Dostoevsky and Humanity


A little while back, The Paris Review published this article on the empathy and humanity of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Russian author of multiple masterpieces including The Brothers Karamzov, Crime and Punishment, and The Idiot. His is a body of work that has affected me greatly, and my reading Crime and Punishment is one of those rare events in our lives that we can look back and point to as a turning point in who we were to become as people. I was remarkably moved by Raskolnikov’s fall and redemption, particularly by his supporting cast of characters like Sonya and Razumikhin .

So when I began to enter the literary world at an academic level, I was taken aback at the general division of opinion on Dostoevsky’s works. Some have said that his books are dry, thinly veiled philosophical pamphlets, others that his characters are flat and excessive. But there are his defenders, myself included, who champion Dostoevsky as an artist with a perception for the human struggle and a compassion that comes through in the empathy and emotion of his characters. His works are not attempting to present a new and cohesive reality, but rather transfer sensation and feeling of the moment and situation to the reader and incite an empathy in them as to the condition of our lives.

Give him a chance. I personally recommend the Pevear and Volokhonsky translations, but read, engage, and feel along with the Alyoshas, Raskolnikovs, and Myshkins of the world.

Oh, I only don’t know how to say it … but there are so many things at every step that are so beautiful, that even the most confused person finds beautiful. Look at a child, look at God’s sunrise, look at the grass growing, look into the eyes that are looking at you and love you …

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