15 February, 2006

Father Zosima on self-deception

A nice quote from The Brothers Karamazov, Book 2, Chapter 2 (Zosima):

Do not lie to yourself. A man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point where he does not discern any truth either in himself or anywhere around him, and thus falls into disrespect towards himself and others. Not respecting anyone, he ceases to love, and having no love, he gives himself up to passions and coarse pleasure, in order to occupy and amuse himself, and in his vices reaches complete bestiality, and it all comes from lying continually to others and to himself.
I was reading the book again late last year, came across this passage, and smiled at it. I never realized before how this theme appears in so many of Dostoevsky's works: people lie to themselves all the time about what's going on around them. The protagonists who think that they are honest and enlightened — Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, pretty much everyone in The Idiot, Stavrogin in Demons, and pretty much everyone in The Brothers Karamazov — are the most self-deceived of all.

Despite their ignorance, it is the simple, pious folk who are the least self-deceived about their own selves. Often enough, they are the catalysts on which the story hangs — Sophia, the Prince, Shatov, and Alyosha Karamazov, for example.

I have no idea if Dostoevsky intended it that way. Who knows? it could simply be my memory and my seeing what I want to see (more self-deception :-)).

1 comment:

Elliot said...

I just wanted to let you know this quote really struck me, working in conjunction with some other read I've been doing lately. I blogged about it here: