Saturday, September 22, 2007

Dostoevsky, the First Blogger

The great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky published the equivalent of a blog in the 1870s; it was called The Diary of a Writer. It was issued by Dostoevsky in monthly installments beginning in 1876. It ran until his death in January of 1881 except for when he was writing Brothers Karamazov. They have been translated and published in a book by Boris Brasol. He records in his preface:Even today the prolific literary heritage of Dostoievsky is not fully appraised and evaluated, If Pushkin can be called the Raphael of Russian literature, Dostoievsky should he recognized as its Michelangelo. His fame reached its climax in 1880, after his brilliant speech at the unveiling of the Pushkin monument in Moscow. This famous address is recorded in the Diary for the year 1880.Dostoievsky died in St. Petersburg, on January 28, 1881. Enormous crowds attended his funeral: men and women from all walks of life—statesmen of high rank and downtrodden prostitutes; illiterate peasants and distinguished men of letters; army officers and learned scientists; credulous priests and incredulous students—they were all there,Whom did Russia bury with so great a reverence? Was it only one of her famous men of letters? Indeed not, in that coffin lay a noble and lofty man, a prudent teacher, an inspired prophet whose thoughts, like mountain peaks, were always pointed toward heaven, and who had measured the depths of man’s quivering heart with all its struggles, sins, and tempests; its riddles, pains and sorrows; its unseen tears and burning passions. For he did teach men to live and love and suffer. And to the meekest he would offer his brotherly compassion—to all who labor and are heavy laden. He would come to them as an equal, laying before them the wisdom of his soul, his tender understanding of all that, in modern man, is human and even inhuman. He would counsel the doubting and soothe the wounds of those afflicted with distress. And many a hope would thus be restored, many a soul resurrected by the grand visions and magic of his genius.

Certainly what more need be said regarding Dostoevsky’s renown. His great novels require more than one careful reading to release their treasures. Dostoevsky was indeed “an inspired prophet whose thoughts, like mountain peaks, were always pointed toward heaven.” Like the bible his insights require study and careful mining to reveal its riches.

2 comments:

John Apperson said...

Joe,

I purchased the book "Brothers Karamazov" when I was 11 years old. My best friend in Elementary school was Russian. His name is Mike. His family came from Kiev in the Ukraine. They all spoke Russian at home and I enjoyed being around them. Mike had a balalaika in his room. This triangular shaped instrument only has three strings and two of them are tuned the same.

Anyway the "Brothers Karamazov" was tough reading for an 11 year old and I soon gave up. With your glowing review of Dostoevsky I'd better purchase another copy.

Joe said...

John,

I fantasize about being able to read Dostoevsky in the original Russian. What a wonderful privilege that would be. When I could still read German easily, I recall the understated elegance of Kafka in the original.

I’ve read Crime and Punishment, Notes from Underground, Brothers Karamazov, and The Idiot. I cannot imagine reading any of them at age 11, although I found “The Idiot” to be the most accessible. Read “Brothers Karamazov.” Its treasures, though not easily disclosed, are certainly worth the read.

Joe