Articles Fyodor Dostoevsky 2


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It was only after his return from Siberia that Dostoevsky established himself as a writer. Starting in middle age he produced a series of major books.
1864 – Notes from Underground
1866 – Crime and Punishment
1869 – The Idiot
1872 – Demons
1880 – Brothers Karamazov
They are dark, violent and tragic – and usually very long and complicated. He wrote them to preach five important lessons to the world.
(The discussion of Dostoevsky’s ideas involves revealing the plots of some of his novels. It’s not something that would have worried him because his books are written to be read more than once. But if it bothers you, this is the place to break off.)
1. The value of suffering
His first big book – Notes from Underground – is an extended rant against life and the world delivered by a retired civil servant. He is deeply unreasonable, inconsistent and furious with everyone (including himself); he’s always getting into rows, he goes to a reunion of some former colleagues and tells them all how much he always hated them; he wants to puncture everyone’s illusions and make them as unhappy as he is. He seems like a grotesque character to build a book around. But he’s doing something important. He’s insisting – with a peculiar kind of intensity – on a very strange fact about the human condition: we want happiness but we have a special talent for making ourselves miserable – “Man is sometimes extraordinarily, passionately, in love with suffering: that is a fact,” he asserts.