I guess everyone has a few moments in their life when the light goes on and they remember the moment. One of my most important moments happened when I was a teenager and it was one of those watershed moments that literally transformed my outlook on life.
The transformation happened while reading Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky. I was child of the cold war and grew up being continually told how the evil Russians were subhumans and a major threat to my life and happiness. Being a normal young guy, I didn't give it much thought. If that was what they wanted me to believe, so be it. I had sports to play and vandalism to commit, questioning authority wouldn't make me run faster or throw a stone further.
My parents always told me to read books and reading books made my life easier. Spend an hour a day reading and not get hassled, seemed like a fair deal to me. When I started reading Crime and Punishment the thing that stuck out to me was that the evil Russians were just like us. They had commerce, private property and the sons of guns could even read and ponder life's great mysteries, just like us.
This was when I figured out that the authorities were full of shit. It was a propaganda war and we were being fed a bunch of bullshit about the Russians and if they were feeding us bullshit about the Russians, there was good chance that most of the other stuff we were taught was also bullshit. For some funny reason I fell in love with Dostoevsky and took it upon myself to read any books of his that could lay my hands upon. And just like Deadwood, I would read them several times. In the past year I've re-read Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov and The Idiot. I just plain old like Dostoevsky's style.
Then another watershed moment hit me a few years ago. While browsing dvd's at the public library I stumbled upon The Last Station. Aside from falling in love with Helen Miren, I also grew curious about Tolstoy. Like most people, I had read War and Peace and it was a long tough read. Somewhat of an endurance test where the goal was to finish the book rather than enjoy it so Tolstoy was relegated to the dormant part of my mind for about 40 years. I've read several of his books in last few years and I'm just finishing "Resurrection". It's a great book.
I'm finding that Tolstoy is basically a kinder and gentler version of Dostoevsky. I still consider old Fyodor Dostoevsky to be my soul mate and Prince Leo Myshkin remains my hero. Both Tolstoy and Dostoevsky were highly critical of the Russian system and the injustice suffered by the peasants. Being a dissident in 19th century Russia was a risky proposition. Poor old Fyodor was sent to prison in Siberia and sentenced to death but like myself, someone up there liked him and he was given a reprieve. So it goes.
Give it a try, you might just fall in love with Leo.