Dostoevsky’s art is literally prophetic. He is not prophetic in the sense of predicting the future, but in a truly biblical sense, for he untiringly denounces the fall of the people of God back into idolatry. He reveals the exile, the rupture, and the suffering that results from this idolatry.
—Rene Girard, Resurrection from the Underground: Feodor Dostoevsky
This emphasis on the necessity for such a feeling of inner freedom became absolutely crucial for Dostoevsky, and we shall see how it placed him in opposition to the radical ideology of the 1860s. But this opposition is no longer only a disagreement about ideas. It goes down much deeper, into the very roots of what Dostoevsky felt he had learned about human life in prison. And we see how all of his experiences come together to emphasize the importance of feeling, emotion, the psyche, the irrational, the satisfaction of inner emotional needs over the logical, the rational, the practical, the utilitarian.
—Joseph Frank, Lectures on Dostoevsky
Thus, even beyond their deaths, the two novelists stand in contrariety. Tolstoy, the foremost heir to the traditions of the epic; Dostoevsky, one of the major dramatic tempers after Shakespeare; Tolstoy, the mind intoxicated with reason and fact; Dostoevsky, the contemner of rationalism, the great lover of paradox; Tolstoy, the poet of the land, of the rural setting and the pastoral mood; Dostoevsky, the arch-citizen, the master-builder of the modern metropolis in the province of language; Tolstoy, thirsting for truth, destroying himself and those about him in excessive pursuit of it; Dostoevsky, rather against the truth than against Christ, suspicious of total understanding and on the side of mystery; Tolstoy, ‘keeping at all times,’ in Coleridge’s phrase, ‘in the high road of life’; Dostoevsky, advancing into the labyrinth of the unnatural, into the cellarage and morass of the soul; Tolstoy, like a colossus bestriding the palpable earth, evoking the realness, the tangibility, the sensible entirety of concrete experience; Dostoevsky, always on the edge of the hallucinatory, of the spectral, always vulnerable to daemonic intrusions into what might prove, in the end, to have been merely a tissue of dreams; Tolstoy, the embodiment of health and Olympian vitality; Dostoevsky, the sum of energies charged with illness and possession; Tolstoy, who saw the destinies of men historically and in the stream of time; Dostoevsky, who saw them contemporaneously and in the vibrant stasis of the dramatic moment; Tolstoy, borne to his grave in the first civil burial ever held in Russia; Dostoevsky, laid to rest in the cemetery of the Alexander Nevsky monastery in St. Petersburg amid the solemn rites of the Orthodox Church; Dostoevsky, pre-eminently the man of God; Tolstoy, one of His secret challengers.
—George Steiner, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism
We talked about literature. The catholicos told me that he not only read Dostoyevsky but that he had seriously studied him, that without knowing Dostoyevsky it is impossible to gain a serious and profound knowledge of the human soul. He said he had published a work on Dostoyevsky, but that he couldn’t, unfortunately, suggest I read it: It had been published in Romanian some years ago, when he was bishop of Bucharest.
—Vasily Grossman, An Armenian Sketchbook
It was never my goal to put together a collection of horror stories, to overwhelm the reader. I was collecting the human. Dostoevsky asked the question: “How much of the human is there in a human being?” How can the human in this human being be protected? That’s the question I’m looking to answer. I collect the human spirit. You may say: it’s an ephemeral thing, too elusive. But art attempts to capture it. And every era has its own answers.
–Svetlana Alexievich, In Search of the Free Individual: The History of the Russian-Soviet Soul