Until this evening, The Brothers Karamazov has been taking a break on my bookshelf while I turned my attention to other areas of life. My return was rewarded by another gem from Dostoevsky’s pen, this one happening at what is apparently the turning point of the story, and none too soon at 408 pages into the book! Alyosha Karamozov’s elder and spiritual leader, Father Zossima, has died, and Alyosha is leaving the room where his body is resting “in state” before burial, and leaving in a hurry for he seems to have begun to realize his life’s purpose.
I’ve read this paragraph several times now, letting the words and the images and feelings they create flow through my soul like water, if you will. Here it is, for your enjoyment as well:
He did not stop on the steps either, but went quickly down; his soul, overflowing with rapture, yearned for freedom, space, openness. The vault of heaven, full of soft, shining stars, stretched vast and fathomless above him. The Milky Way ran in two pale streams from the zenith to the horizon. The fresh, motionless, still night enfolded the earth. The white towers and golden domes of the cathedral gleamed out against the sapphire sky. The gorgeous autumn flowers, in the beds round the house, were slumbering till morning. The silence of the earth seemed to melt into the silence of the heavens. The mystery of earth was one with the mystery of the stars. . . .
It’s my guess that Dostoevsky spent a fair amount of time outdoors, enjoying the natural world in all it’s beauty, to be able to know and write lines like these, perhaps like another author I’m familiar with. I feel a little cheated, too, that I don’t know the Russian language so that I could read these words as they were originally meant to be read. Knowing there are similarities between Russian and the Koine Greek of the New Testament, and how our English can have a difficult time capturing the fullness of the original Greek language, I believe I’m justified in that opinion.
If you’re interested, another paragraph in this book that I wrote about earlier last year had nearly the same effect.