Today, instead of a piece from a short story, I chose an excerpt from a 667 page book I happened to start reading, one which I have always wanted to read and which seems timeless in its characters and its insight into honesty, love and goodness and integrity.
Sometimes, the most wonderful thing about beautiful powerfully written prose is the melodic cadence of reading it aloud. This piece from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot“, speaks volumes on class, intelligence and the pursuit of happiness. It rings as true today as it did in 1869 when it was first published.
“There is nothing so annoying as to be fairly rich, of a fairly good family, pleasing presence, average education, to be “not stupid,” kind-hearted, and yet to have no talent at all, no originality, not a single idea of one’s own–to be, in fact, “just like everyone else.” To have wealth, but not that of Rothschild’s; to be from an honoured family but that has never distinguished itself for anything relevant; to be good looking but with it, not expressing anything in particular; to have intelligence, but no original ideas; to have a good heart, but no soul grandiosity; to have good education, but not even know what to do with it etc etc..
For instance, when the whole essence of an ordinary person’s nature lies in his perpetual and unchangeable common placeness; and when in spite of all his endeavours to do something out of the common, this person ends, eventually, by remaining in his unbroken line of routine–. I think such an individual really does become a type of his own–a type of common placeness which will not for the world, if it can help it, be contented, but strains and yearns to be something original and independent, without the slightest possibility of being so.
Of such people there are countless numbers in this world–far more even than appear. They can be divided into two classes as all men can–that is, those of limited intellect, and those who are much cleverer. The former of these classes is the happier.
To a commonplace man of limited intellect, for instance, nothing is simpler than to imagine himself an original character, and to revel in that belief without the slightest misgiving.
Many of our young women have thought fit to cut their hair short, put on blue spectacles, and call themselves Nihilists. By doing this they have been able to persuade themselves, without further trouble, that they have acquired new convictions of their own. Some men have but felt some little qualm of kindness towards their fellow-men, and the fact has been quite enough to persuade them that they stand alone in the van of enlightenment and that no one has such humanitarian feelings as they. Others have but to read an idea of somebody else’s, and they can immediately assimilate it and believe that it was a child of their own brain. The “impudence of ignorance,” if I may use the expression, is developed to a wonderful extent in such cases;–unlikely as it appears, it is met with at every turn.”