Fyodor Dostoyevsky quotes

Fyodor Dostoyevsky photo
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Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Birthdate: 11. November 1821
Date of death: 28. January 1881
Other names: Fiodor Michajlovič Dostojevskij, Fëdor Michajlovič Dostoevskij, Fjodor Michailowitsch Dostojewski

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky , sometimes transliterated Dostoyevsky, was a Russian novelist, short story writer, essayist, journalist and philosopher. Dostoevsky's literary works explore human psychology in the troubled political, social, and spiritual atmospheres of 19th-century Russia, and engage with a variety of philosophical and religious themes. His most acclaimed works include Crime and Punishment , The Idiot , Demons , and The Brothers Karamazov . Dostoevsky's body of works consists of 11 novels, three novellas, 17 short stories, and numerous other works. Many literary critics rate him as one of the greatest psychologists in world literature. His 1864 novella Notes from Underground is considered to be one of the first works of existentialist literature.

Born in Moscow in 1821, Dostoevsky was introduced to literature at an early age through fairy tales and legends, and through books by Russian and foreign authors. His mother died in 1837 when he was 15, and around the same time, he left school to enter the Nikolayev Military Engineering Institute. After graduating, he worked as an engineer and briefly enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, translating books to earn extra money. In the mid-1840s he wrote his first novel, Poor Folk, which gained him entry into St. Petersburg's literary circles. Arrested in 1849 for belonging to a literary group that discussed banned books critical of Tsarist Russia, he was sentenced to death but the sentence was commuted at the last moment. He spent four years in a Siberian prison camp, followed by six years of compulsory military service in exile. In the following years, Dostoevsky worked as a journalist, publishing and editing several magazines of his own and later A Writer's Diary, a collection of his writings. He began to travel around western Europe and developed a gambling addiction, which led to financial hardship. For a time, he had to beg for money, but he eventually became one of the most widely read and highly regarded Russian writers.

Dostoevsky was influenced by a wide variety of philosophers and authors including Pushkin, Gogol, Augustine, Shakespeare, Dickens, Balzac, Lermontov, Hugo, Poe, Plato, Cervantes, Herzen, Kant, Belinsky, Hegel, Schiller, Solovyov, Bakunin, Sand, Hoffmann, and Mickiewicz. His writings were widely read both within and beyond his native Russia and influenced an equally great number of later writers including Russians like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Anton Chekhov as well as philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche and Jean-Paul Sartre. His books have been translated into more than 170 languages.

Works

Notes from Underground
Notes from Underground
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Idiot
The Idiot
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Crime and Punishment
Crime and Punishment
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Gambler
The Gambler
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Grand Inquisitor
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Bobok
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Humiliated and Insulted
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The House of the Dead
The House of the Dead
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

„Oh, everyone laughs in my face now, and assures me that one cannot dream of such details as I am telling now“

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky, book The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

Source: The Dream of a Ridiculous Man (1877), IV
Context: Oh, everyone laughs in my face now, and assures me that one cannot dream of such details as I am telling now, that I only dreamed or felt one sensation that arose in my heart in delirium and made up the details myself when I woke up. And when I told them that perhaps it really was so, my God, how they shouted with laughter in my face, and what mirth I caused! Oh, yes, of course I was overcome by the mere sensation of my dream, and that was all that was preserved in my cruelly wounded heart; but the actual forms and images of my dream, that is, the very ones I really saw at the very time of my dream, were filled with such harmony, were so lovely and enchanting and were so actual, that on awakening I was, of course, incapable of clothing them in our poor language, so that they were bound to become blurred in my mind; and so perhaps I really was forced afterwards to make up the details, and so of course to distort them in my passionate desire to convey some at least of them as quickly as I could. But on the other hand, how can I help believing that it was all true? It was perhaps a thousand times brighter, happier and more joyful than I describe it. Granted that I dreamed it, yet it must have been real. You know, I will tell you a secret: perhaps it was not a dream at all!

„Let it be a dream, so be it, but that real life of which you make so much I had meant to extinguish by suicide, and my dream, my dream — oh, it revealed to me a different life, renewed, grand and full of power!“

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky, book The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

Source: The Dream of a Ridiculous Man (1877), II
Context: Yes, I dreamed a dream, my dream of the third of November. They tease me now, telling me it was only a dream. But does it matter whether it was a dream or reality, if the dream made known to me the truth? If once one has recognized the truth and seen it, you know that it is the truth and that there is no other and there cannot be, whether you are asleep or awake. Let it be a dream, so be it, but that real life of which you make so much I had meant to extinguish by suicide, and my dream, my dream — oh, it revealed to me a different life, renewed, grand and full of power!

