Sign in  |  Register

The New Criterion

America’s leading review of the arts and intellectual life
- Harry Mount, the London Telegraph


May 1999

How did Dostoevsky know?

by Gary Saul Morson

On totalitarianism, evil & intellectuals

If the intellectuals in the plays of Chekhov who spent all their time guessing what would happen in twenty, thirty, or forty years had been told that in forty years interrogation by torture would be [routinely] practiced in Russia; that prisoners would have their skulls squeezed within iron rings; that a human being would be lowered into an acid bath; that they would be trussed up naked to be bitten by ants and bedbugs; that a ramrod heated over a primus stove would be thrust up their anal canal (“the secret brand”); that a man’s genitals would be slowly crushed beneath the toe of a jackboot; and that, in the luckiest possible of circumstances, prisoners would be tortured by being kept from sleeping for a week, by thirst, and by being beaten to a bloody pulp, not one of Chekhov’s plays would have gotten to its end because all the heroes would have gone off to an insane asylum.
—Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag ...

This article is available to subscribers and for individual purchase

Subscribe to TNC (Print and Online editions)

Subscribe to TNC (Online only)

Purchase article credit and clip this article

If you already have an account login first

Gary Saul Morson is Chair of Slavic Languages & Literature at Northwestern University.

more from this author

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 17 May 1999, on page 21

Copyright © 2015 The New Criterion |

E-mail to friend

The New Criterion

By the author

The intolerable dream

by Gary Saul Morson

Don Quixote at four hundred.

The tyranny of theory

by Gary Saul Morson

On Toulmin, Tolstoy, & the Dawkinsization of the humanities.

You might also enjoy

Becoming Henry Kissinger

by Conrad Black

A review of Kissinger, by Niall Ferguson.

State of nature

by Dominic Green

Is nature writing making a comeback in Britain?

Pamphlets of revolution

by James Piereson

A review of The American Revolution: Writings from the Pamphlet Debate, edited by Gordon Wood.

Most popular

view more >

Subscribe to our newsletter!

* indicates required


The Walter Duranty Prize for Journalistic Mendacity
On May 5, 2014, The New Criterion and PJ Media presented the second Walter Duranty Prize for Journalistic Mendacity. The award is given to highlight egregious examples of dishonest reporting. Also awarded this year was the Rather, a new award for lifetime achievement in mendacious journalism.
The Duranty Prize is named after Walter Duranty, the New York Times Moscow corresponded in the 1920s and 1930s who whitewashed Joseph Stalin’s forced starvation of the Ukrainians (the Holodomor) and many other aspects of Soviet oppression. Duranty was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for his efforts. It has never been revoked.
Audio copyright Ed Driscoll,

Introduction to The Kennedy Phenomenon
Roger Kimball introduces The Kennedy Phenomenon, a conference presented by The New Criterion on Tuesday, November 19.

The Kennedy Phenomenon: "Watching the Kennedy Train-Wreck"
Roger Kimball reads Peter Collier’s paper on oft-overlooked unsavory details of the Kennedys' lives. Much of the paper is drawn from Collier’s book, coauthored with David Horowitz, The Kennedys: An American Drama.