Berdiaev Nikolai, The Spirit of Dostoyevsky, transl. Nikos Matsoukas, P. Pournaras Publ., Thessaloniki, 1972, pp. 246.
The “meeting” of the author with Dostoyevsky on the primeval, of religious order, concept of liberty was detrimental to writing this philosophical work on the personality and work of Dostoyevsky. His aim was to trace Dostoyevsky’s spirit and recreate his world view. He considers him a dialectic genius and the greatest Russian metaphysicist.
His world view is not an abstract system of ideas. Everything in his work is scorching and dynamic, in continuous motion, conflict and struggle. The Russians are either revelatory or nihilists and these are the characteristics that Dostoyevsky studies in depth. Of course his heroes are his world. He examines humans in the subconscious, in insanity and crime. After all, God’s mystery is not revealed to Dostoyevsky in itself, but through the destiny of human beings.
After a discourse synthesizing the spiritual portrait of Dostoyevsky, Berdiaev analyses his literary points of departure in particular thematic chapters: people, liberty, evil, love, revolution, socialism.
The human being is not a physical phenomenon to him but the centre of being. Of course his love for people has nothing in common with humanism, as it preaches to humans the path of pain. The destiny of humans and their painful course are determined by freedom. Dostoyevsky’s “cruelty” is explained by the fact that he did not want to relieve humans from the burden of liberty.
In the eighth chapter he analyses the “legend of the great Inquisitor”, which he considers the culmination of Dostoyevsky’s creativeness, which distinguishes him as the foremost Christian author. His Christianity however, is not of the historic type but the revelatory.
In the last chapter of the book “Dostoyevsky and us” he examines the importance and the value of his work in the historic context of the 19th century but also the crisis of the 20th century during which Berdyaev writes, and considers his work a stock of hope to help address the problems of history’s future course.