February 7, 2006

“The line between good and evil is drawn not between nations or parties, but through every human heart.”

Is that Solzhenitsyn or Dostoevsky? RLC feverishly Googles for the answer:
I wanted to rush out into the street and grab some poor unaware pedestrian and recite him my quotation and, shaking him by the collar in my fervor, demand, “Who do you think would have said that, Solzhenitsyn, or Dostoevsky? Dostoevsky, of course, can there be any doubt, my esteemed friend? Solzhenitsyn couldn’t have thought of it -- he was the enemy of a specific party, an entire national government, which he associated with evil -- but he knew Dostoevsky was right, and couldn’t resist, in the same no one can resist swiping a nice ripe cherry from the top of the fruit bin in the market, God preserve us. He was Dostoevsky’s younger brother, and he must have said to himself, ‘Fyodor won’t mind…’”

Yes, dear friends, that’s what passed through my whirling noggin in those hectic moments, as if a different personality were taking me over, a demonic twin, a mirror likeness glimpsed at a street corner; and it occurred to me – I can’t deny it – to think, “Heavens above, I'm turning into Dusty himself! This must be what it felt like to be Dostoevsky – at least as translated by Constance Garnett!"
Much more at the link.

8 comments:

me said...

I don't think Dostoevsky would have said this. I'm checking with my resident expert, and will get back to you.

Paul said...

Funny you mention Dostoyevsky...I'm hearing him for the first time on iTunes, subscribed to a "Librivox", people who voluntarily read public domain books. They're reading Notes From The Underground, a chapter each week.
Sorry, not germane to the discussion. It's such a nice thing. How do you remember so much?

JohnF said...

OK, Ann, only ONE cup of coffee in the morning from now on. That's it.

HJ said...

Typing directly from my copy of Gulag:

"So let the reader who expects this book to be a political expose slam its covers shut right now. If only it were all so simple? If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart."

Ann Althouse said...

Yes, but the question is whether S. lifted it from D. Read the comments chez RLC. The answer is yes!

Just Another Person said...

It's Augustine, and that is not exactly how the quote reads."

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Just Another: Thanks for tracing it back even farther. This reminds me to put Augustine higher on my reading list. Changes in phrasing would of course be due to different translations, not only Latin-English, but Latin-Russian and Russian-English.

Glyn said...

The line between good and evil

It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn "The Gulag Archipelago"
p 24