EVERYMAN'S LIBRARY EDITED BY ERNEST RHYS
THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY JULIUS BRAMONT
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A TALE WHICH HOLDETH CHILDREN FROM PLAY & OLD MEN FROM THE CHIMNEY CORNER
SIR PHILIP SIDNEY
THE HOUSE _of the_ DEAD _or Prison Life in Siberia_
BY FEDOR DOSTOIEFFSKY
LONDON: PUBLISHED by J.M. DENT & SONS LTD AND IN NEW YORK BY E. P. DUTTON & CO
FIRST ISSUE OF THIS EDITION 1911 REPRINTED 1914
"The Russian nation is a new and wonderful phenomenon in the history of mankind. The character of the people differs to such a degree from that of the other Europeans that their neighbours find it impossible to diagnose them." This affirmation by Dostoieffsky, the prophetic journalist, offers a key to the treatment in his novels of the troubles and aspirations of his race. He wrote with a sacramental fervour whether he was writing as a personal agent or an impersonal, novelist or journalist. Hence his rage with the calmer men, more gracious interpreters of the modern Sclav, who like Ivan Tourguenieff were able to see Russia on a line with the western nations, or to consider her maternal throes from the disengaged, safe retreat of an arm-chair exile in Paris. Not so was _l'ame Russe_ to be given her new literature in the eyes of M. Dostoieffsky, strained with watching, often red with tears and anger.
Those other nations, he said--proudly looking for the symptoms of the world-intelligence in his own--those other nations of Europe may maintain that they have at heart a common aim and a common ideal. In fact they are divided among themselves by a thousand interests, territorial or other. Each pulls his own way with ever-growing determination. It would seem that every individual nation aspires to the discovery of the universal ideal for humanity, and is bent on attaining that ideal by force of its own unaided strength. Hence, he argued, each European nation is an enemy to its own welfare and that of the world in general.
To this very disassociation he attributed, without quite understanding the rest of us, our not understanding the Russian people, and our taxing them with "a lack of personality." We failed to perceive their rare synthetic power--that faculty of the Russian mind to read the aspirations of the whole of human kind. Among his own folk, he avowed, we would find none of the imperviousness, the intolerance, of the average European. The Russian adapts himself with ease to the play of contemporary thought and has no difficulty in assimilating any new idea. He sees where it will help his fellow-creatures and where it fails to be of value. He divines the process by which ideas, even the most divergent, the most hostile to one another, may meet and blend.