The Idiot
translated by Henry and Olga Carlisle

There's no poverty in crime, as anyone ought to know that. (26)

When there is torture, there is pain and wounds, physical agony, and all this distracts the mind from mental suffering, so that one is tormented only by the wounds until the moment of death. but the most terrible agony may not be in the wounds themselves but in knowing for curtain that within an hour, then ten minutes, then within half a minute, now at this very instant--your soul will leave your body and you will no longer be a person, and that this is certain; the worst thing is certain. (42)

Human laziness makes people pigeonhole one another at first sight so they do find nothing in common (48)

It turned out first that this new woman knew and understood a great deal--so much that one could only wonder where she had acquired such knowledge and developed such definite ideas. surely is wasn't her library? (62)

He could, moreover, recall moments of the past when strange thoughts would come to him as he gazed into those eyes, as if foretelling in them a sort of deep and mysterious darkness. Her eyes seemed to be asking a riddle. (64)

Nothing of which produced any effect on Nastassya Filippovna, as if she had a stone for a heart and her feelings had withered and died forever. She lived a secluded life, she read, she even studied, and she was fond of music. She had few acquaintances; she associated mostly with wives of functionaries, poor and ridiculous people... (65)

I am always good, itís my one failing, because one shouldnít always be good. (77)

You probably meant to make the point that no instant can be considered pretty and that sometimes five minutes are more precious than great riches. (81) (painting of soldier)

Did you ever feel like that when youíve been frightened, in moments of terror when your reason still functions but to no avail? I think that for instance if a person is faced with inevitable destruction, if a house is falling in on him, he must experience a terrific desire just to sit down, close his eyes, and wait--whatever happens!
      Just then when the weakness was beginning, the priest, with a rapid movement, silently presented the cross to his lips--such a little cross, a square silver cross; presented it to his lips again and again. And at the moment the cross touched his lips he would open his eyes and his legs would move. He kissed the cross greedily, he hurried to kiss it as if he were hurrying not to forget not to take something with him in case of need, but I doubt whether he had any religious feelings at the moment. And if was like this until he was laid down on the plank.
     It is strange that people very rarely faint during those final seconds! On the contrary, the brain is terribly alive and active; it must be racing, racing, racing like a machine at full speed. I imagine how many thoughts must be throbbing together, all unfinished, some of them may be irrelevant and absurd: ĎThat man staring--has a wart on his forehead; and, here, one of the executioners buttons has rusted.í And at the same time he knows everything and remembers everything; there was one point that cannot be forgotten, and he cannot faint, and everything turns around it, around that point. And to think that it must be like this up to the last quarter second, when his head is already on the block, and waits, and--knows, and suddenly he hears the iron slithering down above his head!
     He would certainly hear that! If I were lying there I would especially listen for it, and I would hear it. It might be only a fraction of an instant, but one would have to hear it. And imagine, it is still argued whether the head falls off it perhaps knows for a second it is falling off--what a thought! And what if it is for five seconds? Draw the scaffold so that only the last step is clearly seen in the foreground, the condemned man has just stepped onto it; his head, his face is as white as paper; the priest holds out the cross to him, he seeks it avidly with his blue lips, and he looks and--knows everything. The cross and the head, there is the paining; the faces of the priest, the executioner and his two assistants, and a few heads and eyes below--all this could be painted in subdued tones to render the background. That would be the picture! (85-86)

A child can be told everything! Iíve always been stuck by how poorly grown-ups know children, how poorly even fathers and mothers know their own children. Nothing should be hidden from children on the pretext that they are too little and itís too soon for them to know. What a sad and unfortunate idea! And how quick the children notice it when their fathers consider them too little to understand anything, while they in fact understand everything. Grown-ups donít realize that a child can give extremely serious advice even about difficult matters. (87)

Through children the soul is healed. (88)

I really donít like to be with grown-up, adult people--I realized that a long time ago--I donít like to be with them because I donít know how to behave with them. Whatever they say to me, however kind they are to me, itís always difficult for me to be with them for some reason, and I am terribly glad when I can get away the sooner to my comrades, for my comrades have always been children, not because Iím a child myself, but simply because I am drawn to them. (94)

