make the people that belong to God, to whom God belongs to?! As they are, as there are! What do we need God himself if there is no God?! What do we need Dostoevsky for without God! At last, as one of his heroes said: If there is no God, what kind of a captain am I? Seeking God is the aesthetic principle, the moral principle, the direction of every national movement… God is a synthetic personality of a whole nation… the sign of one nation’s downfall is when gods become common… (Demons).
Dostoevsky desires to stop time because that is the only way of reaching eternity. Every man should be happy and then he will no longer require time because time is an idea that will shut down in our mind and is not an object and whoever teaches people that everyone is good, he will bring the world to an end, and yet again, the one who taught them, He is the one they crucified (Demons). If time is stopped, then God can be found in that immobility and non-space, because without time there is no movement, without movement there is no space and without space, there is no form – which means that God's constant creation of infinity would also stop.
The magic of the literary procedure and artistic achievement of Dostoevsky?!
Realism is but a filler for pupils and students. Modernism is for postgraduates. A psychological novel is for doctoral candidates. Dostoevsky’s literature – that is a harmonized chaos! It is colors poured out and spilled all over the place which eventually merge into a most vivid rainbow! It is a nightmare after which the awakening does not bring relief! It is a murderer, a suicide man, a deicide and an angel of God in one man. It is: our God against all of us – our God in all of us – our God, the best and worst in all of us! Human faiths do not intertwine in his books – with him, worlds are colliding!
Each one of us (and by that I mean US) who has read the novel Crime and Punishment wished for Raskolnikov to get away without punishment, for the committed bloody murder. And not just that, we actually felt sorry that he did not take more money and gold, that he did not spend what he has taken and that he did not spend it exactly thе way he planned and to what purpose he meant it. We all took Raskolnikov’s side and no one mourned the grandmother (and not even the misfortunate Lizaveta). In that right there, the genius of a literate should be sought (in the fact that he forced us to love the villain and to keep his side) – that is where we find the familiarity with the human soul and character: not the description but the familiarity!
Dostoevsky achieves what does not go hand in hand for a lot of people: he places a saint’s halo on human sediments and spiritualizes them even in their greatest vulgarity and crime. He finds a human even where there isn’t one, unlike Tolstoy who seeks a human only in virtues and sinlessness or Gogol who finds him where a human actually is. Gogol discovers, Tolstoy accuses and passes judgment, Dostoevsky only seeks the good in the places where it is hardest to find: in the nineteenth-century human who is morally committed to being a mainly characterless being (Notes from the Underground), in the evil and at the bottom, for example, in the swing of the axe by Raskolnikov, the knife of Rogózhin or the strength of Smerdyakov’s hit, in the desire of the poor Netochka Nezvanova that death comes for her mother as soon as possible or in the sneakiness of Pyotr Stepanovich and Rakitin, in the humiliated, insulted or miserable people.
He, admittedly, finds the good without much seeking, in good itself – he seeks and finds the good in the angelic goodness of Alyosha, Sonya or Myshkin (because some, in them, saw a human for the first time). He, in similar places, also finds love (they do not love with love itself but with pity)! Raskolnikov and Sonya – that is the greatest and deepest written love story in world literature, it is the description of the essence of love. And it is written along the way, with just a few lines at the end of the book. Written in agony and downfall, described in mud and at the bottom, love pure as a tear because there is not a shred of interest in it, but only pain and suffering.
In his works, it cannot be separated where the love starts and where the passion ends or where the debauchery is hiding – while, it is more clear, love, and passion and debauchery, are vices, it only depends from which side we are looking at them. With Dostoevsky, there is no romantic love because he deemed that there isn't such love in real life as well. With him, love is a struggle, the tearing, suffering, masochism (rarely: sadism), and before all sacrifice and renunciation. Love is with him, even when there is one: compassion! When the romance appears occasionally, it is on the edges of illnesses and hallucinations. That is the scene when two rivals, Myshkin and Rogózhin, spend together their last night of friendship next to the body of a slaughtered woman whom they both love.
In the novels and tales of Dostoevsky, there are almost no happy women, especially a pretty and happy woman. Strong and beautiful women exist. Both of them, the misfortunate ones, and the men, in some sort of delirium, try harder to escape from happiness, to curse it, then to settle in the gentleness and harmony of love, even when they can do so. And all of this because we do not comprehend what kind of women they are, at any moment: harlots or saints?! Of course, now I know: with him, they are both, at the same time and in one!
