November 11 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Russian philosopher and novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, whose works have been translated into many languages, and his ideas and fictional characters have become part of humanity’s cultural heritage.
Some of Dostoevsky’s writings are based on his own experiences such as Memoirs from a Dead House in which he conveys his experience in a Siberian prison where he was sentenced in 1849 to four years of hard labor.
To avoid government censorship after his release, Dostoevsky embodied his emotions into a fictional criminal, and among the papers of these semi-fiction novels lies the touch of immortality; these actions reflect not only Dostoevsky’s psyche during his political imprisonment in Russia in the 19th century, but we can also down our experience
In his novel Memories from the House of the Dead, the Russian novelist talks about the suffering of prisoners between longing and repressed desires, in “Memories from the House of the Dead,” says the protagonist and narrator Alexander Petrovich, “During my solitude, I reviewed my past life to the smallest details.”
In the novel, the protagonist narrator is sentenced to deportation to Siberia and 10 years of hard labor, narrating his suffering in prison as a nobleman who suffers from the malice of other prisoners, eventually overcomes his disgust at his situation and convicted colleagues, and undergoes a spiritual awakening culminating in his release from the camp.
Dostoevsky portrays prison inmates with sympathy for their plight, also expresses admiration for their energy, creativity and talent, and concludes that the existence of the prison, with its absurd practices and brutal corporal punishments, is a tragic fact, both for prisoners and for Russia.
Dostoevsky combined people of all classes and religions amid harsh prison conditions, and thanks to this experience touched a topic very close to the heart of Leo Tolstoy who described Memoirs from the House of the Dead as “the best work in all modern works, including that of Alexander Pushkin.”
Irish writer James Joyce praised Dostoevsky’s writings, stressing that he is “the novelist who invented modern prose, refined it in its contemporary form, and shattered the foundations of European Victorian-era novels with their simple thought and common practices coordinated and free from imagination and violence.”
The Demons, characterized by a style of social and political irony, is best described by modern situations, especially in the world of mass politics, where humans are portrayed as eternal slaves because of their animal instincts.
In Demons, dreams turn into nightmares, and Dostoevsky explains what happens when people become slaves to ideas perceived as more realistic than human beings. This ideology is about 50 years ahead of the Leninist revolution, and Dostoevsky has tried to warn us of ideologues even if they have great ideas on ways to improve humanity, especially those who justify any means of serving their beliefs. In short, the ideas espoused by the characters in Dostoevsky’s novels are a reflection of his personal ideas.
Dostoevsky’s thought inspired British writer Iris Murdoch to formulate what she called the philosophy of “selflessness,” which means that “philosophy is often a matter of finding opportunities to say all that is clear and promote the principle of the supremacy of good.”