Table of contents:

Success And Disease: Two Things In Common? About F. Dostoevsky - Great And Terrible
Success And Disease: Two Things In Common? About F. Dostoevsky - Great And Terrible

Video: Success And Disease: Two Things In Common? About F. Dostoevsky - Great And Terrible

Video: Success And Disease: Two Things In Common? About F. Dostoevsky - Great And Terrible
Video: Episode #094 ... A Look at Suffering 2023, March

"A person must be deeply unhappy, for then he will be happy …". Such words could have been written by any paradoxically thinking writer, but it is not surprising that they belong to Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky. Complexity, exceptional originality and even a certain "clumsy" are characteristic not only of his literary style, but also of life. It would hardly be a mistake to admit that mental disorders, which were noted in him since childhood, played a decisive role in this

But let's not rush to hang up diagnostic labels. First, let's consider how psychopathological disorders influenced his life and work. Are there any positive connections between them, or did Dostoevsky create in spite of the disease, overcoming it and throwing the disease aside as ballast interfering with movement? Was not his mental disorder a necessary condition for creative success and subsequent worldwide fame?

It is impossible to ignore the extremely burdened psychiatric heredity of the writer, which could not but exert its influence on him. Let us briefly mention that among them there are murderers, alcoholics, psychopaths, syphilitics, and epileptics. At the same time, many of the Dostoevsky family had musical, literary, artistic and scientific talent.

Almost all biographers have noted the strangeness and "uniqueness" of Dostoevsky, starting from his very young years. His character seemed to many "unnatural and mysterious, which aroused curiosity and bewilderment." The boy's rich imagination, apparently, predisposed to unsociability and isolation, but since the original behavior did not harm anyone, those around him quickly got used to his oddities. Nevertheless, the nicknames awarded to Dostoevsky by his comrades during his studies at the engineering school ("fool", "idiotic") were not only rude, but clearly indicated that he was considered a person "out of this world."

Consider the impairments of attraction characteristic of the writer and the textbook question of his epilepsy. Let's start with one of the main human attractions - sexual.

Садомазохизм считают расстройством «сексуального предпочтения» и оно совсем не обязательно должно выражаться в физиологической форме, т. е. в виде извращенного полового акта. Классик биографических исследований Стефан Цвейг с полным правом заметил, что Достоевский «доводил всякое влечение до порока». Но проявления психического садизма у Достоевского отличались помимо этого еще изощренным своеобразием. Уже в детстве он любил «стегать лягушек ореховым хлыстом», причем это занятие было, по-видимому, одним из самых любимых и привычных забав Федора, так как он с видом знатока сообщает, что «хлысты из орешника так красивы и так прочны, куда против березовых».

An example of no less peculiar masochism, and in the words of one of the biographers - "refined autosadism", can be considered the following recognition of the writer in a letter to his brother (1840): "… I have invented for myself a new kind of pleasure - strange - to torment myself. I will take your letter, turn it over in my hands for a few minutes, feel it to see if it is full, and after looking at it, admiring the sealed envelope, I put it in my pocket …”. Thus, Dostoevsky achieved "a voluptuous state of soul, feelings and heart."

One of the first domestic psychiatrists involved in pathographic research, IB Galant (1927), noted that Dostoevsky's psychopathy nowhere “found such expression for itself as in the field of psychosexual experiences. … There is reason to believe that the sexual … life of the heroes of Dostoevsky's novels to a certain extent reflects the very essence of sexuality and Dostoevsky himself."

The Russian writer also aroused interest in Sigmund Freud, who could not help but express his attitude to such a close in spirit explorer of the most mysterious depths of the human psyche. “In the complex personality of Dostoevsky, we distinguished … his striving for perversion, which was supposed to lead him to sado-masochism or make him a criminal.” Therefore, we can agree with the opinion that "all his work is permeated with perverted sexuality."

