Best quotes from Братья Карамазовы

By Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Constance Garnett, Ralph E. Matlaw

513 Quotes    4.3 

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What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.

Aus dem dämmrigen Dunkel der Nacht trat eine feste, schwarze Masse von Gebäuden hervor, die sich über einer gewaltigen Fläche ausbreiteten. Das Dorf Mokroje zählte zweitausend Seelen; um diese Stunde schlief jedoch schon alles, nur hier und da schimmerten spärliche Lichter durch die Dunkelheit.

With respect to the requirement of art, the probable impossible is always preferable to the improbable possible.

Nothing has ever been more insupportable for a man and a human society than freedom.
–The Grand Inquisitor

It’s not God that I don’t accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return him the ticket.

Is there in the whole world a being who would have the right to forgive and could forgive? I don't want harmony. From love for humanity I don't want it. I would rather be left with the unavenged suffering. I would rather remain with my unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation, even if I were wrong. Besides, too high a price is asked for harmony; it's beyond our means to pay so much to enter on it. And so I hasten to give back my entrance ticket, and if I am an honest man I am bound to give it back as soon as possible. And that I am doing. It's not God that I don't accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return him the ticket.

I can see the sun, but even if I cannot see the sun, I know that it exists. And to know that the sun is there - that is living.

I punish myself for my whole life, my whole life I punish.

Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last. Imagine that you are doing this but that it is essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature...in order to found that edifice on its unavenged tears. Would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me. Tell the truth.

Comedy aims at representing men as worse, Tragedy as better than in actual life.

Remember particularly that you cannot be a judge of anyone. For no one can judge a criminal until he recognizes that he is just such a criminal as the man standing before him, and that he perhaps is more than all men to blame for that crime. When he understands that, he will be able to be a judge. Though that sounds absurd, it is true. If I had been righteous myself, perhaps there would have been no criminal standing before me. If you can take upon yourself the crime of the criminal your heart is judging, take it at once, suffer for him yourself, and let him go without reproach. And even if the law itself makes you his judge, act in the same spirit so far as possible, for he will go away and condemn himself more bitterly than you have done. If, after your kiss, he goes away untouched, mocking at you, do not let that be a stumbling-block to you. It shows his time has not yet come, but it will come in due course. And if it come not, no matter; if not he, then another in his place will understand and suffer, and judge and condemn himself, and the truth will be fulfilled. Believe that, believe it without doubt; for in that lies all the hope and faith of the saints.

For not only is an odd man "not always" a particular and isolated case, but, on the contrary, it sometimes happens that it is precisely he, perhaps, who bears within himself the heart of the whole, while the other people of his epoch have all for some reason been torn away from it for a time by some kind of flooding wind.

After all, it is sometimes rather enjoyable to feel insulted, is it not? For the person knows that no one has insulted him, and that he himself has thought up the insult and told lies as an ornament, has exaggerated in order to create a certain impression, has seized on a word and made a mountain out of a molehill – is well aware of this, and yet is the very first to feel insulted, feel insulted to the point of pleasure, to the point of great satisfaction, and for that very reason ends up nurturing a sense of true animosity…

he was partly a young man of our time - that is, honest by nature, demanding the truth, seeking it and believing in it, and in that belief demanding immediate participation in it with all the strength of his soul; demanding an immediate deed, with an unfailing desire to sacrifice everything for this deed, even life. Although, unfortunately, these young men do not understand that the sacrifice of life is, perhaps, the easiest of all sacrifices in many cases, while to sacrifice, for example, five or six years of their ebulliently youthful life to hard, difficult studies, to learning, in order to increase tenfold their strength to serve the very truth and the very deed that they loved and set out to accomplish - such sacrifice is often almost beyond the strength of many of them.

Love life more than the meaning of it?

The more stupid one is, the closer one is to reality. The more stupid one is, the clearer one is. Stupidity is brief and artless, while intelligence squirms and hides itself. Intelligence is unprincipled, but stupidity is honest and straightforward.