Dostoevsky does not seek absurdity! He only goes to the limit, he only performs where no one else will, because it is impassable and dangerous! He is a sacred warrior who (voluntarily or not – is the question?) goes to the impossible and suicidal missions. He knows in advance that he has led a war he cannot win because he is leading it against himself. In such a war, you cannot win because even if you do: you have defeated yourself.
Dostoevsky does not bother, in his works, with the descriptions of nature or the exterior – the descriptor – (if we exclude the greyness of the city, the darkness that kills, the filth of the buildings in which crippled people are trying to survive, but this portrayal of his is more felt through the atmosphere then through the painting of an image), he does a bit more, therefore, when describing the interior but he is a top-notch master of describing a personality through physiognomy, atmosphere or a particular gesture, when it is necessary to create an image of a man in a certain situation or a certain condition, when an individual has to be set aside from a wider context or a company, when he has to present the psychological or physical condition of a personality (hero) about whom (who) he is speaking with only one described movement or gesture.
It was important for Dostoevsky to describe how his heroes look like but it was more important for him to clarify minutely their characters. The character of an individual is the essence of a human and not his appearance, although it is desirable that the outer appearance and character match to a certain extent, and that is what Dostoevsky aspired for.
Through describing the behavior of one of his heroes (individuals) he gives and quite easily reveals his current psychological state or hints another state which will be from essential importance for the development of the action and the book itself. By doing so, and on a sharp boundary between common sense and hallucination, he juggles in his literary process even though we expect, at any moment, that he will fall into the abyss of his own ambition to, at all costs, reveal the sick state of his soul, and this never happens even though there is no safety net under him, which would save him from the fall.
Most of his heroes do not have a sense of measure, whatever that measure is supposed to refer to. They almost always go to the very end: burning all bridges behind themselves and often getting the reader to an angry state. Just about when we think that everything can be resolved peacefully and in a good manner, those outbursts of the lack of a decent measure and the extremeness of behaving or speaking come forward, in a, at the same time, hysterical laughter and crying, and unreasonable actions. Eventually, we always forgive them everything. His characters in novels hate the ones who do them good and love their executioners and oppressors, so it is sometimes difficult to understand them even when we forgive them. They come to life and become human only when the last shred of hope dies in them (or when they kill it with their own actions).
Besides the fact that, sometimes, in a formal sense, he fails, like the sporadic compositional, clumsy introduction of characters in the story or action which narratively appear outside of the context of the same story, with Dostoevsky, it eventually turns out brilliantly even though no one can explain: why? Besides that, he presented the world literature with the most vivid side (main-side) characters (whose face typicality is in reality diluted with water) like Sonya Marmeladova, Kolya Krasotkin, Smerdyakova, general Ivolgin, Ippolit, Stepan Trofimovich, Kirillov, Lebedyev, Svidrigailov, Ferdýshchenko or Anton Lavrentievich in the form of narrators of impure temptations.
All of this proves, this unrestraint of side characters who often take over the main role, that he was indeed a yurodivy (Holy Fool) genius who wasn't aware of his genius. His side characters often bestow the reader with irony, humor and even truth. They are often the most interesting to the readers. They are in their essence, as all Dostoevsky's characters: philanthropists. Through their abasement, they become better, more dignified and more truthful. By forgiving, they love and fight against hatred.
The dialogues (or: monologues) in his storytelling are often without any sense, at first sight. They are mostly sick or meaningless rattling. We do not even know what and to what purpose his heroes are speaking. Sometimes monologues (before all) can to be prolonged, even a bit boring, but isn’t the irony of a sick man long and hard for the household?! Those monologues are, after all, pronounced by sick people so how are they expected to have measure and tact?! But, step by step, word by word, replica by replica, and in the last few sentences we reach the point, the unraveling and the goal: we understand what Dostoevsky, through thoughts, monologue, conversation or polyphony of his literary characters, wanted to tell us and what he wanted to teach us.
He is capable of fully unearthing a human’s character in three sentences of a dialogue. Besides that, he is a master who, with his literary process from a peaceful cabinet atmosphere, on a few pages, elevates the scandal to unprecedented proportions and by doing so startles his readers with twists which enrich the imagination. Dostoevsky is, finally, a far better master of dramatic unraveling then plot.