Sexual deviations usually do not occur against the background of normal psychosexual development. Dostoevsky's biographers note the indifference and even "antipathy" to the female sex that manifested itself from his youth. In his letters of the late 30s and early 40s. we will not find a single female name mentioned in a romantic context. Not a single hobby, not a hint of falling in love, which strikingly distinguishes this literary genius from Pushkin or Lermontov. Dostoevsky's daughter claimed that until the age of forty her father lived "like a saint." Even in the years of "bachelor's life", so convenient for revelry, he leads a strangely secluded existence, and all his pleasures are limited to visiting theaters and draining finances billiard game.

This hypothesis is as difficult to prove as the gloomy suspicions of the opposite kind, testifying to the "violent sexual relations" and even pedophilia of the writer. As an accusation of possible pedophilia, the chapter "At Tikhon's" in the novel "Demons" (the scene of Stavrogin's molestation of a young girl) is cited unpublished during Dostoevsky's lifetime.

Later we observe the other extreme: Fyodor Mikhailovich becomes unusually generous with marriage proposals. Within a year and a half, beginning in April 1865, he made five matchmaking attempts. Twice - with an interval of several weeks - to Apollinaria Suslova, once - to Anna Korvin-Krukovskaya, the prototype of Aglaya in The Idiot, once - to Elena Pavlovna Ivanova, a potential widow (her husband, however, still lived for three years later), and, finally, his future wife, Anna Snitkina, to whom he dictated the text of The Gambler. This fact can also be regarded as a manifestation of a kind of personality pathology.

The attraction to play is one of the instinctive needs of mammals, but pathological addiction to play - gambling addiction, gambling - is a pathological condition inherent only in humans

Back in the 40s, Dostoevsky was so fond of playing billiards that he made acquaintances with cheaters and lost large sums. After returning from exile, gambling addiction manifested itself in all its strength. Memories of his wife, A. G. Dostoevskaya, about this personality trait can be inserted without cuts into a psychiatry textbook when describing the clinical manifestations of gambling addiction. “At first it seemed strange to me how it was Fyodor Mikhailovich, who with such courage endured so many different sufferings in his life (imprisonment in a fortress, scaffold, exile, the death of his beloved brother, wife), how he does not have enough willpower to restrain himself, stop on a certain share of loss, not to risk my last thaler … But soon I realized that this is not a simple "weakness of will", but an all-consuming passion, something spontaneous,against which even a strong character cannot fight. It was necessary to come to terms with this, to look at the passion for the game as a disease against which there is no means."

Here are some examples of other morbid traits of his personality: hypochondriacalism and anxious suspiciousness. So, instead of ordinary tea, Dostoevsky preferred "warm water" and was horrified even by the "flower tea leaves", worried about his pulse rate. And in this case, there is a characteristic transformation of one attraction into the polar opposite: in later years the writer became an adherent of "almost black, like" chifir "tea and the strongest coffee." Worried about the possible consequences of lethargic sleep - this kind of obsessive phobia united him with Gogol - he left warning notes at night so as not to be accidentally buried alive. The content of the notes characterized Dostoevsky as a pronounced neurotic: “Today I will fall into a lethargic sleep. Bury me not earlier than in five days."

The most powerful stress factors - arrest, imitation of execution, being in hard labor - practically nullified the existing neurotic symptoms. So it was not for nothing that old psychiatrists, even before the era of psychotropic drugs and the possibility of drug treatment of mental disorders, resorted to cruel, but sometimes effective methods of psychological shock therapy.

The question of Dostoevsky's epilepsy is ambiguous and does not seem to be as indisputable as it is presented in many cases.

Indeed, the writer's ancestors showed signs of either the epileptic disease itself, or epileptic personality traits. For Dostoevsky, convulsive seizures by themselves did not occupy the main place among the clinical manifestations of "epilepsy." Specific changes in the psyche came to the fore. These character traits developed early, and already in the young Dostoevsky they manifested themselves in excessive pedantry, pettiness, a tendency to detail, endless clarifications, irritability, irascibility, excessive resentment, a tendency to fear and attacks of dreary spiteful mood.

When did he develop the usually easily conspicuous convulsive seizures with loss of consciousness? There are many ambiguities in this issue.

