Why, we don’t even know what living means now, what it is, and what it is called? Leave us alone without books and we shall be lost and in confusion at once. We shall not know what to join on to, what to cling to, what to love and what to hate, what to respect and what to despise. We are oppressed at being men–men with a real individual body and blood, we are ashamed of it, we think it a disgrace and try to contrive to be some sort of impossible generalised man.
Notes from Underground
When reading early Dostoyevsky, you inevitably hear, at times, the channeled voices of Gogol Pushkin, Balzac, Dickens and Schiller, among other greats. Their realism and craft seems somehow intertwined with his own ideas. Starting from Memories of the House of the Dead, however, a personal view which will ponder and condemn the maladies of a civilization that continues to burden us, extraordinarily surges. His prophecies of science and progress belonged not only to his time and nation, its consequences and magnitude, it seems, are yet not fully knowable even to this day.
Many critics tend to find grievous faults in his style. I believe his lifestyle was so contrived, precisely because of his immense amount of debt which crippled his lifestyle and family (due to, in part, leecherous relatives). This was detrimental to his prose, since he didn’t have time to either proofread or edit his results (of which his wife Anna Dostoyevskaya made an almost miraculous feat of writing down and keeping track of his work). This make his results all the more wonderful, since most writers had the luxury of time to work on their text, adding more nuances, orderliness and polishings. He even wrote in a letter to his niece “Believe me, I can tell you that if I had two or three years of an assured livelihood in which to write this novel, as is the case with Turgenev, Goncharov, and Tolstoy, it would be something that people would still be talking about 100 years from now!“, which shows his dissatisfaction, bitterness and frustration on the matter.
Today, in light of his birthday, I celebrate it with his most favorite things. Both his wife and daughter on their memoirs confess Dostoyevsky’s sweet tooth and preference for dried fruit, bon bons and of course, copious amounts of his infallible tea. Loyal to his tastes, I made a dried fruit cake with cookies to celebrate.
In the end, you feel that your much-vaunted, inexhaustible fantasy is growing tired, debilitated, exhausted, because you’re bound to grow out of your old ideals; they’re smashed to splinters and turn to dust, and if you have no other life, you have no choice but to keep rebuilding your dreams from the splinters and dust. But the heart longs for something different! And it is vain to dig in the ashes of your old fancies, trying to find even a tiny spark to fan into a new flame that will warm the chilled heart and bring back to life everything that can send the blood rushing wildly through the body, fill the eyes with tears–everything that can delude you so well!