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Dostoevsky’s letter to his brother from a labor camp – “I will perish if I am not allowed to write!”

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The life of one of the most well-known writers from the nineteenth century Fyodor Dostoevsky is one great drama full of interminable tragedy, pain and sorrow.

He was sentenced to four years’ hard labor in Siberia where he fell sick due to unbearable conditions and heavy labor, eventually resulting in being diagnosed with epilepsy.

His spiritual state can be seen in a letter written to his brother from a labor camp.

“Brother, my precious friend! I have not become gloomy or low-spirited; life is everywhere life, life is in ourselves and not in what is outside us. To be among people and remain a man forever, not to despair nor to be downhearted – this is life, this is the task of life. This idea has entered deeply into my flesh and into my blood.

Yes, it’s true! The head which was creating and living with the highest life of art, which had realized and grown used to the highest needs of the spirit, that head has already been cut off from my shoulders. There remain the memory and the images created but not yet incarnated. They will tear me, it is true! But there remains in me my heart and the same flesh and blood which are still capable of loving and suffering, desiring and remembering, and this, after all, is life. On voit le soleil!

My God! How many imaginations lived through by me, created by me anew will be extinguished in my brain or will be spilled as poison in my blood! If I am not allowed to write, I will perish! Better 15 years of prison with a pen in my hands!

Do not grieve for me for the love of God! Do believe that I am not downhearted, do remember that hope is still alive in me. In four years there will be a mitigation of my fate. I will serve as a private – much better than being a prisoner, and remember that someday I will embrace you! I was today in the grip of death for three quarters of an hour; I have lived it through with that idea; I was at the last instant and now I live again!

If anyone has bad memories about me or bears a grudge against me, tell them to forgive and forget it. There is no resentment or spite in my soul. I wish I could embrace any one of my former friends with great fondness.

When I look back at the past, I realize how much time has been wasted in vain, how much time has been lost in delusions, in errors, in ignorance of how to live, how I did not value time, how often I sinned against my heart and my spirit, and my heart starts bleeding. Life is a gift, life is happiness, every minute of my life might have been an age of happiness.

I tear myself from everything that was dear; it is painful to leave it! It is painful to break oneself in two, to cut the heart in two.”

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