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On this day in 1821 the Russian novelist and writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky was born.
In 1849 he was arrested for his involvement in the Petrashevsky Circle, a literary and political society. He was suspected of plotting revolution, and condemned to death. At the last moment, a note from Tsar Nicholas I was delivered to the firing squad, commuting the sentence to four years labour in Siberia.
Although Dostoyevsky’s addictions to gambling and beautiful women are well known, he is justly revered as one of the greatest writers of all time. Here is part of a poem by Mikhail Lermontov, a favourite poet of his, I’m to Believe:
I’m to believe, but with some fear,
For I haven’t tried it all before,
That every monk could be sincere
And live as he by altar swore;
That smiles and kisses of all people
Could be perfidious only once;
That virtue is not just a sound,
And life is more than a dream.
But rough and hardened life’s experience,
Repulse my warm faith every time,
My mind, sunk, as before, in grievance,
Has not achieved its goal, prime,
And heart, full of the sharp frustrations,
Holds in its deep the clear trace
Of dead – but blest imaginations,
And vanished senses’ easy shades;
There will be none for it to fear,
And what’s a poison for all them,
Makes it alive and feeds it here
With its ironic, mocking flame.
Today I ask that I will be steadfast in my beliefs whatever the consequences may be.