Dear Fyodor,

I have read your much esteemed novels, Crime and Punishment, and Brothers Karamazov, and more recently a few of your shorter works, “Notes from Underground”, “White Nights”, and “A Faint Heart”. The main characters in the latter three remind of of Dmitri in Brothers Karamazov, and a little of Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment. These characters have high anxiety and negative thoughts that lead them to do destructive things. But they also have a bit of the heroic in them demonstrated by their love for a woman, even though they sabotage that relationship.

Your descriptions of people’s thoughts and reactions make them seem so fragile. I can’t help but look at your life and see how feelings of alienation would have been yours after the death of your mother and having been sent off to school, to the military, and then to prison. So why did your characters forfeit a relationship when they found one desirable? Perhaps they were addicted to frenzied, chaotic thoughts, and a relationship requires one to be able to focus on what is best for the other? They desired the cure, but found it intolerable at the same time.

And what about the trauma from the past? Sonya, the one who is allowed in, goes to stay near Raskolnikov’s prison, if memory serves. Perhaps this happens with Dmitri too. These women live through the ordeal with their men. Maybe the women in the other stories were too far removed from his ordeal. The one in “Notes from the Underground” had too much trauma of her own, despite being willing to comfort him through his. He had offered her too much. It was beyond his range to cope with her life as he was having too much difficulty coping with his own, intentions aside. Yes, these characters are plagued by their good intentions. Their capacity to imagine goodness was greater than their ability to do it. They exceeded other men in this imagination. Yes, that is why the women in “White Nights” and “Notes from the Underground” accuse the men of talking like a book. Your success in life came from books. You felt alienated in society, but at home with books, which is why you achieved so much in school. Books teach such virtues! You were very educated in the virtues. But without relationships and real life examples to go with them, they come off as unattainable platitudes. This is why Elder Zosima works so well in Brothers Karamazov. He embodied virtue. No wonder you enjoyed visiting the Optina Monastery.

I’m sorry your life was so hard and you were so traumatized. One has to forgive the outbursts of the traumatized. Lord have mercy.

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