quotating

An excerpt:

The prince went down one step and turned around.

"As for faith," he said, smiling--plainly not wishing to leave Rogozhin this way--and inspired by a sudden recollection. "As for faith, I had four different encounters in two days last week. One morning I was traveling on the new railway line and I talked for four hours with a certain S.; we had just become acquainted. I'd already heard a lot about him, among other things that he was an atheist. He is really a very learned man, and I was glad to have the chance to talk to such a person. Besides that, he is an unusually well-bred man, and he talked with me as if I was his equal in knowledge and understanding. He doesn't believe in God. Except one thing struck me: he didn't seem to be talking about that at all, the whole time, and this struck me precisely because whenever I've met disbelievers before, and no matter how many of their books I read, it has always struck me that they seem to be speaking and writing about something else, though on the surface it seems to be that. I told him this at the time, but I probably didn't say it clearly, or did not know how to express it, because he didn't understand a thing. That evening I stopped for the night at a provincial hotel where a murder had happened the night before, and everyone was talking about it when I arrived. Two peasants, older men who had known each other a long time and were friends, neither of them drunk, were having tea and were meaning to go to sleep in the little room they had taken together. But for the past two days one of them had been noticing that the other wore a silver watch on a beaded ribbon, which apparently he had not known that he had before. The first was not a thief, he was in fact an honest man and for a peasant not at all poor. But he was so taken by this watch, so tempted by it that he finally could not restrain himself, he took a knife and when his friend's back was turned came up cautiously behind him, took aim, raised his eyes to heaven, crossed himself, and bitterly and silently prayed, 'Lord, forgive me for Christ's sake!' and he cut his friend's throat with one stroke like a sheep, and took his watch."

Rogozhin rocked back and forth with laughter. He laughed as if he was having a fit of some kind. It was indeed strange to see him laughing like this so soon after his somber mood.

"Oh, I like that! No, that really beats everything!" he cried gasping for breath. "One fellow doesn't believe in God at all, while the other believes in Him so much he murders people with a prayer on his lips. No, my dear Prince, you could never have just invented that. Ha, ha, ha! No, that beats everything!"

"Next morning I went out to walk around the town" continued the prince when Rogozhin had stopped laughing, though spasmodic laughter still burst from his lips, "and I saw a drunken soldier swaying along the wooden sidewalk in a terrible state. He came up to me and said, 'Buy this silver cross, sir. You can have it for twenty kopecks. It's silver!' I saw the cross in his hand--he must have just taken it off--on a dirty blue ribbon; but you could tell at first glance it was only made of tin, a big, eight-branched one, of a regular Byzantine design. I took out twenty kopecks and gave them to him, and at once put the cross around my neck; and I could see in his face how pleased he was to have cheated a stupid gentleman. He went off immediately to drink up the proceeds of the cross; there wasn't the least doubt of that. As for me, my dear friend, I was at the time tremendously impressed by everything that came pouring upon me in Russia; I had grown up unable to express myself; and my memories of it during my five years abroad were somehow fantastic. So I went away and I thought, 'No, it's too soon for me to condemn this peddler of Christ. God alone knows what is hidden in those weak and drunken hearts.' An hour later as I was going back to the hotel I came upon a peasant woman with a tiny baby. The woman was still quite young, the child about six weeks old. The child smiled at her for the first time in its life. I watched and suddenly she crossed herself with great devotion. 'What are you doing, my dear?' (I was always asking questions in those days.) 'There is joy for a mother in her child's first smile, just as God rejoices when from heaven he sees a sinner praying to Him with his whole heart.' This is what that peasant woman said to me, almost in those very words, such a profound, subtle, and truly religious thought, in which the whole essence of Christianity is expressed--I mean the whole conception of God as our own Father and of God's joy in man, like a father's in his own child--Christ's fundamental thought! A simple peasant woman! It's true she was a mother--and, who knows, perhaps she was the wife of that soldier. Listen, Parfyon, you asked me a question before, and here's my answer: the essence of religious feeling doesn't depend on reasoning, and it has nothing to do with wrong-doing or crime or with atheism. There is something else there and there always will be, and atheists will always pass over it and will never be talking about that. But the important thing that you will recognize it most quickly and clearly in the Russian heart--that's my conclusion! It's one of the main convictions I have received from our Russia. There is much to be done Parfyon! There is much to be done in our Russian world, believe me! Remember how in Moscow we used to meet and talk then, you and I--no, I didn't want to come back here at all! And I never, never thought I'd be meeting you like this! Well, it's done! Good-bye for now. May God go with you!"

He turned and went down the stairs.

The Idiot
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

This was quoted merely for the purpose of my trying to wrap my head around it. It is my attempt to further my understanding of Dostoyevsky. It would be interesting to see different translations of this same passage. This translation has been a bit rough at points through its reading, usually the sign of a more direct translation, which has both merit and distraction.

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