Beauty like that is strength. One could turn the world upside down with beauty like that. (101)

A fool with a heart and no mind is just as unhappy as a fool with a mind and no heart. Itís an old truth. Here I am, a fool with a heart and no mind, and you are a fool with a mind and no heart, both of us are unhappy, both of us suffer. (102)

"I assure you Iím much less talkative than you think," said the prince. (112)

The prince said the little he had to say in a troubled voice, often faltering and catching his breath. His manner, his whole person expressed intense excitement. (126)

Everything went blank before Ganya, and forgetting himself completely he aimed a blow at his sister with all his strength. The blow would have struck her squarely in the face. But instantly another hand caught Ganyaís. The prince stood between him and his sister.
"Enough. Stop this!" he said forcefully, but also trembling as if from a violent shock.
      "Will you forever be in my way?" roared Ganya, letting go of his sisterís hand, while with his free hand in extreme rage he slapped the prince across the face.
     "Oh!" cried Kolya, ringing her hands. "Oh my!"
      Exclamations were heard on all sides. The prince turned pale. With a strange, reproachful expression he looked straight into Ganyaís eyes; his lips quivered as he tried to say something; a strange and utterly incongruous smile played across them.
      "Well, itís one thing to hit me--but her--I wonít let you!" he said softly at last; but suddenly he could not control himself, and leaving Ganya he covered his face with his hands, went to a corner of the room, stood with his face to the wall, and in a faltering voice said:
     "Oh, how ashamed youíll be for what youíve done!" (137)

If youíre afraid of wolves, you donít go into the forest. (164)

"...but what will the prince say? Heís blushing from head to toe."
      "I think what you say is true, except that youíre exaggerating a great deal," said the prince, who was in fact blushing for some reason.
      "And you, yourself, Prince, have you stolen anything?" (166)

(Story how the old lady dies in her chair) (169-170)

The prince is the first man I have ever met in my whole life whose sincerity and devotion I have believed in. He believes in me at first sight, and I believe in him. (175)

I know nothing, I have seen nothing of life, you are right about that, but I--I consider you will be doing me an honor and not I you. Iím nothing, but you have suffered and come out pure from that hell, and that is a great deal. (184)

"I had no idea you had such a big household," said the prince, with the air of a man thinking of something else altogether. (219)

For I am naked and a pauper and an atom in the vortex of mankind. (221)

When I interpret revelation I am equal to the greatest lord of the land. Because of intellect! (221)

Maybe the country would do you good. (222)

It seems that your pity is stronger than my love. (233)

"I like looking at that painting," Rogozhin muttered after a short silence, as if he had forgotten his question again.
     "At that painting!" exclaimed the prince, struck by a sudden thought. "At that painting! Why, thatís a painting that might make some people lose their faith!" (238)

(Story about the silver cross) (239)

God alone knows what is hidden in those weak and drunken hearts. (240)

The essence of religious feeling doesnít depend on reasoning, and it has nothing to do with wrongdoing or crime or with atheism. There is something else there and there always will be, and atheists will always pass over it and will never be talking about that. But the important thing is that you will recognize it most quickly and clearly in the Russian heart--thatís my conclusion! (241)

The prince left and walked on mechanically wherever his steps hastened to lead him. In early summer in Petersburg there are sometimes lovely days--clear, hot, and still. As if on purpose, this was one of those rare days. For some time the prince wandered aimlessly. He did not know the city well. Sometimes he would stop and pause on street corners before certain houses, in squares, on bridges; once he entered a pastry shop to rest. Sometimes he would watch the passer-by with great interest, but most of the time he noticed neither the people nor where he was going. He was in a state of painful anxiety and his nerves were on edge and at the same time he felt an extraordinary craving for solitude. He wanted to be alone and give himself completely passively to this agonizing tension, without seeking to escape it. (243)

Those moments were nothing less than extraordinary intensification of self-awareness--if the condition was to be described in one word--self awareness and at the same time an extreme consciousness of existence. If in that second--that is, in the last lucid moment before the fit--he had time to say to himself clearly and consciously: ďYes, one might give oneís whole life for this moment!Ē Then that moment by itself would clearly be worth the whole of life. (246)