„I occupy myself with this mystery, because I want to be a man.“

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Personal correspondence (1839), as quoted in Dostoevsky: His Life and Work (1971) by Konstantin Mochulski, as translated by Michael A. Minihan, p. 17
Context: To study the meaning of man and of life — I am making significant progress here. I have faith in myself. Man is a mystery: if you spend your entire life trying to puzzle it out, then do not say that you have wasted your time. I occupy myself with this mystery, because I want to be a man.

„To study the meaning of man and of life — I am making significant progress here. I have faith in myself.“

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Personal correspondence (1839), as quoted in Dostoevsky: His Life and Work (1971) by Konstantin Mochulski, as translated by Michael A. Minihan, p. 17
Context: To study the meaning of man and of life — I am making significant progress here. I have faith in myself. Man is a mystery: if you spend your entire life trying to puzzle it out, then do not say that you have wasted your time. I occupy myself with this mystery, because I want to be a man.

„Love children especially, for like the angels they too are sinless, and they live to soften and purify our hearts, and, as it were, to guide us. Woe to him who offends a child.“

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Book VI, chapter 3: "Conversations and Exhortations of Father Zossima; Of Prayer, of Love, and of Contact with other Worlds" (translated by Constance Garnett)
The Brothers Karamazov (1879–1880)
Context: Brothers, have no fear of men's sin. Love a man even in his sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God's creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day, and you will come at last to love the world with an all-embracing love. Love the animals: God has given them the rudiments of thought and untroubled joy. So do not trouble it, do not harass them, do not deprive them of their joy, do not go against God's intent. Man, do not exhale yourself above the animals: they are without sin, while you in your majesty defile the earth by your appearance on it, and you leave the traces of your defilement behind you — alas, this is true of almost every one of us! Love children especially, for like the angels they too are sinless, and they live to soften and purify our hearts, and, as it were, to guide us. Woe to him who offends a child.
My young brother asked even the birds to forgive him. It may sound absurd, but it is right none the less, for everything, like the ocean, flows and enters into contact with everything else: touch one place, and you set up a movement at the other end of the world. It may be senseless to beg forgiveness of the birds, but, then, it would be easier for the birds, and for the child, and for every animal if you were yourself more pleasant than you are now. Everything is like an ocean, I tell you. Then you would pray to the birds, too, consumed by a universal love, as though in ecstasy, and ask that they, too, should forgive your sin. Treasure this ecstasy, however absurd people may think it.

„They sang the praises of nature, of the sea, of the woods.“

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky, book The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

Source: The Dream of a Ridiculous Man (1877), IV
Context: They sang the praises of nature, of the sea, of the woods. They liked making songs about one another, and praised each other like children; they were the simplest songs, but they sprang from their hearts and went to one's heart. And not only in their songs but in all their lives they seemed to do nothing but admire one another. It was like being in love with each other, but an all-embracing, universal feeling.

„I most respectfully return him the ticket.“

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Brothers Karamazov (1879–1880)
Context: Is there in the whole world a being who would have the right to forgive and could forgive? I don't want harmony. From love for humanity I don't want it. I would rather be left with the unavenged suffering. I would rather remain with my unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation, even if I were wrong. Besides, too high a price is asked for harmony; it's beyond our means to pay so much to enter on it. And so I hasten to give back my entrance ticket, and if I am an honest man I am bound to give it back as soon as possible. And that I am doing. It's not God that I don't accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return him the ticket.

„Love is such a priceless treasure that you can redeem the whole world by it, and cleanse not only your own sins but the sins of others.“

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Book II, ch. 3 (trans. Constance Garnett)
The Elder Zossima, speaking to a devout widow afraid of death
The Brothers Karamazov (1879–1880)
Context: If you are penitent, you love. And if you love you are of God. All things are atoned for, all things are saved by love. If I, a sinner even as you are, am tender with you and have pity on you, how much more will God have pity upon you. Love is such a priceless treasure that you can redeem the whole world by it, and cleanse not only your own sins but the sins of others.

„But money can always and everywhere be spent, and, moreover, forbidden fruit is sweetest of all.“

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The House of the Dead https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=8PhfAAAAMAAJ&rdid=book-8PhfAAAAMAAJ&rdot=1 (1915), as translated by Constance Garnett, p. 16
Context: Money is coined liberty, and so it is ten times dearer to the man who is deprived of freedom. If money is jingling in his pocket, he is half consoled, even though he cannot spend it. But money can always and everywhere be spent, and, moreover, forbidden fruit is sweetest of all.

