The Distance Between Head and Heart

Again and again I have been asked: How do I get my faith from my head to my heart? The great Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky may not answer in so many words, but his experience points us in the right direction. Dostoevsky is an "ideological novelist." That is, ideas dominate and drive his characters.

Their ideas become part of their personalities, to such an extent, indeed, that neither exists independently of the other. His unrivaled genius as an ideological novelist was his capacity to invent actions and situations in which ideas dominate behavior without the latter becoming allegorical. . . . His greatest works, after all, had been efforts to undermine the ideological foundations out of which [the Bolshevik] revolution had sprung. (Joseph Frank, Dostoevsky, xiv)

For Dostoevsky, ideas — even ordinary ones — were not only the raw materials from which to create great characters, but also the fuel for kindling his own passions.

One of his closest associates, Nikolai Strakhov, wrote,

The most routine abstract thought very often struck him with an uncommon force and would stir him up remarkably. . . . A simple idea, sometimes very familiar and commonplace, would suddenly set him aflame and reveal itself to him in all its significance. He, so to speak, felt thought with unusual liveliness. (Ibid., xv, emphasis added)

Frank comments, "It is this inborn tendency of Dostoevsky to 'feel thought' that gives his best work its special stamp."

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