Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881)
” The man is an enigma. This enigma must be exposed “.
At the age of 18, Dostoevsky had already formulated his vital mission: “Man is an enigma. This enigma must be exposed. And if I spend my life laying it bare, do not tell me I’m wasting my time. I am working on this enigma because I want to be a man.
“I want to be a man.” Dostoevsky possessed a keen sense of human dignity. At the age of 29, on the eve of his Siberian exile (for having participated in the political plot of the members of Petrachevski’s circle, he wrote to his brother: “Brother, I do not despair, I do not get discouraged. life in us, and not in the outside.After me there will be people, and be a man among the people, and always remain, in all kinds of misfortunes, without being discouraged and without falling, that’s what life is about, that’s its meaning, and that idea is rooted in my pulpit and my blood. ”
In Dostoevsky the meaning of man is linked to the meaning of Christ. On the scaffold, a minute before the simulacrum of hanging, he approached his friend Spechniov and whispered in his ear in French these words of great intimacy: in a few moments “we will be with Christ”. At the age of 33, just out of prison, Dostoevsky made a definitive choice in favor of Christ. In prison “I understood myself.I understood Christ.I understood the Russian man.Do not tell me that I do not know the people.I know him, it’s him I received again in my soul Christ, whom I had known in the paternal home when I was a child, but whom I had lost, when I became a “Western liberal.”
At a time of unbelief and doubt, Dostoevsky was going against the grain. Choosing Christ was something very daring, but even more daring was choosing a deeply human Christ. Dostoevsky is fascinated by the humanity of Christ, by his perfect human nature. “I composed my Creed, in which everything is clear and holy. It is very simple, here it is: to believe that there is nothing more beautiful, more profound, more sympathetic, more reasonable, stronger and more perfect than Christ.Better still, if someone demonstrated that Christ is outside the truth, and that indeed the truth was outside of Christ, I would rather remain with Christ than with truth. Dostoevsky has no need of a deity who has not become a man, of a truth which has not been made pulpit. For him Christ is the ideal and perfect man, and not only a God and Savior. At a time when it was customary to insist on the omnipotence and severity of God, this attitude was extremely new and daring. His vision of the “radiant personality of Christ” Dostoevsky owes it to the prison where he read the gospel, the only book once authorized in prison.
Dostoevsky believes in man because he believes in the God made man. In his tragic fall man discovers the face of Christ, radiant, merciful, deeply human. He discovers his dignity and his divine filiation, he purifies himself and saves himself through suffering and penance.
For Dostoevsky the man is the center. “What interests Dostoevsky,” Berdiaev writes, “are people, and only people, with their feelings and thoughts. The cities and their atmosphere, the dirty and disgusting inns are only signs, symbols of the inner and spiritual world of man, the reflection of his inner destiny. In Dostoyevsky’s novels, everything converges on a key character and this key character converges on everything and everyone. This character is an enigma and all must discover his secret.
Dostoevsky is a Christian: all his works are imbued with Christianity. His themes are the God-Man and the man-god, the man and the devil, piety and revolt against God, beauty and nihilism, faith and reason, freedom and evil, suffering and rebellion, sin and repentance, death and resurrection. These are profoundly Christian themes and at the same time profoundly universal. Dostoevsky is an anthropologist. It takes us out of the closed circle of psychologism to direct our consciousness to eternal questions. Dostoevsky knows that the dignity of man manifests itself in its fullness not in the psychological field, but in the spiritual and religious space.
Dostoevsky is a giant. His influence is still huge today. It is surprisingly surprising: it depicts the anthropological catastrophes that threaten the world.