However, the most important characteristic and greatest quality of books Dostoevsky wrote lies in the fact that the literature isn’t boring to read (as great books can be). On the contrary, it is interesting, with a lot of twists, it is original, even though some motives or characteristic types of people are repeated in different books: fatalism, coaxing of children and socializing with them, children around sick people, children at a funeral, conversations with the devil, getting drunk with and squandering of entrusted and someone else’s money, mystical women and their rivals, mass drunkenness and bacchanalias with triplets which carry a fatal woman into a new life but are really leading her into a downfall, the authoritative, simple-minded and a little bit lost generals and noblewoman, the conflict between parent-offspring, wasters and criminals, monks and old people, murders for which everyone knows they will happen and they do happen, people who, with their kindness and honesty, disarm the evil of the environment which then, unconditionally opens their soul and gives them its trust.
After all and before all, he was a realist, he basically wrote crime and love books, detective – judicial plots, there are intrigues, gossips, imputations, scandals, the running away of the bride in front of an altar, here and there, there are hints of erotica and even more debauchery and perverted people, therefore those are stories about common people, fairy tales about life and about unusual (former) people, of course – and after that, psychological and philosophical themes (what you will never truly find in Dostoevsky's novels and stories, is that someone is doing something: specific!). All of this contributed that Dostoevsky can be read by a broader reading audience (admittedly: with different success and different end results for the reader, about which, there will be a few words at the end of this essay).
Dostoevsky himself, in a brief homage dedicated to Gogol, in the novel The Idiot, when he speaks about the ordinary and unusual people and about how writers mainly determine to write about the latter, even though we rarely meet them in real life, states: What should a novelist do with average people, perfectly ordinary, and in what way should he present them to the reader, for them to be interesting in any way? To completely bypass them in a story, is not an option, because ordinary people are constantly and mostly links necessary in a chain of every-day life events; to evade them, means to violate the truthfulness. To fill novels with, on the other hand, real types, or simply, for the sake of curiosity, with strange and made-up people, would be unrealistic and even uninteresting. You just need to find interesting and average people – Dostoevsky concludes.
Before writing a novel, it is important what you are going to give your attention to: the act, the characters or the atmosphere (the form). Once you pick, then you will maybe succeed in bringing one of them to the end, with the help of a second one. You can only fantasize about the third one. All three in one novel could only be performed by Dostoevsky. Most likely, unconsciously and instinctively, hence, with the help of the genius inside him.
In the shorter literary forms, he is variably good but not as good as he is in novels (however, it is far from bad or average). Here, he showed a different mastery: he was capable of directing the reader completely into the characters and the story, with only two or three sentences at the beginning of the story. He is more emotional here. And more distinct, of course. As in the unfinished novel Netochka Nezvanova (that is a “shorter form” for him even though it expands on over 200 pages). He obviously needed more space, he was seeking width to develop the story and to ornament it with finesses, and so the novel is his form (even when it is epistolary as Poor Folk). However, his short stories are not on the level of what is expected from him and maybe they are even handicapped: because how can anything be compared and valued after his great novels?!
Poetry is when the words are a form and the form is symbolism! The novel is when the words are symbolic and the form is words. Dostoevsky is when the words are psychology, symbolism is philosophy and the form are ordinary people and their every-day lives. And all of this has to be without form and symbolism with him! Only letters miraculously arranged into prosaic words!
Art does not aspire to either truth or beauty. Art seeks a spirit. And: plays. Plays spirit games. When someone says: “this is a beautiful painting” – he insults! When someone says: “you wrote the truth” – he slanders. Art does not teach, does not overshadow, does not provoke emotions. It only encourages the spirit! Sometimes an evil one – the impure! Only when someone is silent, does not say anything, in front of a painting, over a book, only when he has more questions than answers inside of him, only then can art be doubted. Only doubted!
Literature is: writing what everyone knows but most of them cannot think of. Or: what everyone knows but a few of them want to say. The literature will first and foremost be what we experience by just reading a book. Or: what we have experienced many times but were never able to find a name and purpose to it (each page I have read was almost already familiar like I have experienced it a long time ago… in unexpected forms (Netochka Nezvanova). Everything above stated is, at the same time, Dostoevsky: he has written what we all know but could not think of, what we have all experienced inside of us but could not define or describe it.
Dostoevsky’s novels are life because in them there are equally life and death, sorrow and happiness, sickness and health. There are also such things in the novels of other writers, some will say: with right. Yes! But with no one so deep and yet simple as with Dostoevsky; with no one as with him: so natural and so vital. There, all humans are worth the attention, whether they are epileptic or morally stumbled petty noblemen who lie and jester for a cup of vodka, fatal women, prostitutes (street ones and public ones, colorful ones), monks, bandits, mediocrities, common citizens, countryfolk, officers, aristocracy, students, people who sell their golden teeth in order to drink that money away, liers who do not lie out of interest or malevolence but entirely out of artistic necessity, sick young men whom the environment hates and laughs at because of failed suicide attempts – they are all valuable! We love humbled and arrogant, the murderers and murdered, crooks and moribund children, liers and truth lovers, the devils and angels – equally.
