For, after all, you do grow up, you do outgrow your ideals, which turn to dust and ashes, which are shattered into fragments; and if you have no other life, you just have to build one up out of these fragments. And all the time your soul is craving and longing for something else. And in vain does the dreamer rummage about in his old dreams, raking them over as though they were a heap of cinders, looking in these cinders for some spark, however tiny, to fan it into a flame so as to warm his chilled blood by it and revive in it all that he held so dear before, all that touched his heart, that made his blood course through his veins, that drew tears from his eyes, and that so splendidly deceived him!
White Nights, 1848.
Dostoevsky has been a long time companion and remains the most significant literary figure in my life. With him I’ve shared and purged my underlying hope shame, grief, nostalgia, desperation and regret. To him I owe many discoveries, pivotal literary experiences, and a reborn thirst and longing for living, which had long been lost.
For many of us, I think, only Dostoevsky could understand and express the most intimate of our thoughts, and relate to our struggles, pains and perspectives so particularly. There are some who say his writing lacks style, but who needs style when there is absolute and unraveling truth? Style becomes superfluous.
So here is a small celebration from my part to honor the joys he has made me experience, with a small birthday treat on his day. It’s a black sesame, & beet cake wrapped in filo pastry and nuts with berry syrup (recipe will follow this week).
Stefan Zweig states it marvelously: The further we venture in Dostoevsky, the further we venture in ourselves. Only when we get close to our true self, and it is only when we have attained a realization of our common kinship with universal humanity, that we really draw near the master. One who knows himself well, knows Dostoevsky well, for if any man has succeeded in realizing the quintessence of man, it surely is him. The road towards the understanding of his work leads through all the purgatories of passion, through the hell of tribulation, through every realm of earthly torment: the torment of mankind, the torment of humanity, of the artist and the ultimate, most agonizing torment of all, the torment of God. The way is dark; if we are not to lose the trail we must light it from the fires within, fanning them to a blaze of our passionate desire for truth. We must first explore the intricacies of our own personality, before hazarding ourselves into his.
Three Masters: Balzac, Dickens and Dostoevsky, 1920.