According to family legends reported by the writer's daughter, Dostoevsky suffered his first convulsive seizure with loss of consciousness when he learned about the tragic death of his father in 1839. The writer himself, confirming that during the hard labor "he became cheerful, strong, fresh, calm," about the beginning seizures writes quite differently. “But during hard labor (that is, at the beginning of the 1850s - A. Sh.) I had my first epileptic fit - since then it has not left me. Everything that happened to me before that first seizure, every slightest incident in my life, every face I met, everything I read, heard - I remember to the smallest detail. Everything that began after the first seizure, I very often forget, sometimes I completely forget the people I knew very well, I forget the faces. I forgot everything I wrote after the hard labor. When I finished writing "Demons", I had to re-read everything all over again,because I forgot even the names of the characters …”.

The frequency of seizures did not differ in regularity and largely depended on the external conditions of life, which is not typical for true epilepsy. If Dostoevsky lived in good conditions and was not worried, then the seizures would stop for many months. After 1867, according to her daughter, “the almost weekly seizures became weaker and less frequent every year. Completely recovering from epilepsy was unthinkable, especially since Fyodor Mikhailovich never received treatment, considering his illness incurable."

According to Dostoevsky, penal servitude "renewed him physically and spiritually." But it was in Siberia, by his own admission, that epilepsy began! How can these incompatible things be reconciled? Perhaps the writer believed that he needed to pay such a high price for healing from a "moral disease"?

Strange, but Dostoevsky was generally not inclined to view epilepsy as a mental illness. Despite the fact that it was very difficult to endure his convulsive seizures, he at the same time "treasured her as a gift, as a source of visionary gift … In each of his novels there is an epileptic, and they are also endowed with the gift of messengers." Maybe this is exactly the same “misfortune” that makes a person “happy”?

This feature of Dostoevsky is quite remarkable. There are examples of creative geniuses (Gogol, Rainer Maria Rilke, Baratynsky, Hoffmann, Van Gogh) who, while admitting that they had certain mental ailments, did not make any attempts to get rid of their illness. Moreover, they very "rationally" explained the reason for this "therapeutic negativism." These geniuses confidently believed that only because of their existing mental disorders, their creativity is not depleted. In other words, we are talking about a kind of defensive reaction of the individual, which is difficult to unambiguously attribute to one of the poles: positive or negative.

Dostoevsky, who was intensively treated for diseases of the lungs, intestines and other somatic disorders by specialists of the highest rank both in Russia and abroad (including the famous SP Botkin), almost did not seek medical help for the epilepsy. He limited himself to consulting his doctor friends Janowski and Riesenkampf, who were not specialists in this type of disorder.

About the nature of Dostoevsky's convulsive seizures, and no one questions their presence, modern psychiatrists have a variety of opinions

Some authors emphasize the demonstrativeness and "partial deliberation" of his seizures, and therefore tend to the version that the seizures were of a hysterical nature. They admit the possibility of a special spread of rumors about "severe epilepsy" both by Dostoevsky himself and by his friends, and this "gloomy legend" was subsequently picked up by literary scholars.

The writer's daughter writes in her memoirs that Dostoevsky suffered severe hysterical symptoms several years before his imprisonment. He avoided society, wandered the streets all day, talked loudly to himself and almost could not work. But immediately after the arrest, all these symptoms disappeared. True epilepsy does not go away without treatment.

As an argument for the hypothesis of the hysterical nature of seizures, they also put forward the fact that the "terrible illness", from which the writer was never treated, did not lead to dementia. Dostoevsky died at the height of his creative activity, which no one can dispute, from a complication of a pulmonary disease, from which he was persistently treated, leaving for foreign resorts. Therefore, he adequately assessed the severity of each of his diseases.

Another group of authors, based on the descriptions of specific personality changes and the characteristics of seizures, concludes that Fedor Mikhailovich suffered either from right-sided temporal lobe epilepsy or from epilepsy in the classical form. It was even calculated that during his illness he suffered 400 seizures, and almost all of them were of the classic character of a "deployed large seizure" with an ecstatic aura and post-seizure states with stunning, motor retardation and dysphoria. And according to the main features of his character, Dostoevsky appears to be a despot, explosive and irrepressible in his passions (gambling and anomalous sexual), vain, with a desire to humiliate others and exhibitionism, combining all this with tearful sentimentality, extraordinary resentment and viscous thinking. This is a typical psychological portrait of a patient with epilepsy.

Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between? It was not for nothing that old psychiatrists singled out such a form of the disease, which was called "hysterical-epilepsy."

Did mental disorder play any positive role in Dostoevsky's literary work? Was illness a necessary component of his genius?

In this respect, oddly enough, all biographers come to a common opinion.

The author of a large study of the writer's work, B. I. Bursov, asserts that “the genius of Dostoevsky, thanks to his painfulness, penetrated into the world from outside, previously inaccessible to anyone. World literature probably does not know any other similar case - a combination of the highest genius with a mental illness”.

Thomas Mann, Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature, also has no doubts that "no matter how the disease threatens Dostoevsky's spiritual forces, his genius is closely connected with it and is colored by it."

And here is the opinion of the geneticist VP Efroimson: “From a point of view, shifted due to psychopathology, one sees many things that normal people do not notice; thanks to his accented (not to say more) personality, FM Dostoevsky understood the explosive potential of man better than others. Probably, this is where his search for the restraining power of religion came, hence the legend of the Grand Inquisitor, Orthodoxy, loyalty, friendship with Pobedonostsev and devastating actions against the revolutionaries."

The critic N. K. Mikhailovsky called the talent of the famous writer "cruel talent" and thus defined its characteristic features: “Cruelty and torture have always occupied Dostoevsky, precisely from the side of their attractiveness, from the side of what seems to be the torture of voluptuousness. … he rummaged in the very depths of the wolf's soul, looking for things that were subtle and complex - not just a simple satisfaction of appetite, but precisely the sensuality of anger and cruelty … people find in unnecessary torture … … it was in the sphere of torture that Dostoevsky's artistic talent reached its highest strength."

If Dostoevsky had become what he longed to be, a rich and well-to-do person, there would not have been Dostoevsky as a genius writer. Life would surely triumph over being. It is difficult to find in our literature another such example of "bondage", when an ingenious work was born, as they say, out of hand, in number, on time, in incredible haste. Who knows? - perhaps it was this atmosphere that he needed for the creative process. Having lasted until the last term, before the danger of breaking the contract, before the brainstorming, he often had to write at night, drinking strong iced tea. Not content with only tea, by the end of his life he became addicted to alcohol. Apparently, the body "to excite the mind" needed doping.

By the way, because of the "forced writing", one should not look for masterpieces of style from a merciless digger of the depths of human souls. Just like in pearls, you don't need to look for a diamond. Dostoevsky's works have their own merits

No matter how horrible from a humane point of view all the tragic turns of his fate, they were absolutely necessary to turn Dostoevsky into the genius that the whole reading world knows him. Such tragic events include epilepsy, and the abnormality of his sexual sphere, the unrestrained and passionate nature, the minutes spent on the scaffold awaiting execution, being in hard labor, and even, apparently, his constant need for money.

And again the refrain that runs through Dostoevsky's whole life is repeated - "A person must be deeply unhappy, for then he will be happy …"

The Russian psychiatrist V. F. Chizh counted among the heroes of Dostoevsky's works more than thirty mentally ill. The unprecedented concentration of mentally ill heroes in the novels may lead to the assumption that Dostoevsky's books are a treasure trove for psychiatrists. This is not entirely true. In his works, some forms of psychopathy are very well depicted (especially in The Brothers Karamazov) and patients with epilepsy. As for other mental disorders, the writer does not show them, but invents an arbitrary mosaic of symptoms, from which the clinical picture of a real mental illness is not built. In other words, what the writer suffered, what he was afraid of getting sick because of his extreme hypochondriacalism, he described most reliably.

"The mutual attraction of Russian intellectual life with the world of psychiatry is unprecedented" (A. M. Etkind). This is not just hyperbole and the works of FM Dostoevsky are the best confirmation of this opinion. It doesn't matter whether the writer had epilepsy or hysteria: theories and diagnostic approaches change over time, but the facts remain. There is a morbid psychology of personality (what is called psychopathology), and there are works of genius, the influence of which on the reader is primarily achieved by artistic images.