„If anyone could prove to me that Christ is outside the truth, and if the truth really did exclude Christ, I should prefer to stay with Christ and not with truth.“

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Letter To Mme. N. D. Fonvisin (1854), as published in Letters of Fyodor Michailovitch Dostoevsky to his Family and Friends (1914), translated by Ethel Golburn Mayne, Letter XXI, p. 71 <!-- London: Chatto & Windus -->
Context: I want to say to you, about myself, that I am a child of this age, a child of unfaith and scepticism, and probably (indeed I know it) shall remain so to the end of my life. How dreadfully has it tormented me (and torments me even now) this longing for faith, which is all the stronger for the proofs I have against it. And yet God gives me sometimes moments of perfect peace; in such moments I love and believe that I am loved; in such moments I have formulated my creed, wherein all is clear and holy to me. This creed is extremely simple; here it is: I believe that there is nothing lovelier, deeper, more sympathetic, more rational, more manly, and more perfect than the Saviour; I say to myself with jealous love that not only is there no one else like Him, but that there could be no one. I would even say more: If anyone could prove to me that Christ is outside the truth, and if the truth really did exclude Christ, I should prefer to stay with Christ and not with truth.

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„They were laughed at or pelted with stones.“

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky, book The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

Source: The Dream of a Ridiculous Man (1877), V
Context: All became so jealous of the rights of their own personality that they did their very utmost to curtail and destroy them in others, and made that the chief thing in their lives. Slavery followed, even voluntary slavery; the weak eagerly submitted to the strong, on condition that the latter aided them to subdue the still weaker. Then there were saints who came to these people, weeping, and talked to them of their pride, of their loss of harmony and due proportion, of their loss of shame. They were laughed at or pelted with stones.

„Is there in the whole world a being who would have the right to forgive and could forgive?“

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Brothers Karamazov (1879–1880)
Context: Is there in the whole world a being who would have the right to forgive and could forgive? I don't want harmony. From love for humanity I don't want it. I would rather be left with the unavenged suffering. I would rather remain with my unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation, even if I were wrong. Besides, too high a price is asked for harmony; it's beyond our means to pay so much to enter on it. And so I hasten to give back my entrance ticket, and if I am an honest man I am bound to give it back as soon as possible. And that I am doing. It's not God that I don't accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return him the ticket.

„To care only for well-being seems to me positively ill-bred.“

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky, book Notes from Underground

Part 1, Chapter 9 (page 32)
Notes from Underground (1864)
Context: To care only for well-being seems to me positively ill-bred. Whether it's good or bad, it is sometimes very pleasant, too, to smash things.

„The characteristics of our romantics are to understand everything, to see everything and to see it often incomparably more clearly than our most realistic minds see it; to refuse to accept anyone or anything, but at the same time not to despise anything“

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky, book Notes from Underground

Part 2, Chapter 1 (pages 45-46)
Notes from Underground (1864)
Context: The characteristics of our "romantics" are absolutely and directly opposed to the transcendental European type, and no European standard can be applied to them. (Allow me to make use of this word "romantic" — an old-fashioned and much respected word which has done good service and is familiar to all.) The characteristics of our romantics are to understand everything, to see everything and to see it often incomparably more clearly than our most realistic minds see it; to refuse to accept anyone or anything, but at the same time not to despise anything; to give way, to yield, from policy; never to lose sight of a useful practical object (such as rent-free quarters at the government expense, pensions, decorations), to keep their eye on that object through all the enthusiasms and volumes of lyrical poems, and at the same time to preserve "the sublime and the beautiful" inviolate within them to the hour of their death, and to preserve themselves also, incidentally, like some precious jewel wrapped in cotton wool if only for the benefit of "the sublime and the beautiful." Our "romantic" is a man of great breadth and the greatest rogue of all our rogues, I assure you.... I can assure you from experience, indeed. Of course, that is, if he is intelligent. But what am I saying! The romantic is always intelligent, and I only meant to observe that although we have had foolish romantics they don't count, and they were only so because in the flower of their youth they degenerated into Germans, and to preserve their precious jewel more comfortably, settled somewhere out there — by preference in Weimar or the Black Forest.

„A great many people were put down as mad among us last year.“

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky, book Bobok

"Bobok : From Somebody's Diary" https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/d/dostoyevsky/d72bo/ as translated by Constance Garnett in Short Stories (1900) http://www.gutenberg.org/files/40745/40745-h/40745-h.htm
Context: A great many people were put down as mad among us last year. And in such language! "With such original talent"... "and yet, after all, it appears"... "however, one ought to have foreseen it long ago." That is rather artful; so that from the point of view of pure art one may really commend it. Well, but after all, these so-called madmen have turned out cleverer than ever. So it seems the critics can call them mad, but they cannot produce any one better.
The wisest of all, in my opinion, is he who can, if only once a month, call himself a fool — a faculty unheard of nowadays. In old days, once a year at any rate a fool would recognise that he was a fool, but nowadays not a bit of it. And they have so muddled things up that there is no telling a fool from a wise man. They have done that on purpose.
I remember a witty Spaniard saying when, two hundred and fifty years ago, the French built their first madhouses: "They have shut up all their fools in a house apart, to make sure that they are wise men themselves." Just so: you don't show your own wisdom by shutting some one else in a madhouse. "K. has gone out of his mind, means that we are sane now." No, it doesn't mean that yet.

