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Newcomers will find in these pages a rich, accessible sampling. Dostoyevsky devotees will be pleased to find some of the writer's deepest, most compelling passages in one volume. Full-page woodcuts by master engraver Fritz Eichenberg enhance the book.
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Fyodor Dostoyevsly Biographical Sketch
November 11, 1821, born in Moscow, son of a staff doctor at a charity hospital. 1838, entered army engineering college in St Petersburg (Leningrad). Did not like this training, read much literature. 1839 -June, his father was murdered by his own serfs, who had been brutally mistreated. 1844-October, gave his army commission to finish first novel, Poor Folk, in April 1845. Praise by the critic Belinski brought immediate success. 1849, his participation in a revolutionary group was punished by four years in a Siberian prison. 1850s, epilepsy developed. 1854 to 1858, stayed on in Siberia. Wrote "Uncle's Dream' and "Friend of the Family" while there. 1857 - February, first marriage a failure. 1859, returned to St Petersburg. Published a monthly periodical called Time. 1866, Crime and Punishment put Dostoyevsky in the front rank of Russian writers. 1867 -February, three years after his first wife's death, Dostoyevsky married a young stenographer, who proved to be a good manager of his finances. Of their four children, two died very early. 1868-69, almost unnoticed by Russian critics, Dostoyevsky's novel The Idiot is one of the most discerning and powerful. Published in a period of revolutionary agitation, its universal theme - a good man in human society - was not considered timely. 1874-75, the reception of The Adolescent (or A Raw Youth) was unfriendly. 1879-80, his genius was immediately seen in his last and greatest novel The Brothers Karamazov. 1870's in Dostoyevsky's last years, revolutionary activity in Russia was increasing, with attempts on the life of the Czar and high state officials. He became very conservative, edited a conservative weekly, and felt that Russia and the Orthodox Church alone were fated to lead Europe and the world from evil to the good. February 9, 1881, died in St Petersburg.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor This "prose poem" from The Brothers Karamazov is probably the climax of Dostoyevsky's religious confessions. It is recited by Ivan Karamazov, who refused to recognize God although he admits God's existence.
"He came softly, unobserved, and yet, strange to say, everyone recognized Him. The people are irresistibly drawn to Him, they surround Him, they flock about Him, follow Him. He moves silently in their midst with a gentlesmile of infinite compassion. The sun of love burns in His heart; light and power shine from His eyes; and their radiance, shed on the people, stirs their hearts with responsive love. He holds out His hands to them and blesses them and a healing virtue comes from contact with him, even with His garments. An old man in the crowd, blind from childhood, cries out, 'O Lord, heal me and I shall see Thee!' and as it were, scales fall from his eyes and the blind man sees Him. The people weep and kiss the earth under His feet. Children throw flowers before Him, sing, and cry hosannah. 'It is He - it is He!' all repeat. 'It must be He, it can be no none but He!' He stops at the steps of the Seville cathedral at the moment when the weeping mourners are bringing in a! ! little open white coffin. In it lies a child of seven, the only daughter of a prominent citizen. The dead child lies hidden in flowers. 'He will raise your child,' the crowd shouts to the weeping mother. The priest, coming to meet the coffin, looks perplexed and frowns, but the mother of the dead child throws herself at His feet with a wail. 'If it is You, raise my child!' she cries, holding out her hands to Him. The procession halts, the coffin is laid on the steps at His feet. He looks with compassion, and his lips once more softly pronounce, 'Talitha cumi!' and the maiden arises The little girl sits up in the coffin and looks round, smiling with wide-open eyes, holding white roses they had put in her hand.
"There are cries, sobs, confusion among the people, and at that moment the cardinal himself, the Grand Inquisitor, passes by the cathedral. He is an old man, almost ninety, tall and erect, with a withered face and sunken eyes, in which there is still a gleam of light. He is not dressed in his gorgeous cardinal's robes, as he was the day before, when he was burning the enemies of the Roman Church - at this moment he is wearing his coarse, old monk's cassock. At a distance behind him come his gloomy assistants and slaves and the 'holy guard.' He stops at the sight of the crowd and watches it from a distance. He sees everything; he sees them set the coffin down at His feet, sees the child rise up, and his face darkens. He knits his thick gray brows and his eyes gleam with a sinister fire. He holds out his finger and bids the guards take Him. And such is his power, so completely are the people cowed into submission and trembling obedience to him, that the crowd immediately ma! ! ke way for the guards, and in the midst of deathlike silence they lay hands on Him and lead Him away. The crowd, like one man, instantly bows down to the earth before the old inquisitor. He blesses the people in silence and passes on. The guard lead their prisoner to the close, gloomy vaulted prison in the ancient palace of the Holy Inquisition and shut Him in it. The day passes and is followed by the dark, burning, breathless night of Seville. The air is fragrant with laurel and lemon. In the pitch darkness the iron door of the prison is suddenly opened and the Grand Inquisitor himself comes in with light in his hand. He is alone; the door is closed at once behind him. He stands in the doorway and for a minute or two gazes in His face. At last he goes up slowly, sets the light on the table and speaks.
"Is it You? You?' but receiving no answer, he adds at once, 'Don't answer, be silent. What can You say, indeed? I know too well what You would say. And You have no right to add anything to what You have said of old. Why then, are You come to hinder us? For You have come to hinder us, and You know that. But You know what will be tomorrow? I know not who You are and care not to know whether it is You or only a semblance of Him, but tomorrow I shall condemn You and burn You at the stake as the worst of heretics. And the very people who have kissed Your feet, tomorrow at the faintest sign from me will rush to heap up the embers of Your fire. Know you that? Yes, maybe You know it,' he added with thoughtful penetration, never for a moment taking his eyes off the Prisoner."
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