Having familiarized ourselves with Dostoevsky's pathography, we come to a paradoxical conclusion: mental illness helped them achieve success and fame. There is less surprising in this fact than it might seem if we remember how many genius personalities suffered from one or another mental disorder. So do not rush to put a cross on yourself (or someone else) just because of mental illness.

Many very serious mental disorders have their advantages that a talented person can use with great success in their creative process, creating original works, and often becoming the founder of a new direction in literature or art. In recent years, more and more authors have come out in defense of the odious-sounding slogan "genius and insanity". Philologist and philosopher V. P. Rudnev declares: "In general, insanity for me is not a disease, but a special state of mind, often destructive, but leading to creative insights …". It is likely that some types of mental disorders have defined the "cultural face" not only of the 19th, but also of the 20th century.

Let us finish the categorically sounding phrase of Dostoevsky, with which the article began: "If he is constantly happy, then he will immediately become deeply unhappy." Well, apparently the genius writer is right in this paradox too


  • Aykhenvald Yu. I. Silhouettes of Russian writers. In 2 vols. Volume 1 / Preface V. Kreid. - M.: TERRA-Book Club; Republic, 1998.
  • Bazhenov N. N. Psychiatric conversations on literary and social topics. - M.: A. I. Mamontov, 1903.
  • B. I. Bursov The personality of Dostoevsky. Novel research // "Star" № 12, 1969, p. 85-172.
  • Buyanov M. I. Premature man. - M.: Soviet Russia, 1989.
  • Vilensky O. G. Psychiatry. Social aspects. - M.: Publishing house Cognitive book plus, 2002.
  • Volgin I. L. "Born in Russia …" Dostoevsky and Contemporaries: Life in Documents. - M.: Kniga, 1991.
  • Galant I. B. Euroendocrinology of the great Russian writers and poets // Clinical Archive of Genius and Giftedness (Evropathology), vol. 3, v. 3, 1927, p. 203-242.
  • Garin I. I. Prophets and poets. T. 4. - M.: TERRA, 1994.
  • Gindin V. P. Psychopathology in Russian literature. - M.: PER SE, 2005.
  • Grossman L. P. Dostoevsky. - M.: Young Guard, 1965.
  • Dostoevskaya A. G. Memories. - M.: Fiction, 1971.
  • Ermakov I. D. Psychoanalysis of literature. Pushkin. Gogol. Dostoevsky. - M.: New literary review, 1999.
  • Efremov V. S. Suicide in the artistic world of Dostoevsky. - SPb.: Dialect Publishing House, 2008.
  • Kashina-Evreinova A. A. The underground of genius. (Sexual sources of creativity Dostoevsky). - Petersburg: The Third Guard, 1923.
  • Kuznetsov O. N., Lebedev V. I. Dostoevsky on the secrets of mental health. - M.: Ed. Ross. Open University, 1994.
  • Neifeld I. Dostoevsky. Psychoanalytic essay, ed. prof. Z. Freud. - L.-M.: Petrograd, 1925.
  • Nikolaenko N. N. Word and image: left and right hemispheres of the brain // Independent Psychiatric Journal, No. 2, 1996, p. 14-18.
  • Segalin G. V. Pathogenesis and biogenesis of great and remarkable people // Clinical Archive of Genius and Giftedness (Evropathology), 1925, no. 1, vol. 1, p. 24-90.
  • Segalin G. V. Evropathology of genius epileptics. The form and nature of epilepsy in great people // Clinical Archives of Genius and Giftedness (Evropathology), vol. 3, vol. 2, 1926, p. 143-187.
  • Freud Z. "I" and "It". Works of different years. In two books. Book. 2. - Tbilisi: Merani, 1991.
  • Zweig St. Three masters. Balzac. Dickens. Dostoevsky // Collection. op. T. 7. L.: Time, 1929.
  • Efroimson V. P. Genetics of ethics and aesthetics. - SPb: Talisman, 1995.
  • Yurman N. A. Dostoevsky's disease // Clinical Archive of Genius and Giftedness (Evropathology), 1928, vol. 2, v. 4, p. 61-85.

Popular by topic