Where lies the magnificent and genius psychology in the writings of Dostoevsky?!
The “psychological” with him should be sought in “the literary” and not in “the human”! He is a great literate who certainly sought “the human” in a man, and not the psychological, but the literary in him! He wrote books brilliantly and the psychology revealed and betrayed itself.
Dostoevsky, in his Memoirs from the House of The Dead, writes how it did not surprise him how some convicts came to borrow money from him more than once and stole from him, even though they did not return the previously taken money to him, because they are like that by their nature, but what made him angry was that they honestly thought they were making a fool out of him, that he is not aware of the deceit and that he does not see that they laughing behind his back. They were not aware that he knows everything but that he is allowing their nature to be natural.
No matter how hard he tried, he often could not manage to discover what was really going on in the minds of the villains: I particularly cannot remove from my memory a father slayer… He would mention his father occasionally in our conversations; while speaking about the hereditarily healthy constitution in their family once, he added:
-There, for example, my father did not complain until his death, that sometimes is hurting him (Memoirs from the House of The Dead).
The Russians, even when they are slaughtering each other for the sake of personal and low benefit, before the swing the knife, they say: Lord, forgive me for Christ’s sake (The Idiot). Or, a man wants to kill another man with whom he, just a couple of hours earlier, fraternized and exchanged crosses. So, who can understand such people?!
Even those who love and are familiar with Dostoevsky are not entirely sure where to seek the clarification of the myth about his psychology?! A myth is, hence, the repetition of what we hear and read. Most commonly, those repetitions are true and with a background, but our misunderstanding does not justify it since, because of that, we started to accept figments while putting a psychological label on them.
In the beginning, indeed, you do not understand much. And: at the end! And: in the middle! But, that is why Dostoevsky exists, to read him your entire life, from the early age until you judgment day, over and over again, constantly discovering some new dimensions, but perfectly (mis)understanding him at all times. You always (mis)understand Dostoevsky, (mis)understand what is necessary at that moment and that age. Dostoevsky's genius lies in his simplicity, in the fact that whoever reads him can feel his great spirit but not necessarily understand what he's talking about – because, between sentience and understanding, there is a great difference. He explained the riddles of the human soul with simple words and acts he describes – but only in the form of a question. He does not provide answers. He provides sentience. Not – sentiment, but – sentience! It is not found out: it is felt!
He does not clarify to us – he presents to us, so take it or leave it, take whatever you need, if you need it – it is a matter of choice. Outside of his novels and characters, in his writings, letters, political and theoretical-literary texts, in life itself, with Dostoevsky, there is no clue of genius nor psychology. He is a genius only when, through his characters (people), creating a novel or a story, when he is describing ordinary life. In everything else, he is mediocre and tedious. Childish. He only whines and demands, complains and self-pities! However, as soon as the socializing with prince Myshkin, Raskolnikov, Stavrogin or Ivan Karamazov starts, an upcoming wave of spirituality is felt, and an unrestrained, uncontrollable and God-given genius familiarity of the human soul! Even idiots are genius in his works and shame and nonsense reaches genius.
Dostoevsky did not, while writing Crime and Punishment, for example, think about how he is a great writer who can penetrate the human psyche and who will dissect the inner human in his book. He did not have an idea about that. He only tried as best as he could in the given circumstances, weighed down by deadlines and debts (he writes to his brother: if his novel does not succeed that he will hang himself). It is correct: he flirted with psychology but always in the borders of predictability. His genius created in spite of him and he was unaware of that, he did not always have an idea about what he was creating. He was often just the body which unconsciously executed commands of the spirit.
Dostoevsky was not aware of his genius until the very end, as he was not fully aware of what he was creating, namely, what kind of a work he is creating – thus he did not aspire to the psychology he has given us. He only wrote how he was able to and how he thought he was supposed to. Admittedly, it should be said, he faithfully and thoroughly described the condition in which a sick man before his epileptic attack was, but that is not psychology but neurology. Therefore, he did not cheat, he did not use tricks or his craft excessively, he did not stick to theory and did not “get a read” on people. If he had been doing that, he would have been a genius fraud, and since he did not, he was a genius literate, or, to be more precise: a genius who knows people!