„Love a man even in his sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God's creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day, and you will come at last to love the world with an all-embracing love.“

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Book VI, chapter 3: "Conversations and Exhortations of Father Zossima; Of Prayer, of Love, and of Contact with other Worlds" (translated by Constance Garnett)
The Brothers Karamazov (1879–1880)
Context: Brothers, have no fear of men's sin. Love a man even in his sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God's creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day, and you will come at last to love the world with an all-embracing love. Love the animals: God has given them the rudiments of thought and untroubled joy. So do not trouble it, do not harass them, do not deprive them of their joy, do not go against God's intent. Man, do not exhale yourself above the animals: they are without sin, while you in your majesty defile the earth by your appearance on it, and you leave the traces of your defilement behind you — alas, this is true of almost every one of us! Love children especially, for like the angels they too are sinless, and they live to soften and purify our hearts, and, as it were, to guide us. Woe to him who offends a child.
My young brother asked even the birds to forgive him. It may sound absurd, but it is right none the less, for everything, like the ocean, flows and enters into contact with everything else: touch one place, and you set up a movement at the other end of the world. It may be senseless to beg forgiveness of the birds, but, then, it would be easier for the birds, and for the child, and for every animal if you were yourself more pleasant than you are now. Everything is like an ocean, I tell you. Then you would pray to the birds, too, consumed by a universal love, as though in ecstasy, and ask that they, too, should forgive your sin. Treasure this ecstasy, however absurd people may think it.

„The wisest of all, in my opinion, is he who can, if only once a month, call himself a fool — a faculty unheard of nowadays.“

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky, book Bobok

"Bobok : From Somebody's Diary" https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/d/dostoyevsky/d72bo/ as translated by Constance Garnett in Short Stories (1900) http://www.gutenberg.org/files/40745/40745-h/40745-h.htm
Context: A great many people were put down as mad among us last year. And in such language! "With such original talent"... "and yet, after all, it appears"... "however, one ought to have foreseen it long ago." That is rather artful; so that from the point of view of pure art one may really commend it. Well, but after all, these so-called madmen have turned out cleverer than ever. So it seems the critics can call them mad, but they cannot produce any one better.
The wisest of all, in my opinion, is he who can, if only once a month, call himself a fool — a faculty unheard of nowadays. In old days, once a year at any rate a fool would recognise that he was a fool, but nowadays not a bit of it. And they have so muddled things up that there is no telling a fool from a wise man. They have done that on purpose.
I remember a witty Spaniard saying when, two hundred and fifty years ago, the French built their first madhouses: "They have shut up all their fools in a house apart, to make sure that they are wise men themselves." Just so: you don't show your own wisdom by shutting some one else in a madhouse. "K. has gone out of his mind, means that we are sane now." No, it doesn't mean that yet.

„They had no temples, but they had a real living and uninterrupted sense of oneness with the whole of the universe“

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky, book The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

Source: The Dream of a Ridiculous Man (1877), IV
Context: They had no temples, but they had a real living and uninterrupted sense of oneness with the whole of the universe; they had no creed, but they had a certain knowledge that when their earthly joy had reached the limits of earthly nature, then there would come for them, for the living and for the dead, a still greater fullness of contact with the whole of the universe. They looked forward to that moment with joy, but without haste, not pining for it, but seeming to have a foretaste of it in their hearts, of which they talked to one another.

„I learnt the truth last November — on the third of November, to be precise — and I remember every instant since.“

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky, book The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

Source: The Dream of a Ridiculous Man (1877), I
Context: I gave up caring about anything, and all the problems disappeared.
And it was after that that I found out the truth. I learnt the truth last November — on the third of November, to be precise — and I remember every instant since.

„The consciousness of life is higher than life, the knowledge of the laws of happiness is higher than happiness — that is what one must contend against. And I shall. If only everyone wants it, it can be arranged at once.“

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky, book The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

Source: The Dream of a Ridiculous Man (1877), V
Context: A dream! What is a dream? And is not our life a dream? I will say more. Suppose that this paradise will never come to pass (that I understand), yet I shall go on preaching it. And yet how simple it is: in one day, in one hour everything could be arranged at once! The chief thing is to love others like yourself, that's the chief thing, and that's everything; nothing else is wanted — you will find out at once how to arrange it all. And yet it's an old truth which has been told and retold a billion times — but it has not formed part of our lives! The consciousness of life is higher than life, the knowledge of the laws of happiness is higher than happiness — that is what one must contend against. And I shall. If only everyone wants it, it can be arranged at once.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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