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By Joseph Glantz


Fyodor Dostoevsky
​Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский (born in Moscow on 1821-11-11 (1821-10-30 O.S.); died in St. Petersburg on 1881-02-09 (1881-01-28 O.S.)) was a Russian writer noted for a few 900 page page-turners and maybe one of the great lines in literature when a man who is about to assault a woman says “This changes everything,” when the woman pulls a gun on him.

You really got into the male neurosis. How would you define a man?
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. (Personal correspondence (1839), as quoted in Dostoevsky: His Life and Work (1971) by Konstantin Mochulski, as translated by Michael A. Minihan, p. 17)

And do men have capacity for growth?
The second half of a man's life is made up of nothing but the habits he has acquired during the first half. (As quoted in Peter's Quotations : Ideas for Our Time (1979) by Laurence J. Peter, p. 299.)

And advice for men of my generation?
If you want to be respected by others the great thing is to respect yourself. Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you. (The Insulted and the Injured; 1861)

Should I take that advice with a grain of salt?
I am a sick man… I am a spiteful man. I am an unpleasant man. I think my liver is diseased. (Notes from the Underground; 1864)

So men are decrepit?
Man grows used to everything, the scoundrel. (Crime and Punishment; 1866)

And are men better than women?
When… in the course of all these thousands of years has man ever acted in accordance with his own interests? (Notes from the Underground; 1864)
Beyond studying the human condition what motivates you?
I could never stand more than three months of dreaming at a time without feeling an irresistible desire to plunge into society. (Notes from the Underground; 1864)

Would you consider yourself a romantic or a realist?
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; (Notes from the Underground; 1864)

And what say you of lawyers and politicians?
Granted I am a babbler, a harmless vexatious babbler, like all of us. But what is to be done if the direct and sole vocation of every intelligent man is babble, that is, the intentional pouring of water through a sieve? (Notes from the Underground; 1864)

In other words?
Talking nonsense is man's only privilege that distinguishes him from all other organisms. (Crime and Punishment; 1866)

In a nutshell?
The formula 'two plus two equals five' is not without its attractions. (Notes from the Underground; 1864)
Let’s get into some other subject areas. What makes people creative? 
Inventors and geniuses have almost always been looked on as no better than fools at the beginning of their career, and very frequently at the end of it also. (The Idiot; 1868)

Anything else?
It wasn't the New World that mattered ... Columbus died almost without seeing it; and not really knowing what he had discovered. It's life that matters, nothing but life — the process of discovering, the everlasting and perpetual process, not the discovery itself, at all. (The Idiot; 1868)

Still, I sense another thought in you, another spin?
Lack of originality, everywhere, all over the world, from time immemorial, has always been considered the foremost quality and the recommendation of the active, efficient and practical man... (The Idiot; 1868) 
What do you think about the writing profession? (The Idiot; 1868) 
A fool with a heart and no sense is just as unhappy as a fool with sense and no heart.

What's your ake on Fake News?
Humiliate the reason and distort the soul... (The Idiot; 1868)

And what about editors?
They had no temples, but they had a real living and uninterrupted sense of oneness with the whole of the universe; (The Dream of a Ridiculous Man; 1877). Using primarily the translation of Constance Garnett; 1916)

So what’s your preference, fiction or non-fiction?
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! (The Dream of a Ridiculous Man; 1877). Using primarily the translation of Constance Garnett; 1916)

Were any of your books perfect?
Beauty is a terrible and awful thing! It is terrible because it has not been fathomed, for God sets us nothing but riddles. (The Brothers Karamazov; 1879 - 1880)

And what of critics?
In most cases, people, even the most vicious, are much more naive and simple-minded than we assume them to be. And this is true of ourselves too.

So, your final thoughts on mankind?
If you were to destroy in mankind the belief in immortality, not only love but every living force maintaining the life of the world would at once be dried up. Moreover, nothing then would be immoral; everything would be lawful, even cannibalism. 
Variant translation: Everything is permitted.
Variant translation: All is lawful.

Any good things about getting old?
It's the great mystery of human life that old grief passes gradually into quiet tender joy. (Dostoevsky (1999) [1880]. The Brothers Karamazov. Constance Garnett, translator. Signet Classic. pp. p. 312. ISBN 0451527348.)

Copyright 2016 Joseph Glantz