The Heart Longs for Something Different

“There are moments when I’m overcome by such anguish and despair that . . . In those moments, I feel that I’ll never have a true life because I feel sure I’ve entirely lost touch with reality; because I feel damned; because, in the middle of my fancy-filled nights, I have moments of lucidity that are unbearable! In the meantime, I hear the din of the human crowd around me and see how people who are awake live, and I realize that their lives are not made to measure, that they don’t shatter like dreams, like visions, that their lives are perpetually renewed, every hour in them different from the one before, whereas the timid daydream is horribly monotonous, a slave to the shadows, to ideas, to the first cloud that suddenly hides the sun and squeezes in anguish the heart of a true inhabitant of Petersburg who must have his sunshine—for what fancy is there that can do without sunshine? In the end, you feel that your much-vaunted, inexhaustible fantasy is growing tired, debilitated, exhausted, because you’re bound to grow out of your old ideals; they’re smashed to splinters and turn to dust, and if you have no other life, you have no choice but to keep rebuilding your dreams from the splinters and dust. But the heart longs for something different!”
--Fyodor Dostoyevsky, “White Nights”, in Notes from the Underground, translated by Andrew R. MacAndrew, with a new introduction by Ben Marcus (New York: Signet Classics, 2004), 25-26.

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