Dostoyevski and the Religion of Suffering

Dost_card_135 The Fortnightly Review is providing a translation of the segment from Eugène-Melchior de Vogüé's Le roman russe (1886) in 6 parts. From part 1:

HERE COMES THE SCYTHIAN, the true Scythian, who is going to revolutionize all our intellectual habits! We accompany him into the very heart of Moscow, into that monstrous cathedral of Saint Basil, shaped and painted like a Chinese pagoda, built by Tartar architects and yet harboring the Christian’s God!

Turgeneff [Turgenev] and Dostoyevsky, though at school together and embarking together in the same intellectual movement, and though making their début the same year, yet stand in violent contrast to each other. The one thing they had in common was human sympathy, that distinctive mark of the men of “The ‘Forties.” In Dostoyevsky this feeling became exalted into a despairing compassion for the poor, and this made him the special teacher of this class which believed in him.

Invisible bonds exist between all forms of art born in the same hour. The desire which led all these Russian writers the study the realities of life s, and the influences which, at the same moment, induced the great landscape painters of France to study nature, seem to have sprung from the same source. Corot, Rousseau, Millet, illustrate a common tendency, combined with the personal differences which existed in and characterized their respective talents. The preference given to either of these painters will indicate the preference to be given to either of those writers. I do not wish to force the comparison, but it is yet the only means for rapidly putting one’s mind at ease in regard to the unknown.

Corot stands for Turgeneff’s grace and poesy; Rousseau for Tolstoy’s simple grandeur, and Millet for Dostoyevsky’s tragic bitterness.

His novels are now translated in France, but what astonishes me is that they are read everywhere with pleasure. It puts me at ease when writing about them.

I should not have believed it if I had tried to describe this strange figure before the resemblance could have been verified by the reading of his novels. But these would be difficult to understand unless one knew the life of the writer who created them – I was going to say experienced them. Never mind – the former word indicates the latter.

Part 2 here.