Dostoevsky’s Letter to his niece regarding “The Idiot”

To his Niece Sofia Alexandrovna
Geneva
January 1/13, 1868

[Discussing his writing of “The Idiot” which he dedicated to his niece] “…. The basic idea is the representation of a truly perfect and noble man. And this is more difficult than anything else in the world, particularly nowadays. All writers, not ours alone but foreigners also, who have sought to represent Absolute Beauty, were unequal to the task, for it is an infinitely difficult one. The beautiful is the ideal; but ideals, with us as in civilized Europe, have long been wavering. There is in the world only one figure of absolute beauty: Christ. That infinitely lovely figure is, as a matter of course, an infinite marvel (the whole Gospel of St. John is full of this thought: John sees the wonder of the Incarnation, the visible apparition of the Beautiful). …. I will only say further that of all the noble figures in Christian literature, I reckon Don Quixote as the most perfect. But Don Quixote is noble only by being at the same time comic. …. The reader feels sympathy and compassion with the Beautiful, derided and unconscious of its own worth.”

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