Is there beauty in Sodom? Believe me, that for the immense mass of mankind beauty is found in Sodom. Did you know that secret? The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man.

I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world's finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, for all the blood that they've shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened.

I tell Thee that man is tormented by no greater anxiety than to find someone quickly to whom he can hand over that gift of freedom with which the ill-fated creatures is born. But only one who can appease their conscience can take over their freedom […] Instead of taking men's freedom from them, Thou didst make it greater than ever! Didst Thou forget that man prefers peace, and even death, to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil?

The old grief of the great mystery of human life gradually passes into a quiet, tender joy; in place of the boiling blood of youth there comes a meek serene old age: I bless the daily rising of the sun, and my heart sings to it as it did of old, but now I am more enamored of its setting, its long, oblique rays, and the quiet, gentle, tender memories that accompany them, the dear images from the whole of a long and blessed life--and above it all the truth of God, moving, reconciling, all-forgiving!

If he's honest, he'll steal; if he's human, he'll murder; if he's faithful, he'll deceive.

And what's strange, what would be marvelous, is not that God should really exist; the marvel is that such an idea, the idea of the necessity of God, could enter the head of such a savage, vicious beast as man.

I love mankind, he said, "but I find to my amazement that the more I love mankind as a whole, the less I love man in particular.

Being at a loss to resolve these questions, I am resolved to leave them without any resolution.

By the experience of active love. Strive to love your neighbour actively and indefatigably. In as far as you advance in love you will grow surer of the reality of God and of the immortality of your soul. If you attain to perfect self-forgetfulness in the love of your neighbour, then you will believe without doubt, and no doubt can possibly enter your soul. This has been tried. This is certain.

No, I can't admit it. Brother,' said Alyosha suddenly, with flashing eyes, 'you said just now, is there a being in the whole world who would have the right to forgive and could firgive? But there is a Being and He can forgive everything, all and for all, because He gave His innocent blood for all and everything. You have forgotten Him, and on Him is built the edifice, and it is to Him they cry aloud, "Thou art just, O Lord, for Thy ways are revealed!

Truly,' I answered him, 'all things are good and fair, because all is truth. Look,' said I, 'at the horse, that great beast that is so near to man; or the lowly, pensive ox, which feeds him and works for him; look at their faces, what meekness, what devotion to man, who often beats them mercilessly. What gentleness, what confidence and what beauty! It's touching to know that there's no sin in them, for all, all except man, is sinless, and Christ has been with them before us.

When all are undressed, one is somehow not ashamed, but when one's the only one undressed and everybody is looking, it's degrading,' he kept repeating to himself, again and again. 'It's like a dream, I've sometimes dreamed of being in such degrading positions.' It was a misery to him to take off his socks. They were very dirty, and so were his underclothes, and now everyone could see it. And what was worse, he disliked his feet. All his life he had thought both his big toes hideous. He particularly loathed the coarse, flat, crooked nail on the right one, and now they would all see it. Feeling intolerably ashamed made him, at once and intentionally, rougher. He pulled off his shirt, himself.

God preserve you, my dear boy, from ever asking forgiveness for a fault from a woman you love. From one you love especially, however greatly you may have been in fault. For a woman--devil only knows what to make of a woman: I know something about them, anyway. But try acknowledging you are in fault to a woman. Say, "I am sorry, forgive me," and a shower of reproaches will follow! Nothing will make her forgive you simply and directly, she'll humble you to the dust, bring forward things that have never happened, recall everything, forget nothing, add something of her own, and only then forgive you. And even the best, the best of them do it. She'll scrape up all the scrapings and load them on your head. They are ready to flay you alive, I tell you, every one of them, all these angels without whom we cannot live! I tell you plainly and openly, dear boy, every decent man ought to be under some woman's thumb. That's my conviction--not conviction, but feeling. A man ought to be magnanimous, and it's no disgrace to a man! No disgrace to a hero, not even a Caesar! But don't ever beg her pardon all the same for anything...