Compassion is the chief and perhaps the only law of human existence. (250)

Nihilists are sometimes informed people, after all, learned; but these, they have gone further, madam, because before anything else theyíre business men. This is actually a sort of result of nihilism, but not a direct one, more by hearsay and roundabout ways; and they donít express themselves in any little newspaper articles but in direct action... they now take it as a right that if they want something bad enough thereís no reason to stop at any limit, even if to achieve their aim they might have to do in eight or ten people along the way. (277)

"Itís my fault!" said the prince. (301)*

Lunatics! They regard society as savage and inhuman for holding a seduced girl up in shame, but if you regard society as inhuman you must think this girl can be hurt by society. And if sheís hurt by it, why do you bring the matter up in newspapers before this very society if sheís not to be hurt? Lunatics! Conceited creatures! They donít believe in God, they donít believe in Christ! You are so devoured by pride and vanity that you will end by devouring each other, thatís what I predict for you! Isnít that absurdity? Isnít that chaos, isnít that infamy? And after that this shameless creature goes after them and begs their pardon! Are there many like you? (304)

The prince will certainly forgive him and has undoubtedly forgiven him already. (309)*

(IOUs) (320)

Iíll tell you the truth, only you because you can see right through a man: words and actions and lies and truth are all mixed up together in me and all perfectly sincere. Truth and actions are my genuine repentance--believe it or not, I swear it--but I use words and lies in the infernal (and always present) thought of catching people up and drawing an advantage, even from my tears of repentance! (330)

Lack of originality has from the beginning, the world over, always been considered the prime characteristic and the best recommendation of the businesslike, practical man of affairs, and at least ninety-nine percent of mankind (at the very least) has always gone along with that opinion, and only one percent at most, now or in the past, has ever thought otherwise.
   Society has almost always regarded inventors and geniuses at the beginning of their careers--and very often at the end of their careers, too--as no better than fools; this is, to be sure, a platitude familiar to everyone. For example if everyone for decades put his money into a state savings and loan bank and millions had been invested in it at four percent, than quite obviously when the bank ceased to exist and everyone was left to his own devices, the greater part of these millions would inevitably be lost in frantic speculation and fall into the hands of swindlers--as required, indeed, by decency and propriety. Yes, propriety; for it is a proper diffidence and a decent lack of originality have until now, in our society, been by common accord the inalienable qualities of a proper, well-regulated man, then it would be too disrupting, and even indecent, to change this state of affairs suddenly. What tender and devoted mother, for example, would not be horrified and sick with fear if her son or daughter took the slightest step off the beaten path. "No, better to be happy and live in comfort without originality," thinks every mother as she rocks her child to sleep. And from time immemorial our nurses as they rock they children, have crooned, "Dressed in gold, youíll go your way, and be a general one day." So, even to our nannies the rank of general represents the utmost in Russian bliss, and this has always been the most popular national ideal of quiet and gracious felicity. And indeed, once he has passed his examinations and served his time for thirty-five years, who in our country can fail to become a general eventually, and manage to pile up a tidy sum in the bank? This is how a Russian achieves most effortlessly the reputation of being a capable and practical man. In fact, not to become a general is possible here only for an original man; in other words, a restless and searching man. Perhaps there is the possibility of error here, but on the whole it seems certainly true, and our society has been perfctly correct in defining its ideal of the practical person. (347)

Indeed he deserved respect; first, as a man of wealth and a person "not to be overlooked" and secondly, as a man who was eminently decent, while not being impossibly intelligent. But it does appear that a certain dullness of mind is almost an essential quality, if not for every public man, at least for everyone who is seriously interested in making money. (348)

The prince was indeed quite pale as he sat at the round table and at the same time appeared to be in a state of extreme anxiety and, at moments, ceased by a rapture he could not comprehend himself. (352)

She sleeps and eats and you canít rouse her, and then suddenly, once a year, she says something that makes you throw up your hands in amazement. (354)

(Lomonosov, Pushkin and Gogol) (354)

