In the introduction, the translator describes the incident where Dostoevsky was nearly executed in Russia.... on December 22nd... today, only to have the emperor stay the execution at the last moment.
After eight months in the Petropavlovsky Fortress, the young writer was taken out to what he thought would be his execution. He described the event in a letter to his brother Mikhail:Orthodox Christmas would have been right around the corner on January 6th back then. He still had to go off to Siberia to serve his sentence, yet exclaims "We see the sun!" on the darkest day of the year(and maybe his life). I don't know why I find the whole thing "humorous," it's just so interconnected, like a Seinfeld episode, LOL. At any rate, this is my first Dostoevsky read, I already like him.
Today, December 22, we were driven to Semyonovsky Parade Ground. There the death sentence was read to us all, we were given the cross to kiss, swords were broken over our heads, and our final toilet was arranged (white shirts). Then three of us were set against the posts so as to carry out the execution. We were summoned in threes; consequently I was in the second group, and there was not more than a minute left to live. I remembered you, my brother, and all yours; at the last minute you, you alone, were in my mind, and it was only then that I realized how much I love you, my dearest brother! I also succeeded in embracing Pleshcheyev and Durov, who were beside me, and bade farewell to them. Finally the retreat was sounded, those who had been tied to the posts were led back, and they read to us that His Imperial Majesty granted us our lives. Thereupon followed the actual sentence … .
Brother, I’m not depressed and haven’t lost spirit. Life everywhere is life, life is in ourselves and not in the external. There will be people near me, and to be a human being among human beings, and remain one forever, no matter what misfortunes befall, not to become depressed, and not to falter—this is what life is, herein lies its task. I have come to recognize this. This idea has entered into my flesh and blood. Yes, it’s true! That head which created, lived by the highest life of art, which acknowledged and had come to know the highest demands of the spirit, that head has been cut from my shoulders. Memory remains, and the images I have created and still not molded in flesh. They will leave their harsh mark on me, it is true! But my heart is left me, and the same flesh and blood which likewise can love and suffer and desire and remember, and this is, after all, life. On voit le soleil! Well, good-bye, brother! Do not grieve for me … . Never until now have such rich and healthy stores of spiritual life throbbed in me.