"The idea has occurred to me that if one wanted to crush, to annihilate a man utterly, to inflict on him the most terrible of punishments so that the most ferocious murderer would shudder at it and dread it beforehand, one need only give him work of an absolutely, completely useless and irrational character." (House of the Dead)
I came to Dostoevsky through Bakhtin in 1994. Reading Bakhtin's work for four months lead me to Dostoevsky's texts themselves: Notes from the Underground, Crime and Punishment and the Writer's Diary (parts one and two).
The project of the Writer's Diary continues to be one of my favorites. Especially as an independent artist working to build and develop a body of work and readers.
Dostoevsky thought himself weak in philosophy (as a practice, not as a lover of the act). He was able to stretch beyond himself through the creative process—extending his art past his considerable limitations as a man (as a Gambler and in his hatred for Jewish people).
In many of his works, but especially in Crime and Punishment, he grappled with the problem of humanity. How was man to relate to the world? How could he reveal the scope and specific character of those relations?
"Humanity, kindness, brotherly sympathy are sometimes of more use to patients then any medicines. It is high time we gave up apathetic complaints of being corrupted by our environment. It is true no doubt that it does destroy a great deal in us, but not everything, and often a crafty and knowing rogue, especially if he is an eloquent speaker or writer, will cover up not simply weakness but often real baseness, justifying it by the influence of his 'environment.'" (House of the Dead)
Embedded in every work I write is my belief in being more beautiful than broken. This belief demands a considerable strength—of spirit and intellect. This strength is required to stand in the midst of one environment and not only conceive of, but work to create, a possible world, one many deny the possibility of. When Tuvia and Zus escaped their imprisionment—took to the forest, and set about saving women, elderly, infirm and children instead of killing (Nazi)—they chose a resistance of a different type altogether.
"But in spite of all possible points of view every one will admit that there are crimes which always and everywhere from the beginning of the world, under all legal systems, have unhesitatingly been considered crimes, and will be considered so as long as man remains human." (House of the Dead)
Life or Honor: Life As Stranger speaks to these crimes. They reside in our national politics; they reside in our homes themselves; they reside in our psyche. These are my own notes from the House of the Dead.
For as little as one dollar you can join me.
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