The time must come when the truth be told fully, simply, and openly. But it is a phenomenon that has never been known anywhere, at any time or among any other people, ever, and so it is something accidental and may pass I must admit. For anywhere, a liberal who hates his own country is an impossibility. How can we explain it here? By what I have said before--that up to now, the Russian liberal is an un-Russian liberal; thatís the only explanation. (356)

The most hardened and unrepentant killer still knows that he is a "criminal"; that is, he realizes in his conscience that he has not acted rightly, even though he is unrepentant. And they all were like that; but those who refuse even to consider themselves criminals and they think they are in the right and--that they have even acted well, is where the terrible difference lies. (359)

He said this with a strange and even somewhat comical smile. (361)*

There are ceratin ideas, certain great ideas, that I shouldnít start talking about because I would be sure to make everyone laugh. (362)

(How to load a gun) (375-376)

I know how to load a pistol. Do you know how to load a pistol? First you have to buy the powder, the pistol kind, not damp and not so coarse as the kind for cannons, then you begin by putting the powder in, you get some felt off a door somewhere, and then you drop the bullets in, but not the bullet before the powder or it wonít fire. (381)

Who wrote the verse, ĎThe sun resounded in the heavensí? It makes no sense but itís very good. (392) (authorís comment)

"I challenge all of you, now, you atheists: how are you going to save the world and where are you going to find a proper path for it? You, men of science, of industry, cooperative associates, fair wages, and all that? How are you going to do it? With credit? Where will credit take you?"
      "Dear me, what a curiosity you have," remarked Yevgeny Pavlovitch.
     "In my opinion anyone whose not interested in such questions is a fashionable good-for-nothing, sir!"
      "But at least credit leads to general solidarity and a balance of interests," observed Ptitsyn.
     "And thatís all! Thatís all! Without allowing any moral basis except the gratification of individual egoism and material necessity! Universal peace, universal happiness--out of necessity?"
     "But the universal necessity of living, eating and drinking, and the complete conviction--a scientific one at that--that these necessities cannot be satisfied without universal association and a solidarity of interests, this is seems to me is a solid enough idea to be the basis and the Ďwater of lifeí for future centuries of humanity," said Ganya, now excited in earnest.
      "The necessity of eating and drinking, thatís nothing but the instinct of self-preservation--"
      "And why isnít the instinct of self-preservation enough? After all, the instinct of self-preservation is the normal law of humanity."
      "Who told you that?" Yevgeny Pavlovitch suddenly shouted. "Itís true it is law, but itís no more normal than the law of destruction, and perhaps even self-destruction. Is self-preservation alone the whole normal law of humanity?" (394)

Show me an idea that binds men together today with even half the strength as in those days. And daresay, then, that the Ďwater of lifeí has not been weakened and polluted under this Ďstar,í under this network that has entangled people. And donít try to scare me off with your prosperity, your wealth, the rarity of famine, and the rapidity of the means of communication! Thereís more wealth, but thereís less strength; the binding idea doesnít exist anymore; everything has turned soft, everything is rotten, and people are rotten. Weíre all, all of us rotten! (400)

Donít blush, Prince, or Iíll be sorry for you. (402)

Ask them, just ask them what all of them, every one of them understands by happiness? Oh, you may be certain that Columbus was happy not when he had discovered America but rather when he was just on the point of discovering it; you may be certain that his highest moment of happiness was perhaps three days before the discovery of the New World; when his mutinous crew in desperation almost turned back to Europe? It wasnít the New World that mattered, which could have slipped into the sea. Columbus died having hardly seen it and scarcely knowing what he had discovered. Life is what matters, life alone--the continuous, eternal process of discovering life--and not the discovery of life at all. . . in every serious human thought born in everyoneís brain there is always something left over which is impossible to communicate to others, even though one were to write whole volumes and explain the idea for thirty-five years, there will always be something left which cannot be coaxed out of your brain and will remain with you forever; you will die with it, without ever communicating to anyone what is perhaps the essence of your thought. (414)

People are created to torture one another. (415)

