I'm reading Russian author Mikhailovsky's essay 'A Cruel Talent', about Dostoevsky...I don't quite know what to think about his argument. His ideas are brilliant, the way he puts them forward is brilliant, and insightful, but as for the crux...well, ok, the crux of the argument is that Dostoevsky was really a sadist who revelled and essentially got off on writing about people doing cruel and torturous things to other people, that he enjoyed making scenarios where people suffered because, in the end, he was on the side of the people inflicting the suffering and not on the side of the sufferers.
Also, that Dostoevsky essentially created a new species of topic for literature which made pathological impulses acceptable for discussion and reflection, but which are not necessary for a normal society.
Like I said, I don't know what to think about the argument; particularly Mikhailovsky's assertion that even when Dostoevsky is writing about the people who suffering is being inflicted upon rather than the inflicters that he's really just looking at the dismemberment of the sheep by the wolves from a position temporarily sympathetic to the sheep, while still being on the side of the wolf.
This disturbs me because I like Dostoevsky's book "The House of the Dead" very much; the book is his semi-fictional recollection of life in a labor camp/prison in Siberia where even the most depraved people find a sort of pure spiritual redemption.
I'd really, really like to believe that that's true; in fact I do believe that it's true, and that it reflects a profound understanding of Christianity and the potentials within Christianity for ultimate reconcilliation with the divine no matter what standing you possess at the particular time in relation to it.
Maybe Mikhailovsky and Dostoevsky were both right. Maybe, on the one hand, Dostoevsky was a sadist, but, on the other, he picked up on the fact that even for the depraved redemption is possible.