However, he is a man who has suffered, was sick (grabbed, snatched and stricken) and wounded by life. Therefore, there is not a more important literary character in his works which is not in a serious sick state of mind and spirit. In a disturbed state of consciousness. With a darkened soul! In the darkness! In a walking unconsciousness! Often, the body is also sick with these people but this is not a primary with Dostoevsky. A physical illness is but a cause of a mental disorder. The soul and the head – that is what gets sick with Dostoevsky and his literary heroes.
The characters of Fyodor’s books are not (all) mad and mentally disturbed personalities but mostly the people who were lost in self-searching, god’s ((Holy Fool) yurodivy god’s people) or devil’s vassals (at the same time): Raskolnikov, Ivan, Stavrogin, Myshkin, Rogózhin. Those are not sick and unfortunate people but they are sick in their misfortune! They are soulfully inconsistent with themselves and with the world. They are hurting mentally but not mentally ill! They are not mentally disturbed but mentally lost and soul-astray, perhaps only in the head not completely put in order and with a disturbed order in their head. They resist common sense because that is how they want to reach where a normal human cannot. They are sickly passionate but love more than they desire! Admittedly, there are, here and there, some mind disturbed, without an allegory, in the true, medical sense, how general Epanchin noticed at some point. There are those from the underground, the life underground, which is often a world below the radar, invisible to the system and society, except for the black chronicles and Siberian convoys.
He is not merciful to his heroes. Most of them will either end up in Siberia, in serious illness or dead. A good part of them do not deserve such an ending, because they were not bad but only unfortunate, but he obviously did not have a second choice because those people were loved but married to an evil fate. In other words: that is how God ordered!
There is no psychology just for the sake of psychology with Dostoevsky: definitely – there is only Human in opposition to God! Even though many ingenious people, such as Nietzsche and Freud, referred to him and his psychology later, he was and remained just the writer who Knew.
There is no psychology just for the sake of science! There is only a, to bare skin undressed, human (such as was given God) and who will make life more beautiful when he does something good and righteous (Alyosha). Where he truly attempted to (consciously) deal with psychology in his literature, which is, according to myself, in the book Notes from the Underground, he was the least successful. On the other hand, where he played the string of emotion – he enlightened us with a perfect psychological accident of a little girl, Netochka, who is suffering immensely but who desires evil on her mother and thinks badly of her, only because she is good and out of pure love.
If realism should be sought with Dostoevsky anywhere, then it should be done in Dostoevsky’s "psychological". The greatest psychology with him is found in the most realistic descriptions, primarily of people and afterwards the situations. That is not theoretical but practical psychology. The undressed man is, with other writers, dressed in a lot of layers and his nudity is never reached which is the difference between Dostoevsky and them. Dostoevsky’s psychology is natural, it was not aspired for, but came itself, silently and unobtrusively. This is why the path by which we arrived (or: by which it arrived) to it (to: us), is incomprehensible to others.
Political and historic lessons of Dostoevsky?
Impure forces (Demons) is a book in which Dostoevsky, in an extraordinary manner, described the national self-destruction which led the Russians to the edge of disaster and disappearance. It speaks about how the demons and impure forces with all the poisons, impurities, satans and screechers (drekavac), multiplied in the great and dear patient, in Russia. This is a book that warned. Serbians should read Demons. In that book, they can find the description and the image of what has been happening to us in the last century on the national and spiritual level: unseen national self-destruction and auto-chauvinism. The big problem of Russians and Serbians is that they turned atheism into a new religion – they replaced one religion with another, for a long period.
Since he was, himself, at a young age, a revolutionary, then the Demons are a book of his revolutionary delusions from adolescence, even though Dostoevsky was more of a “literary” revolutionary, because he, in The Petrashevsky Circle mainly led conversations about forbidden books, although it is not the case that sometimes there wasn’t word about socialism or overthrowing the emperor. This revolutionary period and family origin of the revenant from uniatism helped Dostoevsky to later return to the Slavic-Russian-Orthodox path, and according to him, the only true path. And, even though his adolescent socialism was utopian, his latter Orthodoxy was sincere and founded on experience. He did not teach it, he felt it!
Demons are a book in which it can be read, between the lines, that humanity, one society, and even an individual, should develop in a evolutionary and dialectical manner and not by dogma or destruction. With nature and not ideology! With individualism on the foundations of origin and not anarchism towards the institution of the family! On the traditional value system and not on the negation of identity! With evolutionary revolution and not degenerative counter-revolution! Man prospers by conquering freedom and not by freely conquering!