How do you know what seed might have been planted in his soul forever... How can you tell what significance such a communion of one individual with another will have in the latterís destiny for here you have a whole lifetime, with an infinity of ramifications which are hidden from us. The best chess player, the very cleverest, can think only a few moves ahead; a French player who could calculate ten moves ahead was written about as a marvel. But how many moves are there here and how much is unknown to us?
      In planting your seed, in offering your "alms" your good deed in whatever form, you are giving away part of your individuality and receiving part of anotherís; you are communicating one with another already with a certain mutual consideration, and you will be rewarded by knowledge and by the most unexpected discoveries. You will certainly in the end come to look upon what you do as a science; it will absorb your life and perhaps fill it entirely. On the other hand, all your thoughts, all the seeds planted by you, which perhaps you have forgotten, will take root and grow; whoever received them from you will pass them on to another. And how will you know what part of you will have played in shaping the destiny of mankind? If this knowledge and a whole lifetime of this work enables you at last to sow some great seed, to bequeath to the world some great thought, then-- (424)

The picture represented Christ just taken down from the cross. I believe that painter usually have a way of depicting Christ, either on the cross of being taken down from the cross, with a trace of extraordinary beauty still in His face; they strive to preserve this beauty in Him even during His most dreadful agonies. In his painting there was no beauty; it was a faithful representation of the corpse of a man who has borne infinite agony even before crucifixion, who has been wounded, tortured, beaten by guards, beaten by the people when he carried the cross and fell beneath its weight, and who, finally, has suffered the agony of crucifixion, lasting for six hours (by my calculation, at least).
      It is true this is the face of a man who has just been taken down from the cross; that is, a face which still retains much warmth and life; nothing is rigid in it yet, and the suffering seems to continue in the face of the dead man as if he was still feeling it (the artist has caught this very well); on the other hand the face has not been spared in the least; it is no more than nature itself, and the corpse of any man, whoever he may be, must really look like that after such suffering. I know that the Christian Church laid down, even in its early centuries, that Christ did no suffer symbolically but in fact, and that therefore His body on the cross was fully subject to figured by blows, swollen, covered with terrible swollen and bloody bruises, the eyes open, the pupils turned up, the large open whites of the eye bright with a sort of deathly, vitreous gleam.
      But, strange to say, when one looks at this corpse of this tortured man, a certain curious questions arises: if just such a corpse (and it certainly must have been like this) was seen by all His disciples, by those who were to become His chief apostles, by the women who had followed Him and stood at the foot of the cross, by all who believed in Him and adored Him, how could they believe, gazing on such a cadaver as that, that this martyr would be resurrected? Here one cannot help thinking that if death is so terrible and the laws of nature so powerful, then how can they be overcome? How can they be overcome when even He did not vanquish them, He who conquered nature in his lifetime, and whom nature obeyed, who cried ĎTailitha cumi!í and the maiden arose, who cried ĎLazarus, come forth!í and the dead man arose? As one looks at that painting, one conceives of nature in the form of some huge, implacable, dumb beast, or to be more exact, to be much more exact, though it may seem strange, in the form of some huge machine of the latest design which, deaf and unfeeling, has senselessly seized, crushed, and swallowed up a great and priceless Being, a Being worth all of nature and its laws, all the earth, which was perhaps created solely for the advent of that Being! That picture expresses that notion of a dark, insolent, and stupidly eternal force to which everything is subject, and it conveys this to us unconsciously.
      The people surrounding the dead man, none of whom is in the picture, must have felt terrible anguish and dismay on that evening which crushed all their hopes at once and almost their belief. They must have parted in the most awful terror, though each carried away with him a tremendous thought which could never be taken away from him. And if on the eve of the crucifixion the Teacher could have seen His own image as He would be, would He then have mounted the cross and died as He did? That question too comes involuntarily to mind as one looks at the picture. (427-428)

The thing that tortured him was that he was a complete stranger to all of this. What was this banquet, what was this great eternal festival without end, to which he had always, from childhood been drawn, and in which he could never partake? Every morning the same bright sun rises, every morning there is a rainbow on the waterfall, every evening the highest snow capped pinnacle, there on the horizon at the edge of the sky, burns with purple fire; every "little gnat that buzzes around him in the sunshine plays a part in this chorus; it knows its place, loves it, and is happy"; each blade of grass grows and is happy! Everything has its path, and everything knows its path, everything goes fourth with a song; only he knows nothing, understands nothing, neither people nor sounds, a stranger to all things and an outcast. (442)

