The Author to the Reader – The Man Without Qualities

As I begin my hero’s biography, Aleksej Fedorovic Karamazov, I am myself surprised at my hesitance.  And with reason: notwithstanding my naming Aleksej Fedorovic my hero, I’m the first to know this is about anything but a great man, and so I even foresee that questions such as these will inevitably arise: what makes your Aleksej Fedorovic significant, as you have chosen him as your hero? What has he done? To whom is he known, and for what reason? For what reason I, the reader, must spend my time getting informed about the facts of his life?

The last question is really crucial, as it is the only one I can answer: – perhaps you will see it yourself by reading the novel -. Alright: but if the novel will be read and it will not be possible to understand, to agree on the significance of my Aleksej Fedorovic? I say so, as with bitterness I already predict how things will go. For me, he is significant, but I deeply doubt to succeed in proving it to the reader. The point is that he is, to look carefully, a man of action, but a man of action not well defined, not yet clearly clarified. It would be strange, after all, in an age like ours, to expect clarity from men. One thing can be undoubtedly agreed upon: we are before a strange man, even extravagant. But strangeness and extravagance are more a negative detail than a right to consideration, especially when everybody’s aspiration is to gather all the individual peculiarities, and find some sort of general sense in the universal meaninglessness. The extravagant instead, in most cases, is particularity and idiosyncrasy. Isn’t is so?

Of course if you did not agree with my last thesis, and answered: it is not so, or: it is not always so, I  confess I would feel more optimistic about my hero Aleksej Fedorovic. As not only the extravagant is not always particularity and idiosyncrasy but, on the contrary, it might happen that he, if you don’t mind, carries within himself, sometimes, the marrow of the universe, while the other men of his age, everyone, in a sort of hurricane, have temporarily, for one reason or the other, detached themselves from him…’

F. Dostoevskij, The Brothers Karamazov


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