I was freer in Siberia than all of You were ever free, when you have gone to Paris or London – says Dostoevsky to the young pro-European liberals of that time, who glorify Europe (Internationale) and belittle Russia (in the Russian television show about him). The so-called Russian liberals from the nineteenth century, do not differ by any means from the present-day Serbian “pro-European” second-Serbia folk (Serbians who despise Serbia) (except by the time in which they existed). And as same as the “Russian liberal” is not a Russian but a non-Russian (The Idiot), so is a Serbian “second-Serbia individual”: non-Serbian. Admittedly, by definition itself, a Serb does not necessarily have to be Serbian by nationality, the same as how a small number of Russians would be in the general Headquarters of the October Revolution.
The pattern is the same with both: to masochistically glorify Europe, to belittle your own country, nation, identity and religion, while speaking about justice and equality even when it comes to the pure desire of Europe to enslave and humiliate you, thereby, those who do that in the name of Europe, live a much better life than the people they are "fighting" for. They are "fighting" and "advocating" for the people they despise while shamefully hiding their origin. They will never allow that anyone else has their own personal convictions (The Idiot).
Those Russian liberals, as well as, the Serbian “second-Serbia folk”, before all are lackeys who only look whose shoes to clean, says Shatov in the Demons, and continues: they would be the first ones to be terribly unhappy if Russia would somehow suddenly get remodeled, and even if that happened by their terms, and if it would somehow suddenly get immensely rich and fortunate. They would not have anyone to hate at that moment, anyone to despise, they would not have anything to mock. That is only an animal, endless hatred towards Russia, buried in their organism. And secondly, which means that that topic was important to him, in the novel The Idiot, Dostoevsky develops a similar thought: Our liberal reached so far, that he denies Russia itself, and actually hates his own mother. Every unfortunate and failed Russian deed brings up laughter and enjoyment inside of him. He hates folk traditions, Russian history, he hates everything.
The rotten western individualism (especially: the Protestant one) has an unnatural necessity to tear down values on which he was brought up, because with that, he is actually proving his individualism, and truly, maintaining the system in life because that individualism is cretinism which is incapable of living without imposed laws and standards. The creative individualism (for example: Slavic-Orthodox) draws its strength from its roots, it has to be creative, often destructive and it has to ennoble the environment that gave birth to him, with its actions. The most ruinous are indifference and detrition of a man, the decadence and nihilism, as well. Bishop Tikhon speaks to Stavrogin: A complete atheism is more honourable than worldwide indifference… a complete atheist stands on the penultimate step towards perfect faith (regardless if he crosses it or not) and the indifferent one has ho faith, except for painful fear…
On the trial of Dmitri Karamazov, the prosecutor with liberal ideas charges Alyosha for chauvinism, because the latter is closer to church and the values of traditional Russia and because of that mistakenly attributes all evil to European enlightenment. Hence, it was not enough that one brother was accused for patricide but for the best among them, by his soul and deeds, it was stated that he can become a chauvinist: I wish the kind and gifted youngster all the best, I wish that his young spiritual beauty and aspiration towards national principles do not transform later, as it often happens, in moral terms into dark mysticism, and in citizen terms into dull chauvinism…
Yes, it is true, ungodliness and liberalism with socialistic ideas contributed to the latter crash of Russia (atheism and brandy). Dostoevsky deems that the Russian folk are – the God-bearers and that a Russian cannot be an atheist because at that moment he stops being a Russian, just like a non-Orthodox believer cannot be a Russian (Demons). Yes! But something else is much more important in the background and that is the previous crash of the family. Because: The only thing that is firm is that underneath which blood flows. The crashing of society at the important seams especially on the relation of parents and their children. A fortress cannot be conquered unless the foundations of the rampart are torn down. That is what Dostoevsky writes about, among other things, in his works, specifically and for those who have eyes explicitly. Because, it is necessary to have one or two generations of depravity; outrageous and vile depravity when a human turns into an abominable, timid, cruel, selfish abomination (Demons).
Besides all that is said, Dostoevsky did not spare the Russian man in his works (nor the Russian people). He described them through all of their flaws and vices, as they can be and, from time to time, were in some of his works. As we said: ready for the most gruesome and most abominable misdeeds, drunken and mendacious, cowardly and ingratiating. After all, he loved his nation, even when the people said the most absurd and completely fantastic lies and lie until lustfulness or self-forgetting, because, he was a part of them, and so even when he described them in a bad light he did it out of the desire of somehow warning and fixing them, and not out of hatred or leisure decadence. The scoundrel in Dostoevsky’s books often regrets what he is doing and often indulges into misdeed because of, to him, completely unexplainable reasons.
