Expressing Yourself

From The Adolescent, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I may have done a bad thing in sitting down to write: there’s infinitely more inside me than I have expressed in words. An idea, even if a bad one, is always more profound while it’s still with you, but when put into words – it’s largely ridiculous and dishonourable. Versilov told me that the opposite happens only with bad people. They simply lie; to them it comes easily. I’m trying to write the whole truth and it’s terribly hard!


To Be Alive

From Youth, by Leo Tolstoy

“Well, now for some sleep,” he said.

“Yes,” I replied, “just one more thing.”

“Go ahead.”

“Is it wonderful to be alive in this world?”

“Yes, it is,” he replied with such a voice that I felt I could see the expression of his joyful, tender eyes and his childlike smile in the dark.

A Handsome Face

From Childhood, by Leo Tolstoy

I had the strangest notions of beauty – I even regarded Karl Ivanych as the most handsome man in the world, but I also knew very well that I was not good-looking, and I was not at all mistaken about that; therefore any comments on my looks offended me deeply.

I remember well how one evening – I was six then – there was a discussion about my face; she said that I had intelligent eyes and a pleasant smile, and finally, giving way to Papa’s arguments and to the obvious, she was forced to admit that I was ugly, and then, when I thanked her for dinner, she patted me on the cheek and said:

“You should know, Nikolyenka, that no one will love you for your face; that’s why you must try and be a good and clever boy.”

Those words not only convinced me that I was not handsome but also that I would definitely be a good, clever boy.
In spite of this, I often suffered moments of despair. I imagined that there was no happiness on earth for a person like me, with such a broad nose, thick lips and small grey eyes. I asked God to perform a miracle – to turn me into a good-looking man, and I would have given anything I had then and everything I would have in the future in return for a handsome face.

The Drum Beats

“But why trouble oneself with unanswerable questions? The drum beats, it is time to be back in our wards.”

The House of the Dead – Dostoyevsky

Burdening Myself

From The Devils by Fyodor Dostoyevsky:

‘I can’t understand it!’ Stavrogin said angrily. ‘Why does everybody expect something from me that is not expected from anybody else? Why should I put up with things no one else puts up with? Why should I agree to burdens no one else can bear?’

‘I thought you were looking for a burden yourself.’

‘Me looking for a burden?’


‘You – you realized that?’


‘Is it so noticeable?’