You have no tenderness; nothing but truth and so you are unfair. (445)

Truly when God wishes to punish a man He first deprives him of his reason. (462)

Sometimes one dreams strange dreams, impossible and unnatural, and upon waking you remember them clearly and are amazed by a very strange thing. You remember before anything else that your reason did not desert you throughout the whole dream; in fact you remember that you acted with extreme cunning and logic throughout; the long, long time you were surrounded my murderers trying to outwit you, disguising their intentions, behaving amicably while holding their weapons in readiness, and only awaiting some sort of signal; you remember how clearly you fooled them at last; hiding from them; then you realize that they had seen through all your deceptions and were only pretending not to know where you were hidden; but you were clever and fooled them again. You remember all this clearly. But how in the same space of time can your reason be reconciled with the manifest absurdities and impossibilities which your dream was filled? (471)@@@

Loves makes people equal. (472)

Poe reference?? (474)

When the very nature of certain ordinary persons consists precisely of their perpetual and unvarying ordinariness, or, better still, when in spite of their most strenuous efforts to lift themselves out of a rut of ordinariness and routine, they still end forever in the identical unvarying routine. (480)

From the desire for originality an honest man is ready to do something base. (482)

What is the most characteristic about these gentlemen is that all their lives they can never find out for certain precisely what it is that they have to discover, what all their lives they are just on the point of discovering: gunpowder or America? But their suffering from the longing for discovery would have indeed satisfied a Colombus or a Galileo. (482)

One needs a heart to understand! (505)

Philosophy is needed, the practical application of it would be very useful in our age, but itís neglected, thatís the trouble.(506)

Thatís a weakness which always overcomes a man when he really wants to find something, whenever important or distressing losses occur; one sees there is nothing there, the place is bare, and still one looks over it a dozen times or more. (508)

Once he had put his faith in something, nothing could sway him.(537)

Better to be unhappy and know than to be happy and--fooled. (538)

Roman Catholicism (560-561)

It is not only vanity, not only bad vain feelings that make Russian atheists and Russian Jesuits, but also spiritual agony, spiritual thirst, an anguished longing for something higher, for firm ground, for a fatherland in which they have lost faith because they have never even known it! It is so easy for a Russian to become an atheist, easier than for anyone else in the world! And our people donít simply become atheists, they infallibly believe in atheism as though it was a new religion, without being aware they are believing in nothingness. Such is our thirst! ĎWhoever has no firm ground beneath his feet has no God either.í(563)

I believer itís sometimes even good to be ridiculous, yes much better. People forgive each other more ready and become more humble, we canít understand everything at once, we canít begin with perfection.! To reach perfection there must first be much we do not understand. And if we understand too quickly we will probably not understand very well, (569)

Why disappear and give place to others when we might remain in the lead and first in rank? Let us be men of progress, then we shall lead. Let us be servants so as to be masters. (570)

I know itís not right to talk. Better to set an example, better just to start--I have already started--and--and--can anyone really be unhappy? Oh, what do my grief and my misfortune matter if I have the strength to be happy? You know, I donít understand how one can walk by a tree and not be happy at the sight of it! Or to speak with a man and not be happy in loving him? Oh, itís just that I canít express it--and yet there are so many things at every step so beautiful that even the most desolate of men find them beautiful. Look at a child, look at Godís sunrise, look at the grass, how it grows, look into the eyes that look at you and love you--(570)

I feel sorry for you, not the vase. (574)

They say that not to be surprised at anything is the sign of great inelegance. In my opinion, it might just as well signify great stupidity. (576)

He lay down on the couch and closed his eyes. (580)*

It was true that there was in her a great deal that was bookish, dreamily romantic, capricious, and fanciful, but there was also much that was strong and deep. The prince understood that, there was a look of suffering in his face. (586)

The prince did not know what more to ask or how to finish his question. Moreover his heart was beating so hard it was difficult for him to speak. (621)

When the fear goes, Iíll get up.(624)

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