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Dostoyevsky'S Existentialism

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Dostoyevsky's existentialism

Existentialism is a philosophical movement or tendency, emphasizing individual existence, freedom and choice, it is almost a religion which assures its believers there is no God, but your actions and consequences are the ones that regulate what you are and will be. Most existentialists define themselves the theory they will follow, depending on their belief. Plato held that the highest ethical good is the same for everyone (as one approaches moral perfection, one resembles other morally perfect individuals); on the other hand, Kierkegaard insisted that the highest good for the individual is to find his or her own unique vocation, as he once said existentialists have to find "the idea for which [they] can live or die for". While some great thinkers and philosophers express their ideas through newspapers and journals; I, Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky, wrote many books and articles communicating through them my beliefs, being considered the greatest existentialist literary figure.

I was born on a lower-middle-class family in 1821; and the second of seven children. My early education was in an army engineering school, where I was bored with the dull routine and the unimaginative student life. Therefore, I spent most of my time reading the latest authors and writing short stories myself; literature was definitely my weakness. My mother died before I turned sixteen and later on my father was killed by the serfs, my "happy" careless days had ended by then; afterwards, I would have an obsessive interest in death which would later become apparent in all my books. The subject of crime, and murder would become visible in every new publication.

After school (1843) I was appointed an engineer at a post far away from St. Petersburg, but although it was a modest place, I was afraid to lose the chance to make a writing career possible only in the capital. Therefore, in 1844 I quit

the job and went back to the city. Naturally, I was impoverished and could barely afford my own food. I changed places often, and strangely all were located at the corner of a building.

My first work was a translation of Balzac's novel Eugenie Grandet(1844); but I finally gained fame, after two years of struggling economically, when I published Poor Folk (1846) which launched my literary career. This novel was an immediate and popular success, and more importantly, highly acclaimed by the critics. The reviewers praised me for my social awareness, and said I was the first Russian author to "thoroughly examine the psychological complexity of man's inner feelings and the intricate workings of the mind" (Carey and Roberts,2000 : 5).

Following Poor Folk, my only important novel for many years was The Double (1846), a short work dealing with a split personality and containing the origins of a later masterpiece, Crime and Punishment. Despite the fact that Vissarion Belinsky, the most influential critic of the day, had previously approved my novel, he now reacted coldly to this work of mine and my subsequent novels and short stories: Mr Prokharchin (1846) and The Landlady (1847), depicting them as a "devoid of a social message".

Russia by this time was in the middle of some of the most active, changing phases in its history, and I had an unusually active role in this era of change. Using influences acquired with my literary achievements, I became involved in a group led by Mikhail Petrashevsky, which met to discuss literary and political issues. We all wrote articles concerning the various political questions, which were later published. This was illegal and all printing should have been controlled and censored by the government. Unsurprisingly, all of the rebel-writers and myself were soon deemed treasonous revolutionaries and placed in prison. After several months in,

prison some of the "rebels" and I were tried, found guilty, and condemned to be shot by a firing squad. When all was ready and seconds before the shots were to be fired, a messenger form the Tsar arrived delivering an official pardon.

Following the commutation of the death sentence, I was sent to Siberia to do hard labor. What I experienced here and my near-death incident haunted me for the rest of my life. In The House of the Dead (1862), I described my life as a prisoner and demonstrated an insight into the criminal mind, and an understanding of the Russian lower classes. While in prison, I had an intense study of the New Testament, the only book I was allowed to read, which contributed to my rejection of my earlier liberal political views and led me to the conviction that redemption is possible only through suffering and faith. I had certainly undergone a profound spiritual and philosophical transformation.

During the year of 1854, I was released form the prison camp; but unfortunately, I was forced to serve as a soldier in a Siberian garrison for five more years. Until 1859, I was finally allowed to return to my beloved St. Petersburg, where I eagerly resumed my literary career. I founded two bulletins, and wrote articles and short fiction stories. The articles expressed my new-found belief in a social and political order based on the spiritual values of the Russian people. Further personal and professional misfortunes happened, the forced closing of my journals by the authorities, the deaths of my wife and brother, and a financially devastating addiction to gambling.

In a somber and devastating atmosphere I wrote Notes from the Underground (1864) and Crime and Punishment (1866). In the first book, contemporary social and political views are satirized by presenting a narrator whose "notes" reveal that his allegedly progressive beliefs lead only to sterility and inaction. Meanwhile, Crime and Punishment is the novel in which I first develop the theme of redemption through suffering. The main character Raskolnikov (meaning

in Russian "division" or "split") is presented as the personification of spiritual nihilism. The novel depicts the harrowing confrontation between his philosophical beliefs, which prompt him to commit a murder in an attempt to prove his supposed "superiority", and his inherent morality, which later condemns his actions.

Europe seemed like the only escape from creditors, and that is exactly were I went with my second wife. The years of 1867 to the beginning of 1871 were distressing ones due to financial and personal difficulties, and although all this was happening I had some fruitful outcomes, for I completed one novel (The Idiot) and began another (The Possessed) . The Idiot (1869), influenced by Hans Holbein's paiting Christ Taken from the Cross and by my opposition to the growing atheist



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