Love all God’s creation, both the whole and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of light. Love the animals, love the plants, love each separate thing. If thou love each thing thou wilt perceive the mystery of God in all; and when once thou perceive this, thou wilt thenceforward grow every day to a fuller understanding of it: until thou come at last to love the whole world with a love that will then be all-embracing and universal.

There’s a book here in which I read about the trial of a Jew, who took a child of four years old and cut off the fingers from both hands, and then crucified him on the wall, hammered nails into him and crucified him, and afterwards, when he was tried, he said that the child died soon, within four hours. That was ‘soon’! He said the child moaned, kept on moaning and he stood admiring it. That’s nice!
Nice?
Nice; I sometimes imagine that it was I who crucified him. He would hang there moaning and I would sit opposite him eating pineapple compote. I am awfully fond of pineapple compote. Do you like it?
Alyosha looked at her in silence. Her pale, sallow face was suddenly contorted, her eyes burned.
You know, when I read about that Jew I shook with sobs all night. I kept fancying how the little thing cried and moaned (a child of four years old understands, you know), and all the while the thought of pineapple compote haunted me. In the morning I wrote a letter to a certain person, begging him particularly to come and see me. He came and I suddenly told him all about the child and the pineapple compote. All about it, all, and said that it was nice. He laughed and said it really was nice. Then he got up and went away. He was only here five minutes. Did he despise me? Did he despise me? Tell me, tell me, Alyosha, did he despise me or not? She sat up on the couch, with flashing eyes.

In most cases, people, even wicked people, are far more naive and simple-hearted than one generally assumes. And so are we.

And so in that very shame I suddenly begin a hymn.

We don't understand that life is heaven, for we have only to understand that and it will at once be fulfilled in all its beauty, we shall embrace each other and weep.

Be near your brothers. Not just one, but both of them.

One cannot prove anything here, but it is possible to be convinced.'
How? By what?'
By the experience of active love. Try to love your neighbors actively and tirelessly. The more you succeed in loving, the more you'll be convinced of the existence of God and the immortality of your soul. And if you reach complete selflessness in the love of your neighbor, then undoubtedly you will believe, and no doubt will even be able to enter your soul. This has been tested. It is certain...
Active love is a harsh and fearful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams thirsts for immediate action, quickly performed, and with everyone watching. Indeed, it will go as far as the giving even of one's life, provided it does not take long but is soon over, as on stage, and everyone is looking on and praising. Whereas active love is labor and perseverance, and for some people, perhaps, a whole science...in that very moment when you see with horror that despite all your efforts, you not only have not come nearer your goal but seem to have gotten farther from it, at that very moment...you will suddenly reach your goal and will clearly behold over you the wonder-working power of the Lord, who all the while has been loving you, and all the while has been mysteriously guiding you.

Though these young men unhappily fail to
understand that the sacrifice of life is, in many cases, the easiest of
all sacrifices, and that to sacrifice, for instance, five or six years of
their seething youth to hard and tedious study, if only to multiply
tenfold their powers of serving the truth and the cause they have set
before them as their goal--such a sacrifice is utterly beyond the strength
of many of them.

They were like two enemies in love with one another.

Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.

And so will I here state just plainly and briefly that I accept God. But I must point out one thing: if God does exist and really created the world, as we well know, he created it according to the principles of Euclidean geometry and made the human brain capable of grasping only three dimensions of space. Yet there have been and still are mathematicians and philosophers-among them some of the most outstanding-who doubt that the whole universe or, to put it more generally, all existence was created to fit Euclidean geometry; they even dare to conceive that two parallel lines that, according to Euclid, never do meet on earth do, in fact, meet somewhere in infinity. And so my dear boy, I’ve decided that I am incapable of understanding of even that much, I cannot possibly understand about God.

I think the devil doesn't exist, but man has created him, he has created him in his own image and likeness.