He is a visionary! He is a prophet! We have arrived into the age where the carts that deliver the bread for mankind are without a moral base, have already shut down a good portion of mankind out of the delivery. That is today’s world led by liberal capitalism and world rulers in globalization, who started their path of conquering on the railway and on the wings of the industrial revolution, about which Lébedyev speaks in the novel The Idiot. We stepped into an age of cannibalism in which, admittedly, people still do not literally eat each other but in which, as a final result: consume each other.
While reading his journals, political texts and letters, an impression is made that there is no literary glow in them. In his political writings, he mainly deals with Europe (France, Germany, Vatican). Those are solid and “informed” texts but nothing more than that. He is very interested in Catholicism to which he gives a great deal of advantages over Protestantism, regarding perseverance and efficiency. He also deals with the heritage of the French revolution and the former ideas of socialism. He even mentions the Herzegovina uprising. In the dialogues or monologues of his heroes in the novels, he often uses phrases or sentences (and even whole texts) that he has used in those political and journalistic writings, which he also ascertains.
In some of his texts (Political inscriptions), he represents the stand that three ideas are dominant in Europe, in the second half of the XIX century, and those are Catholicism, Protestantism and the Slavic idea: the roman world, Germans and Slavs (which are the dam to the first ones: Orthodox Russia opposite to Europe). Catholics offered mankind the new Christ in the figure of a pope and that new Christ agrees with everything just to rule. The Germans do not allow that. He is fascinated by Bismarck. He even predicts, in some of his texts, what the latter relationship of Nazis towards Slavs will be (and he writes this regarding the Serbian-Turkish wars and the German attitude towards that). He also deals with the Eastern Question and regarding his outlooks on the former international relations, he advocates for the alliance of Germany and Russia, because he sees Germany as the rampart against combat Catholicism.
In his text about Foma Danilov who died under heavy anguish but did not want to renounce Orthodoxy and convert to Islam, Dostoevsky criticizes the Russian public saying that the nation who does not respect their heroes and martyrs is not on a good path and how the duty of the elite is to enlighten the same nation, so it is required for them to urge self-respect and personal dignity for them. However, how can that be done when the Russian nation itself respects their roots more and are more dignified than those Russians who are educated?! The Russian elite is disgusted by their nation, it angrily hates everything that nation loves and respects, and the only salvation Dostoevsky sees in the consolidation of the nation and the elite into one, that the elite forgets the general-human goals and finds a reconciliation point with each other.
Suddenly, great deeds can appear, and find our intelligent forces unprepared, and, won’t it be too late at that moment, writes Dostoevsky in one of his texts. Someone somewhere already wrote that he, like Voltaire in France, announced the revolution in Russia (even though, their existence is more than a century apart) – and that is completely true. The difference is in the nature of those revolutions which were carried out in France and Russia, in the heritage which remained after each (not in the ideas because liberty, equality and brotherhood are more or less in the basis of both of them), the time context (Voltaire was the first-morning voice of the revolution which broke out a year after his death and Dostoevsky prophesized what would happen almost half a century after his passing away) and the greatest difference is that Voltaire invoked it and Dostoevsky feared the revolution given that he considered that, in the French revolution, only a change of government happened and that one powerful social class beat the other! They were right: both of them!
Reading Dostoevsky should always start “too early”, in times when everyone around you would tell you that you are too young for that or won’t say anything, except: that you are fine. An “immunity must be created” for Dostoevsky just like for childhood diseases. With each new and repeated reading, your immunity will get stronger and more resistant to doubts and thrills that the reading will bring you.
On the other hand and definitely: Dostoevsky is not for everyone (no matter in what moment of a lifetime or what foreknowledge they read it with). That is simply the order of things and as it should be. Otherwise, its meaning would get lost. No matter how inaccurate that seems, contradictory to everything written so far and probably in the idea of what he propagated without a foundation: Dostoevsky isn’t for the broad folk mass. In fact, he is exactly that but in an another dimension and without the most important finesses and only in relation to that concerning beautiful literature. Dostoevsky is for the reading elite in details and for the broad folk masses in general. Because, with Dostoevsky, the answers should not be sought, but exclusively questions – as we have stated before. And the mass seeks answers, unlike individuals who ask questions. With Dostoevsky, the goal should not be sought but the path to the goal. And the mob seeks for someone to lead them and not to encourage their orientation.
Concerning Dostoevsky, forewords, afterwords, critical reviews, articles, books and texts such as this one, should not be read. In order to get the feel of him (but not necessarily understand him), Dostoevsky must be only read, constantly read and after that, if possible: kept quiet! It is important to make an effort that the books that are being read, be those printed between the two world wars. Because of the translation and latter censorship.
A human does not have to be a writer. However, a writer has to be a human, in order to acquire the conditions to be a great writer (and: human). Everything else, except art, suffers the inhuman inside and beside. Art seeks a human and rarely finds one. An artist seeks art inside of him by finding the human. To find a human inside ourselves means to create art. To write a book. To sing a song. To leaves one’s soul on a canvas. Dostoevsky’s greatest heritage, as a writer, is that he has found the human in his works. Dostoevsky’s greatest achievement, as a human, is that he has found God inside himself.
It is not important for a writer how many people will read what he is writing, but who is reading it and for how long the same will be read. Durability is important, the perseverance of the work, and not current popularity. The recipe is, therefore, a few chosen people over a long period of time. You do not have to seek for a spiritual well in your time. You can always carry that cross, Dostoevsky is in this manner, eternal and universal. In literature, the quantitative and qualitative value is authenticated by only time.
What he has experienced and survived while waiting to be executed, in front of a firing squad, Dostoevsky partially narrated and described in the novel The Idiot: he was thinking about how it could have been if he did not have to die and how it would, if his life was returned to him, be infinity and that he would turn every minute into a century. He did not manage to turn minutes into centuries, even though he was pardoned at the last minute, but with that survival from the firing squad, he perpetuated his name with his latter works, for all the future generations. Yet, maybe, he did manage to cheat and stop time?!
In his lifetime, he experienced fame but not success. He struggled through life as hard as he walked through his literature easily. His personal and social life could not, and did not manage, to follow his literary genius. However, he also did not belong in everyday life, among living people: immortality awaited him.
He was sixty years old when he passed away. Students wanted to carry shackles, behind the coffin in which Dostoevsky was reposed and in the procession on the day of his funeral. Those shackles would, in the best manner, symbolize the life path of a great literate and what he has written about and at the same time send a message whose essence was apparently understood at that moment, by those who followed the coffin. Those shackles, which have to be shattered while carried through life, would be the crown of his greatness. Dostoevsky would have been a great writer even without those shackles. With them: he is the greatest.
I have met, walking through the path of my life, rather schooled and educated people, although many more of the other ones. A good portion of them, during their life and education, had no contact with Dostoevsky, especially the younger generations, and even less felt and understood the essence of Dostoevsky’s works, and those who think they did: did not go beyond the “psychology” and “heaviness”. However, here and there, I would meet someone who has read and understood a thing or two. Therefore, it should be understood: Dostoevsky is quite an overrated creation. As I said at the beginning: a myth!
Today, now, I think that he is not even that anymore. Over 90% of highly-educated young people did not even read Dostoevsky. Not even those for whom it was necessary to, because of the nature of their diploma. The education system they attended did not force them to do so, the people and the atmosphere which are current in the society did not even encourage them to at least try, and those who perform literary-publishing-criticism works even discouraged them with their ignorance and dead ends.
I wonder: are there in Serbia, or the entire world, still some youngsters who are just getting to know Dostoevsky and who think that they have found something relevant for them in there, something which is so important that they have a need to share it with the girl they are in love with. I wish they do exist. Although, if they should be sought anywhere, I would do it in Russia.
As it can be seen from the written, here, in this text, I do not appear as some sort of a literary vulture (critic) who might have any material or any other benefit. I am writing this as someone to whom Dostoevsky was a part of his youth, intellectual growing up and spiritual maturing, so you should value and judge this text according to that. Who does not have a special and personal relationship with Fyodor Mikhailovich, as myself, maybe should not even read this text.
Besides, I did not deal with Dostoevsky much, other than his books, except when it was inevitable – by reading books from other authors who mention him along the way (that is something). Therefore, with criticism and essays about him, I almost did not have any contact (either superficially, shortly, mostly on the internet when it was inevitable) which vastly facilitated this work (because I am not overly burdened by other people’s opinions). I, simply and only read Dostoevsky. And: read! And: again! That is why this is only and personally my judgement, my fate and my verdict!
If my opinion, somewhere matches someone else’s attitudes, that is not mine or their (un)success – but the magic of Dostoevsky. When these thoughts do not match with the generally valid ones, it is again his fault: he knew something that we did not – because he has brought us together even in our differences.
Forgive me, my brother!