My task is to explain to you as quickly as possible my essence, that is, what sort of man I am, what I believe in, and what I hope for, is that right? And therefore I declare that I accept God pure and simple. But this, however, needs to be noted: if God exists and if he indeed created the earth, then, as we know perfectly well, he created it in accordance with Euclidean geometry, and he created human reason with a conception of only three dimensions of space. At the same time there were and are even now geometers and philosophers, even some of the most outstanding among them, who doubt that the whole universe, or, even more broadly, the whole of being, was created purely in accordance with Euclidean geometry; they even dare to dream that two parallel lines, which according to Euclid cannot possibly meet on earth, may perhaps meet somewhere in infinity. I, my dear, have come to the conclusion that if I cannot understand even that, then it is not for me to understand about God. I humbly confess that I do not have any ability to resolve such questions, I have a Euclidean mind, an earthly mind, and therefore it is not for us to resolve things that are not of this world. And I advise you never to think about it, Alyosha my friend, and most especially about whether God exists or not. All such questions are completely unsuitable to a mind created with a concept of only three dimensions. And so, I accept God, not only willingly, but moreover I also accept his wisdom and his purpose, which are completely unknown to us; I believe in order, in the meaning of life, I believe in eternal harmony, in which we are all supposed to merge, I believe in the Word for whom the universe is yearning, and who himself was 'with God,' who himself is God, and so on and so forth, to infinity. Many words have been invented on the subject. It seems I'm already on a good path, eh? And now imagine that in the final outcome I do not accept this world of God's, created by God, that I do not accept and cannot agree to accept. With one reservation: I have a childlike conviction that the sufferings will be healed and smoothed over, that the whole offensive comedy of human contradictions will disappear like a pitiful mirage, a vile concoction of man's Euclidean mind, feeble and puny as an atom, and that ultimately, at the world's finale, in the moment of eternal harmony, there will occur and be revealed something so precious that it will suffice for all hearts, to allay all indignation, to redeem all human villainy, all bloodshed; it will suffice not only to make forgiveness possible, but also to justify everything that has happened with men--let this, let all of this come true and be revealed, but I do not accept it and do not want to accept it! Let the parallel lines even meet before my own eyes: I shall look and say, yes, they meet, and still I will not accept it.

Besides, nowadays, almost all capable people are terribly afraid of being ridiculous, and are miserable because of it.

I can't bear it that some man, even with a lofty heart and the highest mind, should start from the ideal of the Madonna and end with the ideal of Sodom. It's even more fearful when someone who already has the ideal of Sodom in his soul does not deny the ideal of the Madonna either, and his hear burns with it, verily, verily burns, as in his young, blameless years. No, man is broad, even too broad, I would narrow him down. Devil knows even what to make of him, that's the thing! What's shame for the mind is beauty all over for the heart. Can there be beauty in Sodom? Believe me, for the vast majority of people, that's just where beauty lies--did you know that secret? The terrible thing is that beauty is not only fearful but also mysterious. Here the devil is struggling with God, and the battlefield is the human heart. But, anyway, why kick against the pricks?

In life there are certain sores that, like a canker, gnaw at the soul in solitude and diminish it.

You must know that there is nothing higher and stronger and more wholesome and good for life in the future than some good memory, especially a memory of childhood, of home. People talk to you a great deal about your education, but some good, sacred memory, preserved from childhood, is perhaps the best education. If a man carries many such memories with him into life, he is safe to the end of his days, and if one has only one good memory left in one's heart, even that may sometime be the means of saving us.

Brother, I’m not depressed and haven’t lost spirit. Life everywhere is life, life is in ourselves and not in the external. There will be people near me, and to be a human being among human beings, and remain one forever, no matter what misfortunes befall, not to become depressed, and not to falter – this is what life is, herein lies its task.

در زندگی زخمهایی است که روح را آهسته در انزوا می خورد ومیتراشد

... active love is a harsh and fearful thing compared with the love in dreams. Love in dreams thirsts for immediate action, quickly performed, and with everyone watching. Indeed, it will go as far as the giving even of one's life, provided it does not take long but is soon over, as on stage, and eveyone is looking on and praising. Whereas active love is labor and persistence, and for some people, perhaps, a whole science.

....a person's true security consists not in his own persinal, solitary effort, but in the common integrity of mankind.

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